What equipment do you need to set up a perfect home office? It will depend on your business, but for a lot of people it's a computer, printer, and Internet connection. I've been working from home for over 10 years and in this article I'm going to discuss what equipment I use in my home office and how I set it all up.
I will also discuss a hardware trick I use to reduce some of the equipment on my desk when running two computers.
Connecting a Computer to your Monitor, Keyboard, and Mouse
Computer, Monitor, Keyboard and Mouse
Based on the nature of my consulting business I have a few computers in my home office, but I mostly use two. The first one is a Windows laptop that I use for my main consulting job. I travel a bit, so I need something portable. My second computer is a Windows desktop and is mostly for designing and developing website, editing photos and making videos. The desktop has a lot more processing power, which is great for editing photos and videos.
I have one monitor, keyboard, and mouse on my desk that I can easily switch between two computers. This is done using a 2 port KVM switch. KVM stands for Keyboard, Video, and Mouse. The 2 port KVM is used to connect two computers to 1 set of keyboard, monitor and mouse. Hitting the Scroll key twice on my keyboard switches the monitor, keyboard, and mouse between the computers. This is very handy and frees up a lot of desk space.
These days most keyboards and computer mice use a USB interface. The older ones use a PS/2 connector. If you have a mixture, you can purchase PS/2 connector to a USB connector.
If you are going to purchase a KVM switcher make sure you check the interfaces on your computers, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. You need to make sure you purchase a switcher that will work with all your interfaces. The picture below is my old KVM switcher and it uses the old PS2 connector for the keyboard and mouse. And a VGA connector for the video. My new switcher has USB connectors for the mouse and keyboard.
Monitor Interface Connectors
For monitors there's a few more interfaces, but luckily new monitors and computers come with multiple monitor interfaces. HDMI is best, but the cost for the KVM switcher will be a lot more. For reference, here is a list of the standard monitor interfaces:
- Digital Visual Interface (DVI)
- High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)
Another option is to get small monitor converters. Then you can connect the monitor switcher between different interfaces. Also, depending on the interface you choose you may lose some performance on your monitor. It's great if everything works with HDMI, but as I mentioned earlier a HDMI switcher is more expensive.
Network Equipment to Set up a Home Office
I have multiple computers set up in my home office, my wife has a couple of computers for her Internet business and my boys each have a computer. On top of that we all have iPhones and Tablets that connect to the Internet via WiFi. So I need a fairly robust network to keep everything running and everyone happy. Here's what I have for my home office network setup.
It all starts with a fast and reliable high-speed Internet connection. I have a cable modem from our local provider. This gives me 150Mbps download, 15Mbps upload and 1TB of data per month. The cable modem also has 4 Ethernet ports and provides a 2.4 GHz and 5Ghz connection.
I prefer to run an Ethernet connection to our desktop and laptop computers when possible. Then use the WiFi connection to connect the smartphones and tablets. I also use WiFi to connect to the laptops when we are roaming around the house or mult-tasking and watching TV 🙂
With all of these connections one cable modem isn't enough and I also have a 8 port Ethernet hub and a WiFi router with 4 Ethernet ports. A picture of all of this equipment is at the top of this article.
WiFi router – difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi
Without going into a lot of technical details, 2.4GHz and 5GHz refers to the frequencies that the WiFi router is carrying your data. 2.4GHz is older and more common. 5GHz is faster, but the range is not as good as 2.4GHz. If your WiFi router is close to where you are always working go with 5GHZ. If you move around a bit in your house I would go with 2.4GHZ. My new router supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz, which is pretty cool.
Before purchasing the 5GHz WiFi router, make sure your laptop supports 5GHz. 5GHZ is relatively new and not all laptops support it yet.
Network Attached Storage or Online Backup
Do you need to backup your data? Until you lose it you are probably not that worried about it.
I have a small backup server also called a NAS or Network Attached Storage. Basically a NAS is a small box with a hard drive. You need to connect it power and an Ethernet connection so you can access it with your computers. Some have a WiFi connection, but I think this is less secure than an Ethernet connection.
There's a lot of different product available on the market. Here's a few things you should consider:
- How much data storage do you need? 2 TB to 4TB is pretty common these days.
- Do you want to make it extra safe? You can have multiple drives and have your data stored on more than one of them. So you have a backup of your backup, just in case.
- Do you need extra options? automatic file backup, WiFi, etc.
Online backup storage
Another data storage option you can setup in your home office is online backup. Also called cloud storage. You can store files using something like Dropbox or you can have an automatic backup using system like Carbonite. There's a monthly recurring fee for both of these service. Unlike a NAS where you pay for it once, you are paying for it every month. Something to consider.
For a few years I used Mozy online backup service and liked it, but as my data storage needs increased, the monthly fee increased. At one point it was just cheaper to purchase the NAS. The service you select will in part depend on how much data you need to backup. Do you have lots of photos or video? I like the NAS to store my photos, but it is an extra step to copy them over. With an online storage system, you can set it to automatically save new files.
I also have a Dropbox account that I use to post documents and photos that I want to share with other people. Dropbox makes it super easy to send them a link of the file. So you don't have to send large files via email. I also use Dropbox to automatically send backups of this site once a month. To get this to work I also need to use a service called Backup Buddy. If you run a WordPress site, it's a great plugin to check out.
For more information and a good review on backing up data to the cloud, please read this article on PC Mag – best online backup services for 2016
Remote computer access
Years ago I had a piece of software that would allow me to access my desktop remotely. I had full control over my desktop and could run all the applications and open files like I was at home on my desktop. This was handy when I had to get something done on my desktop and the software wasn't on my laptop. With more data and applications running in the cloud I haven't used this software in awhile. This kind of software is also handy if you want to remotely access someones computer and help them out. Check out my article on remote desktop connection software.
Home Computer Printer, Photocopier, and Scanner
At a minimum you should have a printer in your office and you probably want a photocopier and a scanner. This year I finally purchased a new office printer that has all three. I know this kind of printer has been around for awhile but I tend not to purchase new computer equipment unless I really need it. In this case it was getting hard to find ink replacement cartridges. That's a pretty old printer and time for an upgrade. If you want more information on this topic, please click on the link upgrading my Epson printer
Many years ago I had a laser printer and it was a work horse. But it was black and white printer only. My last few printers have been color inkjet models. Inkjet printers go through more cartridges than the laser printer, but inkjet cartridges are are less expensive. But the laser printer cartridges print a lot more pages.
If you are looking to print large documents, take them to Staples. This is great for eBooks and important documents. If it is a document I will review with customers or read a lot I will spend a little more and get front and back covers and circular binding. This makes it nice to read, looks professional and will last a lot longer. I've never priced it out, but I think it is cheaper than using my home printer.
I've covered a lot of different information on computer equipment to set up a perfect home office in this article. Don't feel that you need to go purchase everything to setup your home or remote office. You can get started with a laptop or desktop and then grow your equipment as you need it and can afford it. That is what I did. I started with a laptop on a kitchen table and I slowly setup my office. And it took me a few years to put everything together and learn what I needed to effectively work from home.
Want to get the equipment I tested in this article?
Want to purchase the equipment I mentioned in this article, you can find it on Amazon:
My WiFi router, with very good indoor range: TP-Link AC1750 Dual Band WiFi router
I couldn't find the 2 port KVM switch with the PS/2 interface, but I did find it with a USB and VGA interface on Amazon. Here you go: IOGEAR 2-Port USBM KVM Switch
Not identical to my network attached storage, mine is a few years old, but here's the latest Buffalo NAS that is similar to the one I'm using: Buffalo LinkStation 220 2 TB 2-Drive NAS