Chasing every new high-tech gadget and application that comes to market can be fun but also expensive. Some of the more humble and affordable office accessories and add-ons can be just as valuable to your small business -- no matter what type of budget you're working with.
Here's a look at five types of practical tech tools and accessories that can improve your output and productivity while not breaking your bank account in the process.
Tablet cases and add-ons
Like most touchscreen tablet PCs, the iPad 2 provides impressive computing power, portability and multimedia playback. But without a decent case and physical keyboard for extended typing sessions, it's hard to protect your investment or maximize its actual day-to-day usefulness.
The DODOcase for the iPad and Kindle Photo courtesy of DODOcase Inc.
Countless sleeves, ruggedized shells and folding units from manufacturers like Griffin Technology, Mophie and Belkin are available. But Kensington's KeyFolio ($87.49) includes a Bluetooth keyboard, adjustable viewing stand and spill-proof buttons, aiding with late-night cram sessions. DODOcase's hand-crafted units ($49.95 and up), which resemble artists' journals, can also guard your system from bumps and shocks without sacrificing style.
Still, those who really want to work in luxury should look to Saddleback's leather briefcases ($519 and up) or Sena's portable leather cases, including the Folio ($89.99) and Keyboard Folio for iPad ($149.99), the latter of which comes readymade for business travel.
The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 Photo courtesy of Logitech
Online meetings are becoming a vital part of doing business in a virtualized world. However, custom telecommunication solutions can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. One solution is Logitech's HD Pro C910 ($99.99), which is capable of capturing high-definition clips and works well enough for most video calls. You can even use its dual stereo microphones to tape top-quality video blogs for social media sharing, or broadcast live TV interviews via Skype to CNN.
The Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V Photo courtesy of Sony
Video cameras and accessories
Likewise, while digital video cameras of all prices and capabilities continue to come and go -- including Cisco's recently deceased Flip -- three solutions promise to provide an instant boon for small business use. For premium coloring, low-light performance and shot angles, the Sony Handycam HDR-CX360V ($799.99) offers high-definition filming, 17X zoom and 32 gigabytes (GB) of internal storage space for hours of recording.
If you're only capturing simple presentations, product demos or how-to videos for your corporate blog, one reasonably-priced option is the Kodak Zi8 ($114.99), which delivers crisp, high-definition images and offers an external microphone input for capturing superior audio. If you're looking ahead to 3-D, it won't be long before you can get your hands on the 3D Bloggie MHS-FS3 ($249.99), which will shoot 3-D video for a bargain price.
Rather than build a complete film production studio, you might want to consider more cost-effective solutions. A tripod like the compact, easily-controlled Manfrotto MKC3-H01 ($59.99) can help you get the right shot, while clip-on microphones such as Audio Technica's ATR35S ($23.95) captures interviews without recording background noise.
Lighting solutions including the Litepanels MicroPro Hybrid ($475) LED also provides an immediate boost to production value. If price is a major sticking point, purchasing a few simple clamp lights ($7.49) can provide a surprisingly professional look when paired with everyday dimmers, available from your local hardware store.
The Jawbone Era Photo courtesy of Jawbone
With making calls on your cell phone and texting while driving illegal in a growing number of states, a good wireless, hands-free Bluetooth headset is a must for today's mobile executive. Among the better choices available is the Jawbone Era ($129.99), which boasts noise-canceling features, touch controls and support for downloadable apps.
Another option is the BlueAnt Q2 ($129.99), which offers crisp call quality, support for voice-powered commands and text-to-speech translations. The Plantronics' Discovery 975 ($129.99) may be best suited for minimalists who should appreciate its modern looks, noise-filtering features and self-charging case.
The Fellowes MS-460Cs shredder Photo courtesy of Fellowes
With fraud and identity theft concerns for small businesses, don't discount the humble shredder, either. The Fellowes MS-460Cs ($329.99) quietly eviscerates 10 sheets of paper at a time, as well as CDs, credit cards and other sensitive data.
Home offices looking to obliterate confidential files without doing the same to their budget can also try entry-level crosscut units like the Fellowes DS-1200Cs 12-sheet ($129.99) or the Aurora AS890C ($39.99) 8-sheet models instead.
Though nowhere near as sexy as 3-D TVs and super-powered smartphones, all of these tools and accessories may play a more meaningful role in your daily operations.