weather icon Clear

Gadgets can help boost business productivity for minimal investment

Technology is an ever-evolving world for small and midsized businesses. It’s a challenge to keep up to date on what to add for your business.

Make the wrong choice and you’re out business capital or, worse, you fall behind the competition.

Here’s a look at four tools that could have an impact on your business without a significant investment.

The fifth item is thrown in as a reminder that even the most mundane items can have technological updates you may not have thought about.

1. Ultimaker 3-D Printer

You’ve been reading about three-dimensional printing and wondering whether it is right for your office or small business. With prices dropping in front of the upcoming holiday season, it might be time to jump in.

There are some things to keep in mind before investing, though. Estimate how often you might use it. The printers are effective for making samples at low cost, which can prove effective in sales demonstrations, consumer testing and internal product development.

3-D printing has come down in price but it’s still a substantive investment. Plan to spend $2,500 for a good printer because home units won’t prove satisfying for commercial needs.

One 3-D printer attracting attention is the Ultimaker 2 by Dynanism for $2,599. It’s loaded with features, including a 20 micron maximum layer resolution. The Ultimaker 2 also features an open filament system, which provides customers the ability to use any brand of filament. You won’t find that in residential 3-D printers, which are usually limited to one kind of filament.

At least the plans are free. The website thingiverse.com offers free plans to print chess sets, the U.S. Supreme Court building, a Scotch tape holder, busts of historical figures, vacuum cleaner attachments and thousands of other things.

2. Synology DS415+ Data Sharing

Data sharing and backup is a must-have for businesses of all sizes. Some companies are migrating toward cloud-based servers such as Amazon but, in light of recent data breaches, some are justifiably nervous about sending proprietary data away for possible cybersecurity attacks.

Synology America Corp. has released the DS415+, a faster, securer network-attached storage successor to its DS412+. The DS415+, powered by the award-winning OS DiskStation Manager, is aimed toward small and midsized business users who care about high performance throughput and safety for data sharing and backup.

The new quad-core four-bay box is a full-featured network-attached-storage solution to centralize data backup, protect critical assets, and share files across different platforms.

The DS415+ NAS solution has quad- core central processing unit with an AES-NI hardware encryption engine, a floating-point unit, as well as 2GB DDR3 RAM. The four drive bays accommodate huge amounts of storage capacity, while the USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and eSATA ports allow users to connect and access a range of external storage devices. Dual local-area network ports support failover and link aggregation.

DS415+ delivers an average 228.04 MB/sec reading and 233.51 MB/sec writing speed under RAID 5 configuration in a Windows environment. Its predecessor, the DS412+, under the same conditions delivers an average 158.33 MB/sec writing speed.

DS415+ supports Synology High Availability, harnessing an active and a passive server into one cluster, mirroring written data between the two units. Should the main server malfunction, the passive server immediately kicks in and takes over all running services and data. Synology Hybrid RAID allows you to optimize usage and get the most out of your hard drives, while also keeping your storage safe with data redundancy. Complete backup solutions including LUN Snapshot, LUN clone and Backup &Replication minimize the impact of disasters.

It has a suggested price of $699, the same as its predecessor. Visit https://www.synology.com/en-global/products/DS415+ for further details.

3. REA20 High Power AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender

Does your business have dead spots for its Wi-Fi signals? Maybe there are areas in your warehouse that don’t function well. There is a relatively low-cost solution that could make your equipment more productive.

Amped Wireless, the leading manufacturer of award-winning high power, long-range wireless solutions for the home and office, offers the REA20 High Power AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender. It can boost an existing Wi-Fi network by up to 10,000 additional square feet.

The REA20 High Power AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender has been awarded Editors’ Choice by PC Magazine, which said it, “delivers the best coverage we’ve seen from an extender…”

The high power and universal REA20 Wi-Fi Range Extender extends a Wi-Fi network by repeating, amplifying and rebroadcasting the wireless signal from any existing wireless router.

The REA20 is the most powerful of its class and is specifically designed to meet the needs of the small-business office. It delivers reliable long-range Wi-Fi access, gigabit speeds allowing for smooth streaming. The REA20 is equipped to handle multiple devices at once, both wired and wirelessly, including; game consoles, iPads, smart TVs, notebooks, PCs, smartphones, and tablet computers.

The REA20 is built with the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology, eight high- power amplifiers and three high-gain external antennas for an impressive 800mW of output power — delivering up to 10,000 square feet, or a quarter of an acre, in additional Wi-Fi coverage.

4. The iStick USB Flash Drive

Sanho Corp., manufacturer of the HYPER line of mobile accessories, has introduced the iStick, a universal serial bus flash drive with both a USB connector and an Apple MFi Certified Lightning Connector that works with recent iPhone, iPad and iPod touch models. It will go a long way toward making the iPhone and iPad useful business tools.

iStick lets users easily, quickly and safely transfer data between computers, iPhones, iPads and iPod touches without synchronization, Internet, wireless networks or the cloud, where hackers and others (like third-party server providers) may gain access.

The iStick is the world’s first USB flash drive with integrated Apple MFi Certified Lightning connector. It features both a standard USB connector as well as an Apple Lightning connecter.

The iStick works as a normal USB flash drive when connected to Mac and PC computers. It allow users to quickly and safely transfer data between computers and various iOS devices.

The drive comes in capacities from 8 gigabytes to 128 GB, and can be bought in black or white. Prices range from $80 to $350. Most models are available now, but if you want a 64 GB or a 128 GB drive, you’ll have to put in a preorder and wait for shipment later this month.

It works in conjunction with a free universal iPhone/iPad/iPod touch iOS app

Using the app, users can transfer photos, videos and other files between iStick and iDevice.

The only downside? You need Apple equipment with lightning connectors. Older models won’t work with it.

For more information, visit www.hypershop.com

5. GE’s Evolve LED Security Light

And it might seem almost low-tech to discuss, but have you thought about your security lighting recently? Sure, it’s not as sexy as the cloud and backup servers (OK they aren’t sexy either) but it’s something to think about as a means of reducing capital and ongoing costs.

Utilities, commercial buildings and more can now rely on a more energy-efficient alternative to traditional high-intensity discharge security lights with GE’s Evolve LED Security Light. The Evolve LED Security Light, with a rated lifetime of 100,000 hours, is designed for such outdoor work yards, commercial and roadside establishments and roadway lighting in rural areas.

Providing similar durability as traditional security light fixtures but with dimming capability, GE’s Evolve Security Light has a robust design built to withstand the harshest elements. Using high-brightness light-emitting diodes at 4000K and 5000K color temperatures and reflective technology designed to optimize efficiency, it allows users to find the best LED lighting solution for their outdoor space.

The GE Evolve LED Security Light provides significant energy savings compared to HID security lighting, which has a lifetime that is a fraction of the hours. The new security light, offered in two lumen levels and two optical distributions, has a lumen maintenance rating of L70 at 100,000 hours, enabling this LED lighting fixture to significantly reduce maintenance costs and needs.

To learn more about GE’s LED outdoor lighting, visit www.gelighting.com/roadway.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.