Of Mice and Keyboards: The Case for
by Christopher Elliott
reprinted with permission from the
Microsoft Small Business Center
up. It took awhile for many of you to really believe how much more
productive you could be with wireless networking, didn't it?
I'm here now to make a case
for how wireless peripherals - that is, wireless mice, keyboards,
printers, monitors, and so on - can also make your business more
efficient, more productive, and, to boot, a more desirable place to
I'll start by asking if you
or any of your employees have workstations cluttered with cables and
cords? Wireless peripherals, instead of the wired version, can simplify
and boost the appearance of your workspaces by getting rid of those
meandering streams of wires contributing to the clutter.
Add to that the increased
flexibility and unrestricted movement your workers will have. And to
that, the ability to go mobile with more than just a laptop. And to
that, the head start your business will be getting on the
not-too-distant future, when wired devices and peripherals are outmoded.
"We've surveyed our clients
and found that they become more productive when they're unwired," says
Ralph Bard, manager of technical services for Willow Computing
Technologies, a consulting and integration firm in Raleigh, N.C. "I
believe it will become the norm in the future."
You don't need to wait for
tomorrow. Here are five steps to take right now to make sure the devices
and peripherals in your office are ready for the day when your employees
count on having more than just a wireless network.
1. Run a wireless
diagnostic on your business. That's the advice of Robert Stephens,
the founder and "chief inspector" for The Geek Squad, a technical
services company in Richfield, Minn. He recommends trying wireless
peripherals such as a mouse or a headset on a limited basis and seeing
how it affects your performance. "This will help you fit wireless into
your company's operations," Stephens says. A diagnostic can also involve
taking a hard look at the systems in your office and asking the
question, "What would happen if we unplugged them?"
2. Get up to speed on
the wireless offerings available today. Too often, when someone says
"wireless," you think of a cellular phone or a wireless network. Think
again. "Awareness of new technology is often a challenge for
small-business owners," says Bryce Benson, a spokesman for ClearOne
Communications, a Salt Lake City conferencing systems provider. "They
typically don't have the resources to stay on top of the latest
technology and the benefits such technology can provide." For example,
ClearOne's wireless conferencing phones allow you to take a conversation
into virtually any room in a building. There's almost no technology that
doesn't come in a wireless flavor nowadays.
3. Pay special attention
to Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth (www.bluetooth.org),
the dominant standard for wireless communications, is worth following
closely, especially if you're investing in new technology. "For those
small businesses who want to be on the cutting edge of wireless,
Bluetooth is our top recommendation," says Carla Forester, product
marketing manager for Microsoft Hardware. Microsoft's latest Bluetooth
products allow employees to wirelessly sync a PDA or phone with the
information on their PC, or transfer files, documents, and appointments
from one device to another - all from up to 30 feet away, freeing them
up from cables and clutter.
4. Beware of security
"Businesses forget to factor in their security needs when they go
wireless," says John Brandewie, marketing manager for Hewlett Packard's
converged products. "It's not just a matter of cutting the cords. It's
also a matter of evaluating how a company will be using the products and
how it will use the information." Many newer Bluetooth-compatible mice
and keyboards that work over a 27 MHz frequency also offer multiple
identification codes to reduce the occurrence of cross-talk. Also,
experts such Brandewie advise small businesses to change passwords
frequently and to change the defaults on your peripherals to make them
less vulnerable to harmful outside influences.
5. Upgrade peripherals
with an eye toward wireless functionality. That's what Mark McClusky,
associate editor for Mobile PC magazine in Brisbane, Calif., recommends.
Whether your business is "adequately wireless" isn't something you can
measure, he says. Instead, "it's a gut thing. Would I advise a business
to run out and replace perfectly fine equipment just so they could get
wireless versions? No, that seems silly to me. But as I had to replace
equipment, I'd tend to get wireless versions of it."
Is your small business
un-tethered enough? Take a close look at it, and go beyond the obvious
wireless solutions out there, such as Wi-Fi. Pay attention to standards
- and safety.
"If your wireless
peripherals save you an extra trip to the office to link up to the
company's network or if you can minimize your response time to an urgent
matter while on the road, then your business is adequately wireless,"
says Sean Angus, marketing manager for USA Wireless in Van Nuys, Calif.
"Look at wireless peripherals as a way to complement and improve the way
you do business in today's fast-paced environment."
Another perk is that your
office likely will look a lot better, sans wires. "A wireless
environment is more attractive," says Lewis Lustman, marketing manager
for Iogear, an Irvine, Calif., manufacturer of wireless connectivity
products. "It's also marginally safer since there are fewer wires to
trip over and accidentally pull out of the wall or a plug."