The modern world offers us more options for communication than ever before. From written letters to videoconferencing, it is quite easy to stay in contact with clients and vendors from around the world. However, the wealth of options can be confusing. Many of the new technologies are expensive, and it is up to the consumer to make decisions that balance cost with usability.
Now it’s relatively simple to use a computer as a multi-purpose communications tool for your home business, since software applications are available that offer phone service, faxing, videoconferencing, and internet access. Alternatively, dedicated hardware can be used for each of these functions.
Whether or not to use your computer for various forms of communications depends largely on the power of your system. Communications tools are resource-heavy, requiring large amounts of free hard drive space, as well as taking over most of the computer’s RAM when in use. Additionally, most programs become resident in your system tray, meaning that they use a portion of your resources even when not actively in use. Powerful new computers can handle this easily, with no loss of usability. However, older or less powerful computers may show a decided decline in performance due to the utilization of virtual memory and hard drive space.
If your computer is capable of handling the demands, it can be to your advantage to use communications software. The software allows you to extensively configure your voice mail, setting up a number of different departments. This adds a layer of professionalism to your business. Many software tools, especially those sold together, are designed to work in tandem. Thus, your computer will be able to answer a call and automatically direct it appropriately to voice or fax. A final consideration is the space advantage. Many home offices are small, and fewer separate devices means less clutter.
If your work is performed primarily on the computer, it may be to your disadvantage to set up your communications through your main computer. Pop-up windows will appear every time the phone rings, over whatever you may be involved in. Some business owners find this significantly more distracting than simply answering a regular phone. So, every window that opens leads to another possibilty for a system freeze or crash. This could lead to loss of data.
Another possibility is to obtain software for your own use in dialing out or sending faxes, but install separate components to handle incoming communications. This solution offers maximum flexibility, but requires a higher initial cost outlay. This also has all the drawbacks of both options.
Should you decide to use your computer for communications, you will find a plethora of options. Do not skimp on the software. Be sure to read the fine print on each program and find the one that will truly meet your needs. Low quality software may drop calls, cut off faxes in the middle, and cause conflicts with other software on your system. However, high-quality software offers excellent functionality, is easy to install and use, and is generally reliable. Read reviews from other users, as quality varies widely, and price is not always an accurate indicator. With a little research and planning, it is possible to find software that will turn your computer into a fully functioning global communication tool.
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