Accessories can add additional functions to your computers. Others make your daily work more comfortable or easier. Some will come with your computer as standard, while others can be added as required
Accessories such as a keyboard and mouse may be essential in order to operate your computer. Others - such as headphones, cameras, graphics tablets and barcode readers - may be useful for specialist tasks or the facilitate certain ways of working.
The best way to assess which computer peripherals would be useful for your business is to define your IT requirements, then match suitable accessories with these.
Get the right computer monitor
It's important everyone in your business has a computer monitor which is adequately clear, large and bright.
Larger computer monitors are easier to work with. Computer monitors with a 21” screen (measured diagonally) should be the minimum, but larger sizes are increasingly affordable.
If you can afford it, a 27" screen will give you an impressive space to work in. Go for a monitor with a higher resolution too (1920 x 1080 pixels or more) - this measures what you can fit onto the computer monitor.
Look for computer monitors which can be easily swiveled, tilted and adjusted for height. Some are touch-sensitive, allowing you to control your software by tapping, swiping and dragging on the screen.
If your employees are working from a laptop, you will have to weigh up the benefits of a smaller laptop or tablet when working on the move against the benefits of a larger screen and full-sized keyboard on a laptop when working for longer periods of time in one place.
If your employees are multi-tasking or working on projects that are graphic heavy they may want to use two monitors at the same time ('dual screen').
A dual-screen setup can improve productivity by giving you more space to work in, if your computer supports it. Just bear in mind the law of diminishing returns if you fancy going beyond two screens!
Computer keyboard and mouse
Most desktop computers come with a cheap keyboard and mouse as standard. These are usually basic models which may have poor ergonomics or be unpleasant to use. Laptops may have a built-in touch or track pad instead of a mouse.
People who spend all day typing or using the mouse on their computer may see significant benefits from a better keyboard and mouse. It's not just about being comfortable – conditions like repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome are associated with poor ergonomics.
Unresponsive keyboards and inaccurate mice can also dent the efficiency of staff, especially if they're great touch typers or designers who need pixel-perfect precision. In these cases, it's worth finding an input device that fits the needs of the person using it.
A good keyboard should cost from £30 and a mouse about £20. Mice can be wired or wireless and the prices are more or less comparable these days. It is a matter of personal preference and comfort and usability are likely to play a larger part in any purchasing decision.
Unlike other pieces of hardware in your business, it may be unwise to standardise on a single type of keyboard and mouse for everyone. People have individual ergonomic needs, so you cater for these by offering a range of models.
Audio and video accessories
The rise of homeworking - which has increased exponentially thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak - has meant that many face-to-face business meetings and interviews are now taking place virtually. Many businesses have invested in web cams, headphones and speakers to improve the quality of these virtual meetings and calls.
Speakers, video cameras, headphones, microphones and headsets are useful for video conferencing, placing voice over IP (VoIP) calls and listening to music at work (if you allow it).
While many laptops have a built-in camera, a traditional desk top computer may not. Adding a web cam makes it possible to have both audio and video when joining a virtual meeting. A plug-in web cam can cost as little as £25.
A headset with built in microphone can be purchased from as little as £30. The beauty of these is that is that it leaves the users hands free while they are on the call. A pair of speakers - useful if there are several of you on a conference call - can cost as little as £10.
Computer projectors are an alternative to computer monitors. They allow you to project a large image onto a blank wall or screen – typically from a laptop. Projectors are useful for presentations and meetings and can be connected to tablets and digital TV boxes, too.
As with computer monitors, check the resolution. Look for a minimum resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels but aim higher if possible.
If space allows, you should also consider investing in a pull-down screen on which to project the image. These can be installed on the ceiling, wall or positioned on a stand and are available from as little as £50.
Look for projectors that are capable of projecting at full HD (usually referred to as '1080p') to ensure the best quality image and compatibility with modern devices. Brightness is also important and is measured in 'ANSI lumens'. A projected rated at 1,200 should be ok in a dim room, while 2,000 ANSI lumens should suit a normal office environment.
Most projectors will offer a range of inputs, but make sure yours has at least an HDMI input and 'VGA' input.
Other types of input device
Your business might also use these other types of input device:
- Trackballs and trackpads. Like a mouse, these allow you to control the cursor on your computer screen. They are useful in limited space, or where people need an alternative to a mouse.
- Graphics tablets. Most often used by graphic designers, these consist of a stylus and pad which allow you to 'write' on the screen and offer very fine control. They start at £50.
- Barcode readers. Vital in retail environments and for stock control, these can be connected to standard PCs, though are often part of a customised point of sale system. You can buy a barcode reader for less than £50.