Do you have these 9 startup essentials?

Computer? Check. How about video conferencing tools, a business website, and cloud storage?

by Rieva Lesonsky

When it comes to starting a business, being prepared with the equipment you need is half the battle. Your startup may require some industry-specific equipment, such as point-of-sale systems for a retail store or a pizza oven for a restaurant. There are also some general essentials, however, that every new business needs.

Computer: The No. 1 tool for running any kind of business is a computer, so spend what you need to get one with the memory, speed, and capabilities your business requires. This is not the place to scrimp, but you can get a whole lot of computing power for not all that much money these days, so shop around.

Mobile devices: Mobile devices make it easy to conduct business from anywhere, anytime. Every small-business owner needs a smartphone, of course, but tablets can also greatly enhance your productivity. Not only can tablets be used for many of the same functions as laptops, but they can also be used to accept payments, fill out forms, or take orders from customers. If you’re frequently on the road or in the car for business, a headset for hands-free conversations and a portable Wi-Fi hotspot can also come in handy.

Phone service: Your needs will vary depending on how phone-intensive your business is. Be sure your business phone service provides the features you’ll need to deal with customers and clients in a timely, professional manner, such as call forwarding, voicemail, and speed dialing.

Video- and audio-conferencing tools: Conserve your startup cash by cutting back on business trips to visit prospects or clients. Try holding conference calls instead. With today’s videoconferencing technology, it’s almost like being there. No need for additional hardware, either: You can hold conferences, share screens, and collaborate right from your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Internet connection/network: Before leasing a commercial location for your startup, make sure it has adequate Internet speeds for your needs. You’ll also need a business-quality router to set up your network. Want to take the hassles of managing IT off your hands so you can focus on running your business? Choose managed Internet service, which provides tech support from the experts 24/7. (Tip: When selecting your Internet and phone service, remember that you can often save money by bundling these services together.)

Business website: Every small business needs a website. A business website is your marketing and communications hub—it’s where customers come to learn about your business. The good news is that building a business website is inexpensive. Look for a web hosting company that can provide website design (including a website built to be mobile-friendly), ongoing support, and e-commerce functionality if you need it.

Business email: Don’t play it cheap by trying to run your business from a free email provider. Setting up a business email account with your business name as the domain (for example, stevesmith@smithco.com) is an affordable solution that makes you look professional from the start.

Cloud storage and applications: Cloud-based data storage and sharing secures your data off-site and lets you access your information from anywhere. Using cloud-based software programs such as Microsoft Office 365 will not only save you money compared to purchasing traditional software, but will ensure you always have the latest versions and upgrades. In addition to any industry-specific software you require, most startups will want software for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, as well as virus protection software.

Furnishings: If your startup won’t have clients visiting the office regularly, secondhand or refurbished furniture and décor may be all you need. This is one area where you can save substantially on startup costs.

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