Top 10 tech to help you work from home


To mark National Work from home day, the IT PRO team has swapped the regular commute for the digital highway.

However, to make working from home effective you need to make sure the technology basics are in place. After all, you are unlikely to have a tech support team at your disposal on your premises. We take you through the top 10 technology items to have in place.

1. Internet connectivity

In this day and age if you don't have a working internet connection you're unlikely to be able to do your job. Whether your broadband connection is via ADSL or cable doesn't really matter as long as it's reliable and as fast as possible is good - let's hope the Digital Britain report can help with that one.

If it's going to be a regular thing, many companies will install a line for you as that way they don't have to put your productivity in the hands of a consumer ISP. Consider the upload speed of your service too. If you're sending a lot of large files an ADSL2+ line can offer between 1Mb-2Mb/s upload, which can really make a difference.

2. Mobile Broadband

It's a good idea to have a mobile broadband dongle at the ready too, not only as a backup for your broadband but also to give you the flexibility to not be chained to your desk.

You don't even have to be hampered by a monthly contract with many Pay-as-you-go services now available.

3. Wi-Fi

Ensure you have a Wi-Fi enabled router, as otherwise you're going to be literally tethered to your desk. Unless your internet connection comes into your premises by your desk, you may not be able to work without wireless.

Wi-Fi is now a standard feature on every laptop, while a USB Wi-Fi dongle can be plugged into a desktop machine if it's not built-in. Consider a draft-N wireless router as this makes it easier to transfer larger files round your home network so long as all your kit meets the spec.

4. Reliable computer

It might seem obvious but you need a machine that's powerful enough to be able to run your business software be it a desktop or a laptop. This might mean investing in a new machine, whether you pay for it yourself or of it's company supplied. A laptop with at least a Core 2 Duo or a desktop with at Core i7 would be advisable.

You'll also want at least 2GB of RAM or more if you want to run demanding applications or virtual machines. Tempting as it may seem try to avoid running pre-release software on your machine as unexpected issues may cause downtime.

5. Get a better monitor

Get yourself a good monitor even if you're running a laptop. A larger display can really boost your productivity, thanks to increased resolution enabling you to see more of a web page or document at once. A widescreen 22in display is an affordable upgrade to a bog standard 17in, while a 24in is what you really want. If your laptop doesn't have the necessary video out ports consider a DisplayLink equipped monitor all you need is a free USB port.

6. Laptop rest

If you're using a laptop all day get a laptop rest. This enables you to angle your machine away from the desk, which helps to keep it cool, and prevents it from overheating. Some have integrated USB hubs, making it easy to plug in peripherals such as a mouse, keyboard and webcam.

7. Webcam

If you feel as if your office will want to keep an eye on you then get a webcam that way you can communicate visually with your colleagues, which may help with that feeling of being round a desk together.

Of course, ideally, you'll want a set up as powerful as this 1080p video conferencing system from Lifesize. If your budget is rather smaller consider webcam that's compatible with Skype's HD service it really does make things sharper.

8. Portable storage

You may need to transfer large files between your office and home. To that end investing in a portable flash memory stick makes sense. The price of these has plummeted so that 16GB sticks can be picked up for a mere 20 or so.

If speed is important you'll have to spend a bit more. If it's vital you can now get hold of removable SSD drives with both USB and eSATA connections making transfer as fast as an internal hard drive when using the latter.

9. VoIP

Software such as Skype will enable you to talk to other Skype users all over the world for free. However, dedicated VoIP phones will let you hook into your company's network and make calls over its internal connections.

Numerous handsets are available on the market. If you want to set things up for yourself, take a look at our video guide on setting up your own VoIP PBX.

10. Backup

When you're in the office, the IT department might take care of your backups. When you're at home however, you'll need to look after it yourself. You could take the conventional approach and go with backup to a local hard drive or go for an online service that backs up your files incrementally to the cloud. There's are a number of offerings to choose from such as Carbonite or you could even consider Microsoft's free Mesh service to get you started.

Wacky' stuff for the deskWhy not inject some life into your home work area with some fun stuff the 'Darth Tater' potato head Lord of the Sith is a real classic.

And finally.

Bottle opener

Once you've got those essentials in place, you need to find room for some fun stuff. Come the end of the day, you don't have to worry about driving home, so crack open a beer with this Star Trek Enterprise shaped bottle opener! Drink long and prosper

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.