Computer Peripherals

Computer peripherals are everything you attach to the computer except other computers. (Other computers are considered part of the network).

Because they have so little impact on a system's functionality, these are truly commodity products, ones for which specifications are usually less important than quality and cost, both of which are not technical issues.

The following represents our guidance on these items:



Flat-Panel Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD) are the standard.

With high-quality large-screen versions now costing less than $200, we feel added contrast and sharpness, and the reduced desk space required make these "the only game in town". We feel the leading brands are ViewSonic and Samsung.


Laser printers are the standard. Actually, they have for some time. Now, though, with prices around $500 -- a little less for reduced-duty, a little more for printers that adequately handle a business load -- there's no reason to sacrifice the speed, flexibility, and quality of laser printing. For a single laser printer, especially on a network, spend the $750+ for one that will stand up to business use. You'll be glad you did.

We prefer Hewlett-Packard LaserJets, partly because they invented them, mostly because we've never found another brand as well made and reliable.


Color printers are now affordable. This is especially significant, because our applcations support printing typeset-quality forms directly, as part of your routine. This eliminates form printing costs and paper changing. In fact, this is the way virtually all major businesses print billing these days, and the low cost of these printers and the affordability of our programming bring them to the smallest businesses. We feel this is one of the most exciting things we do!

On the other hand, we do not recommend a color laser printer as a business's only printer. Black-and-white printers are much more cost-effective and faster in that role.


Historically, parallel connections (through which all the bits of the printer data are sent simultaneously) have been the most efficient. Today, Universal Serial Bus has eclipsed that, (though that isn't true for machines more than three or four years old.)

Network Ready

In order for a printer to be shared by stations on a network it must, of course, be connected to that network. If the shared printer is located within ten feet or so of the server, it can be hooked up directly. Otherwise, you need the hardware with a socket for the network cable and a card to handle the connection between the network and the printer. There are two ways to handle this: Internally or externally. Today, most printers capable of handling network volume are also available with network connections, either "off the shelf" or as an added option. Or, you can use external an print server. Generally, the internal approach is more cost effective unless you are adding an existing printer without an internal option.


Point-of-sale configurations -- where the system must be a compact location capable of quickly processing individual items, collecting all the necessary information, and efficiently printing customer documents -- include unique peripheral equipment.

The good news is that computerized point-of-sale terminals have become so ubiquitous that cash drawers, POS receipt printers, and POS scanners have become easily available -- though you'll likely buy over the Internet rather than from a local vendor.

Here are the brands we recommend:

Of course, we can help soft through the details, even if you purchase directly over the Internet.


Backup Media

Optical disks (CD-ROM's) are not a reliable backup medium! Many computer manufacturers include "CD burners" in their systems because buyers know they need a backup medium, and these drives are an inexpensive "solution". The problem is that this -R and -RW technology is simply not reliable. We have seen failure rates approaching 20%, and that's just too great a risk to take with your data. After all, the whole point of backing up is to secure your data.

We recommend three media: Iomega® ZIP™, USB flash, and/or external hard drives. ZIP drives are fine for most of our customers. Though they will not hold the contents of an entire hard drive, we can configure them to store the data that change as you use the system, and that's usually sufficient and less expensive. To back up an entire hard drive, you'll need an external hard drive. Quality is important, and USB-2 is the way to go. (Incidentally, we have our own backup utility to make backing up easy. If you want to use ZIP disks and back up more than will fit on one, you'll have to use Iomega's backup utility.)

USB flash drives are a new alternative. These are tiny (about the size of a stick chewing-gum pack) and plug directly into the computer's USB port. Since they have no moving parts, they are potentially more reliable that ZIP or hard drives -- though their small size may encourage abuse, such as getting them wet, and they may not survive that. Also, they offer the advantage of portability from machine to machine without any common hardware other than the USB port. You'll need USB-2 (versions 1 and 1.1 are probably too slow), and their cost per character saved has come down to less than ZIP drives.

Our recommendation: 2GB USB flash drives. SanDisk® and Lexar® are preferred manufacturers.

Click here for more on backup routines.

Document Scanners

We feel the "paperless office" and document scanning are one of the most misunderstood IT technologies.

Click here for more on that.

Where To Buy

Here's the easy part: Given a quality threshold, you can let price determine your purchase.

Either go to your local so-called "big-box" electronics or office-supply vendor or shop their web sites for brand, size, and price. It's also a good idea to verify their return policy.

Note: An ideosyncrasy of commodity peripherals is that you may actually get better service purchasing them directly rather than through us. We handle all hardware under manufacturer warranties. Because of their huge "buying power" (and the fact that they're interested in volume and not specific circumstances), these vendors often have their own policies of "instant replacement". They'll usually just swap one unit for another, something we can't do.

And, of course, because they buy in larger quantities, these vendors should be able to give you a much better price for the exact same equipment.