For the small business owner on your list, nothing tops what our suggested tech gifts deliver all year: more time, fewer headaches, and peace of mind.
--Written by the Small Business Computing Staff
It's time to pick a gift for your favorite small business owner (even if it's you). You could go the office superstore gift card route (boring!), but this holiday season why not give the entrepreneur in your life a gift that lasts longer than a lunchtime errand?
We’ve collected a list of some of our favorite technology gift ideas in the hardware, software and services areas that are perfect for small business owners—gifts that will make their lives easier and their organizations more productive.
The On-the-Go Holiday Gift Guide
As a rule, small business owners have to make the most of every minute—and they spend many of those minutes away from the office. These gifts will make sure that they spend that time productively.
Can’t decide between gifting a laptop or tablet? Then don’t. The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro is a full Windows Ultrabook PC that transforms into a tablet. The sturdy 180-degree hinge lets you swivel the keyboard flat against the back of the screen for tablet use, or you can stop somewhere in between for freestanding "tent" and "stand" modes.
Figure 1: The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Windows Ultrabook PC
The Yoga 2 Pro features a spacious 13.3-inch super-high-def touch screen, yet it weighs just 3.2 pounds. Models powered by a fourth-generation Intel Core i3 processor start at $929, or you can step up to a Core i5-powered Yoga starting at $999.
Small business tycoons that prefer a larger screen but just as much flexibility, should check out the Acer Aspire R7 notebook. This laptop features a 15.6-inch touch screen mounted on Acer’s exclusive Ezel-Hinge that allows the display to flip, reverse, lie flat or float above the keyboard to maximize usability.
The optional Acer active stylus makes the notebook’s movable display even more useful: write notes, mark up documents or photos, draw pictures or make simple lists directly on the R7's screen, just as if you were using regular pen and paper. The active stylus works with Microsoft Office applications, Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Sketchbook among others.
A Best Buy-exclusive model, the R7-572-6423, will be available online and in stores in early December for $899.99, featuring a fourth-generation Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive.
For a more traditional tablet—but one that runs essential Windows applications businesses rely on—consider the Surface Pro 2 from Microsoft. Powered by an Intel Core i5 CPU and running Windows 8.1 Pro, the 2-pound Surface Pro 2 features a 10.6-inch 1080p HD screen, 200GB of SkyDrive storage included for 2 years, plus touch-optimized versions of your favorite Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook).
It also includes a new dual-angle kickstand and optional docking station to facilitate working from anywhere, and offers the slick click-on keyboard that doubles as a cover when the tablet isn’t in use. The Surface Pro 2 sells for $899. And if that’s a little steep for your budget, the Surface 2 starts at $449 and the first-generation Surface costs $349.
Having a smartphone or tablet on the go is great. Not having any juice left to run the thing isn’t. Jackery, Inc. offers an entire line of sleek portable external batteries that can charge phones and tablets on the go. The family includes the 2.7-ounce Jackery Mini ($39.95) that delivers up to 50 extra hours of operation time, the slender 5.4-ounce Jackery Air ($59.95; 110 hours of operation time), the 10.4-ounce Jackery Giant ($69.95; 220 hours) and the Jackery Giant Plus ($79.95; 260 hours).
Figure 2: The Jackery Air, part of the Jackery line of portable external batteries.
It happens all the time: Your business partner is presenting at an event and suddenly the laptop with his PowerPoint file on it dies. If he was smart enough to back up that file on the USB cufflinks you gave him, you’ll be a hero and he’ll look oh-so James Bond.
Figure 3:This pair of cufflinks contains 8GB of USB storage.
Sold by CuffLinks.com, each link contains 4GB of flash memory and a concealed USB connector. Just pop it open and plug it in to keep critical files close at hand. The $110 sets are available in silver, gold and gunmetal finishes, and you can have them engraved for a truly personal touch.
Holiday Tech Gifts to Make Office Life Easier
Of course, you have to show your face in the office every now and again. These gifts will make office time easier for you and your employees.
Laptops and tablets may be taking over the world, but there’s still room in the office for a desktop PC—especially when it’s as sleek as the Acer Aspire ZC-605 all-in-one ($599.99). It packs a huge 19.5-inch HD display in a slim, attractive chassis, and it features an ergonomic frame that tilts from 10 to 30 degrees so everyone is sure to find a comfortable angle for the screen. You can even adjust the built-in HD webcam up to 20 degrees to obtain the best position for videoconferences and video chats.
Figure 4: The Acer Aspire ZC-605 all-in-one desktop PC.
Frequently used ports and buttons are grouped together on the front for easy access, while cable management and keyboard storage save space and reduce clutter. The Windows 8 PC comes with an Intel Pentium Dual Core 2127U processor, Intel HD Graphics and 4GB DDR3 dual-channel memory, all of which are fine for business-productivity chores, and a generous 1TB hard drive provides plenty of storage for applications and files.
Smartphones and tablets have made the life of a business owner much easier—until it comes time to print from such a device. If yours is one of the millions of offices with an HP LaserJet, put the HP 1200w Mobile Print Accessory ($69.99) on your wish list. This hardware device connects to the USB port of supported LaserJet and Officejet Mobile printers and MFP models (generally those 2008 and newer) to allow wireless direct printing and printing via near field communication (NFC) from smartphones, tablets and notebook PCs.
Many small businesses have come to rely on cloud storage and collaboration services such as Dropbox and Box.net to house important documents. And while getting electronic documents into those services from a PC or smartphone is pretty easy, uploading paper documents is a multi-step affair involving a scanner and the associated PC.
The Dell Document Hub service streamlines that process by letting workers scan documents directly from a supported Dell mulitifunction printer to the desired cloud service, with no PC intervention required. You and your employees will also be able to search for files stored in the associated cloud services and print them at the MFP using just the control panel on the MFP (again, no PC required).
What’s more, the service offers OCR (optical character recognition) processing that takes place in the cloud, so you can scan paper documents and create editable files in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats. Dell Document Hub is currently supported on the Dell C2665dnf Multifunction Color Laser Printer ($600), and it supports scanning to and printing from Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, SharePoint Online and SkyDrive.
For the boss who finds it easier to talk than to type, Dragon speech-recognition software (from Nuance Communications) is an ideal stocking stuffer. Instead of pecking out emails and other documents one letter at time, Dragon products turn your spoken words into typed text in popular office applications.
It’s perfect for brainstorming sessions (to capture those stream-of-consciousness gems) or for composing emails on the fly. You can even dictate into a digital voice recorder or compatible iOS device, and Dragon will transcribe the audio files. Editions range from $99.99 for the single-user home version to $599.99 for the Professional edition.
Masses of documents, emails, presentations, and information flying around are a hazard of being an entrepreneur. It’s hard to make sure the right people are synced up and on the same page—unless you have the gift of Podio. Brought to you by Citrix (the GoToMeeting people), Podio allows your team to communicate, organize, track and get work done in one place.
This cloud platform is accessible from anywhere you have an Internet connection, and it lets you create different workspaces for different projects. Podio Lite supports up to five employees and it's free. Podio Teams offers more features and costs $9 per employee per month.
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