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Episode 11: Computing Equipment for the SoHo

Air Date: July 9, 1998


Mark Schneider peeks in on the Toronto Fashion Incubator, where Executive Director Susan Langdon is showing off the complete computer set-up to IBM's Tom Vassos. In addition to the IBM Aptiva E26, the TFI computing package includes the HP Scanjet 5100C scanner and the HP Deskjet 890C printer, tools with which they can create, manipulate, and print out colour images, whether it be for the TFI web site or for their 'real world' promotions. To Mark's surprise, Susan mentions that this small office computing set-up did not overwhelm the limited non-profit coffers of the TFI. And like what Susan has done, your small business can create a similar package at a reasonable price.

IBM Aptiva E26

What kind of computer equipment does the typical home office require? It depends. Computers come in all shapes and sizes, and settling on the cheapest one available can be just as inappropriate as shelling out your all your hard-earned cash for the one with all the bells-and-whistles. In order to find the right fit for you and your small business, you must first decide what you plan on doing with it, both now and in the future. If your usage of the computer will be limited to word processing, spreadsheets, and e-mail, you won't need as powerful (and expensive) a machine than if you were planning on doing graphics-intensive work, such as web page design. There are plenty of on-line resources that can help you decide what kind of computer to buy (www.pc.ibm.com/ca/ibmhome and www.pcworld.com/top400/ibg/frameset/0,1446,,00.html both have interactive questionnaires that provide several suggestions based on your responses), where to buy it from (www.computeresp.com monitors thousands of prices for various computers and accessories and tells you where you can get it the cheapest), and even buy it on-line (such as http://www.pc.ibm.com/ca/aptiva.html, IBM's Aptiva home page).

But the computer alone is not enough for your typical small office. There are a number of peripherals that you may want to look into, such as modems, printers, and scanners. Modems and printers are almost a necessity, as most of the deliverables that your computer can generate must either be in hardcopy or tele-communicated to others. Most modems combine fax and data capabilities, and typically send data along at 14.4 or 28.8 kbps (kilobits per second), with a maximum transmission speed of 56 kbps (however, you must make sure that your Internet Service Provider has a 56K connection, otherwise it will be no faster than 34.2 kbps). While this may sound fast, you will still find your patience tested when downloading web pages with high graphics content, or downloading large files. If 56K is still not fast enough for you, the next step up is the cable modem, sold under the name 'The Wave' in Canada by both Rogers Cable (www.wave.ca) and Shaw Cable (www.shaw.wave.ca). Cable modems are usually up to 35 times faster than the typical telephone modem, though there is a higher price to be paid for this speed. On the high end of the scale, there are high-speed data services, such as ISDN (Integrated Services Data Network) and ADSL, both of which involve hefty installation costs and monthly service charges, placing them beyond the means of the small business. To learn more about modems, have a look at Yahoo!'s Modem Zone (computers.yahoo.com/computers/modem_zone/), which lists the top-selling modems and reviews the different ones available.

A discussion on modems wouldn't be complete without talking about Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Having the fastest modem is useless if your dial-up Internet connection is always busy or if the network that your ISP uses is slow. If you plan to do your business on the Internet, downtime or a system crash at your ISP can be costly, so it pays to shop around. Furthermore, you should investigate the other services that your ISP provides, such as consulting, web server space, backup services, and technical support. You can find out what ISPs are available in your area at www.isps.com.

HP Deskjet 890C Printer

The other essential peripheral for the small office is the printer. Printers come in three main types: dot matrix, inkjet, and laser. Dot matrix is the oldest form of print technology, forming the characters from a series of printed dots. Though this type of printer is often inexpensive and can handle forms (for example, if you have to print triplicate invoices), the print quality is inferior, and even worse when you try to print graphics images. Inkjet printers offer a higher print quality at a comparable price. This type of printer sprays hot ink onto the paper, resulting in a laser-like result, and it is the least expensive way of having colour-printing capabilities, such as with the HP Deskjet 890C (www.interactive.hp.com/pandi-db/dds_data_sheet.show?p_model_no=C5877A&p_prod_type_id=6) that the TFI purchased. However, the drawbacks to this type of printer is that the paper can become saturated by ink when printing a dark image, and the ink smudges easily on certain types of paper (especially if you get the page wet or if you try highlighting afterwards). The laser printer is most expensive type of printer, but for this premium price, you are receiving the highest print quality and print speed. The high cost of laser printers arises from both the cost of the hardware and the cost of maintenance-- though you may see some bargain-basement model laser printers on sale for a few hundred dollars more than the average bubble jet printer, you must take into consideration the cost of the replacement toner cartridges and drums, which will be an ongoing cost of at least $100-200 a pop. A great online resource for selecting the right printer for your business can be found at www.pcworld.com/hardware/t2010/noplus_pr.html.

HP Scanjet 5100C

Completing the TFI computing package is the HP Scanjet 5100C (www.zdnet.com/pcmag/firstlooks/9801/f980114a.htm), a scanner. Think of a scanner as a photocopier attached to your computer-- you place the picture or document on the glass, replace the cover, and let the scanner read the image. Instead of creating a duplicate image on paper, the image is digitized into your computer's memory. From there, the image can be manipulated with a drawing program, uploaded to your web site, faxed or e-mailed to a friend, or printed out (a roundabout way of getting a photocopy if you don't have access to a photocopier). A scanner can also be used to save from re-typing a printed document. For example, if you had a printed page that you need converted into a word processing document, the OCR (optical character recognition) software that comes with the scanner can 'read' the letters on the page and enter them into a word processing file. Up until a couple years ago, scanners were very expensive, priced at several hundred dollars. These days, you can get a decent scanner for less than a couple of hundred dollars. For more information on scanners and what they do, check out Wayne Fulton's page for the first-time scanner (www.scantips.com).


Hot Links


Want to learn more about the topics covered this week? Then check out these great web sites and resources:




Yahoo!'s Desktop ZoneTop ten selling desktops, product reviews, and links


Top ten selling desktops, product reviews, and links

Yahoo!'s Laptop Zone


Top ten selling laptops, product reviews, and links

PC Magazine Review of the IBM Aptiva E26



The Aptiva Home Page


Learn more about the Aptiva line from IBM

The IBM|Home Site



PC World's Interactive Buyer's Guide


Answer a few short questions and the Interactive Assistant will suggest a few products to match your needs

Computer Buying Tips





ComputerESP scans and compares over a million prices from major computer cyberstores in US and Canada and updates over 500,000 prices a day on average.

Deal Mac


A web site that monitors hundreds of dealers daily and posts the best prices for everything Apple-related




Yahoo!'s Modem Zone


Top ten selling modems, product reviews, and links

PC World's Interactive Buyer's Guide


Answer a few short questions and the Interactive Assistant will suggest a few products to match your needs

Cable Modems





Internet Service Providers


ISP Search


Find the ISPs available in your area

PC Magazine's Guide to Choosing an ISP


The ten questions to ask, and how the big ISPs rank

15 questions to ask when choosing an ISP






Yahoo!'s Printer Zone


Top selling printers, product reviews, and links

Product Information on the HP Deskjet 890C



PC World's Printer Buyer's Guide


Tips and comparisons for buying your printer

PC World's Interactive Buyer's Guide


Answer a few short questions and the Interactive Assistant will suggest a few products to match your needs




Yahoo!'s Scanner Zone


Top ten selling scanners list, product reviews, and links

A few scanning tips from Wayne Fulton


A web site full of useful information for the first-time scanner

Avail Corp's Scanner Information Center


Hints on what to look for when buying a scanner

HP Scanjet Home Page


Information on what to look for when buying a scanner, product comparisons, and information on the entire Scanjet line

PC Magazine review of the HP Scanjet 5100C






Mark Schneider		CTV - Host of "Digital Desktop"
Tom Vassos		IBM e-business Advisor and Host of "This New SoHo"
Susan Langdon		Executive Director, Toronto Fashion Incubator


Production Credits


Al Stevens		Camera
Anthony Leong		Senior Web Editor

And special thanks goes to Hewlett-Packard for generously donating the HP Deskjet 890C printer and HP Scanjet 5100C scanner to the Toronto Fashion Incubator.

All episode summaries and supplemental information written by Anthony Leong, with material and assistance from Tom Vassos, his book Strategic Internet Marketing, and Mark Schneider.

Click here for IBM e-business solutions

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