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Digital Essentials: Giving Your Home Office A 21st Century Makeover

A home office is the secret weapon that keeps many households running, whether it's keeping track of bills or running a small business. However, many people make due with home office equipment that can barely run itself, let alone a household or business. Updating your office can transform work as you know it. Check out the tips below for bringing your office into the 21st century.

Back it up. Every home office should have a solid backup system in place, because hard drives can fail — and they usually stop working just when you need them most. Backup hard drives are a great way to start, but you can simplify the process even more with online backup. Carbonite and Crashplan are both easy to use and provide unlimited space for backups for less than $100 per year.

Copy this. Few of us have space for large home offices, yet many people fill office space with several separate, bulky machines that each only perform one basic function, like copying or faxing. Upgrading to a single, integrated machine can free up valuable real estate. Great options include Canon's Pixma MG5420 and Epson's Expression Premium XP-810 Small-in-One Printer, which will both take care of printing, scanning and faxing without breaking the budget.

Update your software. If you manage your business from your home office, the cost of software can add up fast. However, many free or inexpensive programs can help you upgrade your capabilities without sending you into debt. For example, has word processing software that is similar to Microsoft Word, easy to download and operate, and it's free. Similarly, the free site provides many of Photoshop's basic features, but without the pricetag. Dropbox is another excellent option, providing free and low-cost online storage of photos and documents.

Pat Jacobs is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on

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