Six unusual and useful gadgets for small offices

six unusual and useful gadgets for small offices livescribe echo smartpen 1

I work out of a small office, and there are six products that I find I can’t live without. These things make my job much easier, so I figured that this week, I’d share my favorites with you.

six unusual and useful gadgets for small offices livescribe echo smartpenLivescribe Echo Smartpen

This pen has a built-in recorder and a camera which synchronizes (if you use the right paper) what you are writing to what you are hearing. In other words, if you are like me and take really crappy notes, this pen can save your ass. All you have to do is tap the pen tip on the word you no longer recognize to hear what was actually being said at the time. The pen can actually do a number of additional things with the addition of inexpensive applications that include translators, games, music players, and topics of interest, but its core function is the most valuable. It has 4GB of memory, and the files can be offloaded to a PC for archiving. It is a little geeky, but very handy. Paper comes in a variety of sizes and costs about the same as most high-quality stock. This is one handy pen, and LiveScribe just reduced the price to under $100.

six unusual and useful gadgets for small offices fujitsu scansnap s1500

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500

This has to be the handiest scanner in the market. We all have hard-copy documents and forms that have to be filled out and physically signed. You can fax them, but that takes a lot of time and fax machines have a tendency to tie up your phone line and jam. This thing screams through documents at 20 pages a minute, almost never jams, and outputs a PDF file to your PC, so you can e-mail the high-quality result. This finally had me put the fax machine in mothballs, and it saves a ton of time. At $429, it isn’t cheap, but if your time is money, it pays for itself.

six unusual and useful gadgets for small offices polycom soundpoint pro se 220Polycom Soundpoint Pro SE-220 2-Line Conference Phone

Most of us still haven’t moved to VoIP yet, or pulled the plug on our wired lines and moved directly to our cell phones. For those who haven’t, the Polycom Soundpoint Pro SE-220 2-Line Conference Phone stands out. Most office phones for small offices are cheap and sound like crap. This one doesn’t, and the speakerphone function is particularly useful. It has a fabulous speakerphone built in, which can be handy when you aren’t wearing a headset and don’t want to hold onto the phone, or have more than one person in your office. The electronic features of the phone are a bit out of date, but that’s true of most analog phones, and I’ve been living with this product for a number of years now and fully endorse it.

six unusual and useful gadgets for small offices plantronics savi office convertiblePlantronics Savi Office Convertible

If you are like me and often switching between VoIP and landline calls, the Plantronics Savi Office Convertible is a lifesaver. It can pull sound from your PC or a phone, and when coupled with the handset lifter option, you can answer calls from anyplace within its 350-foot range. The sound is crystal clear, and it switches seamlessly between Skype (my VoIP provider) and the Polycom Phone. It runs about $379, and the optional lifter is an additional $45, but if you live on the phone this is very handy. If you don’t use VoIP, the Plantronics CS70N comes with the lifter, is less complex, and costs $399.

six unusual and useful gadgets for small offices innergie mcube pro power adapterInnergie mCube Pro Power Adapter

Most of us have laptops that go where we go, and we often have to charge them up on airplanes or in cars. These laptops generally come with cheap, inefficient power adapters that don’t work in cars or planes with a DC plug. In addition, we have to lug other power adaptors for our smartphones and gadgets like Kindles, which take up space and add weight. The Innergie mCube Pro Universal Power adapter has adapters for nearly any notebook, accepts AC or DC power input, and it has a USB plug to power your smartphone or other electronic gadget at the same time. You still have to bring the USB cable for that extra device, but you end up carrying a ton less weight, and ready to work on a plane or recharge your laptop in the car. It kind of looks like it was designed by Apple as well, because it is white, sleek, and pretty. It costs about $119, but it is well worth it for those of us who want to get over lugging a bunch of redundant (and often useless) power supplies.

six unusual and useful gadgets for small offices clickfree automatic backup c2Clickfree Automatic Backup C2 500GB USB Portable External Hard Drive

Recently, a scientist working on the cure to cancer, and who was reported to be very close to that cure, lost his laptop. He hadn’t been backing it up, and two years of research and that potential cancer cure were lost as well. While it is unlikely you will have something so critical on your PC, backing up a laptop that might be lost, damaged, or stolen is critical, yet it’s still not done as often as it should be. We don’t backup because it is simply pain in the ass to do backups. The Clickfree product line is the easiest I’ve reviewed, and the company has a variety of products, including a dongle you can attach to an external drive to get the core features. The product I recommend is the C2 500GB, because it has enough capacity for growth and it costs under $100 on Amazon. The dongle, if you already have a drive, is only $30, and that $30 could have saved that cancer research. It could save your work as well. Hard drives do fail and PCs do get lost or stolen. Make sure you don’t lose your work as well.

What Are Your Favorites?

These are the small business products that have been the most useful for me. If you have a moment and want to comment, what are the unusual and useful products that you have found particularly useful for work or school? I’m always looking for ideas.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Product Review

Samsung’s quick and versatile Chromebook Pro is the future of Chrome OS

Before the Pixelbook hit the market, the Samsung Chromebook Pro was the first premium 2-in-1 Chromebook of its kind. It's portable, stylus and touchscreen-enabled, and came with the Google Play Store installed right out of the box.

18 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up and plugged in while on the go, we've rounded up our favorite must-have gadgets currently available. You'll find everything from mini arcade machines to a folding Bluetooth…
Product Review

Google Pixelbook review

Do you want the best Chromebook money can buy? Our Google Pixelbook review examines the operating system’s new flagship, which includes 2-in-1 versatility, an active stylus, and Google Assistant.

As deaf gamers speak up, game studios are finally listening to those who can’t

Using social media, personal blogs and Twitch, a small group of deaf and hard-of-hearing players have been working to make their voices heard and improve accessibility in the gaming industry.
Emerging Tech

Boston Dynamics is trying to make fetch happen with its new working robot dog

Boston Dynamics wants to see Spot in the workplace, but not as part of take-your-dog-to-work days. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the technology company believes its extraordinary robo-dog is now ready to start work.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Get your head in the clouds with the best vaporizers for flower and concentrates

Why combust dead plant matter when you could vaporize the good stuff and leave the leaves behind? Here's a rundown of the best vaporizers money can buy, no matter what your style is.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.
Emerging Tech

What the heck is machine learning, and why is it everywhere these days?

Machine learning has been responsible for some of the biggest advances in artificial intelligence over the past decade. But what exactly is it? Check out our handy beginner's guide.
Emerging Tech

Here are the best (and least likely to explode) hoverboards you can buy

With widespread reports of cheap, knock-off Chinese hoverboards exploding, these self-balancing scooters may be getting a rough reputation. They're not all bad, though. Ride in style with our picks for the best -- and safest -- hoverboards
Emerging Tech

With cameras that know dogs from Dodges, Honda is making intersections safer

Honda and the city of Marysville, Ohio are working on creating a smart intersection. The goal would not only help better direct the flow of traffic, it could also help save the lives of pedestrians and cyclists.
Emerging Tech

Regular paints and plastics will soon be able to ‘heal’ like skin

Imagine if paints, plastics, or other coatings could heal up like human skin in the event that they suffered damage. Thanks to researchers at Clemson University, such technology is almost here.