Recommended Products and Services
People often ask me what I use and recommend for presenting, travel, technology, and running a solo business. It's easier if I just create one list that I can refer people to, which is where you've landed. I've grouped the items into categories based on how I organize them. A product may be in more than one category because it can fit in more than one area. I've spent time researching and testing most of the items on the list so the links are ones that compensate me a little if you buy the item or service from the link - I think that's fair for both of us.
Many people are now working from home and will be for quite a while. Here's a list of the equipment I use or have tested.
Mini DisplayPort to HDMI/VGA/DVI adapter to add a second screen
If you have a Mini DisplayPort output on your laptop, this adapter will allow you to connect to almost any screen. I use this at my desk. Link to buy at Amazon: http://amzn.to/2iHUkKk
USB-C hub for more ports
Many newer laptops come with only a few USB-C ports. You typically need to use one of them to power the laptop, leaving you with maybe only one more. I use a hub that allows power pass-through and gives me an HDMI port for an extra monitor, an Ethernet port for wired networking, and USB-A ports. This allows me to use just one USB-C port and get a lot of ports plus power to the laptop. I use the Aukey hub and you can get it on Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2IjdIOs
Dell UltraSharp 27 inch 2K monitor
The text on 4K monitors is too small for most people to see without scaling it larger. Why spend the extra money on 4K? I have two Dell 27 inch 2K screens that are my main monitors. I have the U2716D and the U2719D. If you have a laptop with USB-C ports then I recommend the U2719DC.
I’ve had trouble with repetitive strain in my arm so I have changed the mouse I use many times. My current one is the Logitech M720 Triathlon mouse. It is comfortable and connects to three devices via Bluetooth. Link to buy at Amazon: https://amzn.to/32XXdz5
Keyboards are very personal so you have to use one that feels good to you. Select one that fits your space and has the keys you need (ie. number pad or other special keys). The one I am currently using because it is compact and feels good to me is one made by Arteck. Link to buy at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2RWzdpU
USB audio adapter for earbuds or headphones
I use the earbuds from my phone and connect them through a USB to 3.5mm adapter so I get better quality sound. I use an adapter by UGreen that you can get on Amazon with this link: https://amzn.to/31m2U9h
An external webcam gives you more options for positioning it (better than the built-in webcam looking up at your face) and will likely give you better quality video. I use a Logitech C920 and like almost all webcams from major manufacturers it is sold out everywhere. One option that does not require you to install software on a corporate laptop is to use a Wyze security camera and convert it to a webcam. You can buy these on Amazon if you don’t already have one (make sure you get a USB-A to USB-A cable that is required) and then convert it using the instructions here. The image is a little rounded at the edges because of the lens, but it is usually much better quality than the built-in webcams.
Powered USB hub to connect all this
With newer laptops coming with few USB ports, it is likely that you will need a USB hub to connect all this stuff to. I recommend you get a powered hub as cameras and other devices need power from the USB port. I have two Anker hubs that add 7 USB ports and 3 charging ports so my devices can stay charged without being attached to the computer. Here’s the link to buy on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3628GQb. If you have USB-C ports, you will need an adapter like this one: https://amzn.to/2EA5wYk.
USB-A extension cords
If you need to move your USB hub or devices further away from your laptop than the cord reaches, use a USB extension cord. Get the length you need. I have a 10 foot cord for one USB hub (Amazon link: https://amzn.to/33SEa8A) and a 3 foot cord for the other (Amazon link: https://amzn.to/36avuNs).
USB to Ethernet adapter
If you can use wired Ethernet instead of wi-fi, it will give you a faster, more reliable connection. With few laptops having Ethernet ports these days, you will likely need a USB to Ethernet adapter. I use one by Anker (Amazon link: https://amzn.to/306ZENX)
In order to elevate your laptop so it is more comfortable to look at and reduces the strain on your neck, consider a laptop stand that raises the laptop so the screen is at eye level instead of a stack of books. This is also a great way to have your laptop screen at a better height beside a monitor for a 2 screen setup. Here’s the one I’ve just started using: https://amzn.to/364864c
Selfie stick tripod for webcam
If your webcam has a standard tripod screw attachment, a small tripod is a good way to position it above your screen or in between two screens. I find traditional photo tripods take up too much room on a desk so a selfie stick tripod with the smaller base works better. The one I have that I prefer is this one on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3i7jG1b
iPad holder for tripod
If you are using your iPad as a second screen or to refer to for speaking notes and want it at a similar level to your screen, you can use a tripod mentioned above and you will need an iPad holder since the common phone holders are not big enough. I went with one made of metal since I don’t want a risk of it breaking and the iPad crashing onto the desk. Here’s the one I use from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3648wYo
Video capture card
This type of adapter allows you to bring an HDMI source into your computer as a camera through a USB port. This is useful to use your phone as a document camera or to create a second screen on your laptop to use PowerPoint Presenter View. These devices are typically for gamers so the specs and reviews can focus on high frame rates and high resolution, which is not what you need for simpler uses. There are high-end devices that cost hundreds of dollars which I think is more than you need. There are many similar devices to the one I use, which is here at Amazon: https://amzn.to/3bSZQqU. I like this one because it has worked for me and has a built-in short cord so it does not crowd out other USB ports.
Virtual Display Emulator plug
This small plug connects to an HDMI port on your laptop to create a virtual second display, known as a ghost monitor. It allows you to use Presenter View in two-screen mode so you have access to all the features. You display the slide show on the ghost monitor and share that screen in the meeting. It is a great solution for those working with just a laptop and minimal space. The one I use is on Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3p5xDQG.
Mini DisplayPort to HDMI/VGA/DVI adapter
If you have a Mini DisplayPort output on your laptop, this adapter will allow you to connect to almost any projector or screen. I use this at my desk and travel with it all the time. Link to buy at Amazon: http://amzn.to/2iHUkKk
SMK-Link RemotePoint Navigator presentation remote
I use this remote because it has been rock solid for over a decade. I am on my third remote because I’ve worn out two of them as I use it so much. This is a professional grade remote that provides the simple functionality presenters need. Link to buy on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2AHYbzp
USB-A to Ethernet and 3 USB-A
New laptops don’t come with Ethernet ports and usually only one or two USB ports. This adapter gives you a wired Ethernet connection for faster speeds and the extra USB ports you need. I have one at my desk and carry one when I travel. Link to buy on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2zu729z. If you need one with USB-C connection, consider this one: http://amzn.to/2hmRe1F
Microsoft Bluetooth mobile mouse
I’ve tried many different mice when I travel and have found this one to be the best for two reasons. First, it fits my hand and wrist most comfortably and has a real wheel (I know that is a personal choice for everyone). Second, it connects via Bluetooth so it doesn’t need a dongle and take up a USB port. Link to buy on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2yjMtJD
Apple Lightning to USB3 Camera adapter
While this adapter was originally designed to attach a USB stick for cameras, it has more uses. In iOS13, you can now attach almost any USB stick to your iPhone or iPad and copy photos and videos from your device to the stick (you often need to plug in power for larger capacity sticks). Maybe the best use is to attach the USB dongle from your presentation remote and then you can advance your slides in PowerPoint using your remote. Wirelessly mirror your iPad to a TV and you have a whole presentation setup. Link to buy on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NPZyTW
Travel surge protector with 3 outlets & 2 USB charging ports
I have found this device invaluable when travelling. It has a fold-out plug so it is more compact in my bag. It has three outlets which is great at a hotel desk or airport gate. And it has two USB charging ports that will charge an iPad or my Surface 3, or quickly charge a phone. Link to buy on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ym50Fe
Flat HDMI extension cable & adapters
Sometimes the cord they give you to connect your laptop to the projector or screen is too short to position your laptop where you want it. In the past I’ve carried both VGA and HDMI cords but am moving to a new approach. Now I will carry a Flat HDMI cable that can be coiled up and doesn’t take up much space in my bag. You’ll also need a F-to-F adapter to connect it to the HDMI cable they give you and an HDMI to VGA adapter if they still have a VGA cord. Link for 15 ft HDMI cable: http://amzn.to/2ymB5g9. Link for 25 ft HDMI cable: http://amzn.to/2hnaPiA. Link for HDMI F-to-F adapter: http://amzn.to/2zu75Cj. Link to HDMI to VGA adapter: http://amzn.to/2hmY9s3.
It seems like you can never have enough wall chargers in a hotel room. I use ones by Anker that have plugs that fold into the body for easy packing. I carry the two USB-A port one in my bag (buy from Amazon at https://amzn.to/2PHGvy3) and they also have ones for four ports (buy from Amazon at https://amzn.to/2DtDImu) and a version that has a USB-C and a USB-A port (buy from Amazon at https://amzn.to/2SNUzou).
As with chargers, you need the cables to charge all those devices you carry. Again I use Anker cables for my devices. I like long cables so I can charge my devices no matter where the wall plug happens to be in the hotel room. I prefer 10 foot cables and the Anker cable for iPhones and iPads with a lightning connector can be bought on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2Qt2Vk1. If your device uses a micro USB plug, the 10 foot cable can be bought on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2SSmFPj and the USB-C plug 10 foot cable can be bought on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2RE5PSZ.
When you travel, you might not be able to find a wall outlet to plug into if you need to recharge your device. I always carry a battery that allows me to plug a USB-A cable in and charge my phone or iPad. I like having a big battery just to be conservative even though I've never even used half of the capacity. And I like two output ports so I can charge two devices at the same time. One that has a good balance of capacity and small size is this one from Anker on Amazon https://amzn.to/2JN5g6Q. If you want more capacity (with a larger size of course), check out this Anker battery on Amazon https://amzn.to/2AONi0O.
Noise cancelling earphones
A few years ago I invested in Bose noise-cancelling earphones because I was starting to travel more often. From the very first time I used them on a flight I have said that they may be my best investment for travelling. I feel less tired when I get off a flight because my brain isn't having to deal with all the engine noise. These aren't going to eliminate all noises, they are not designed to do that. They eliminate the background constant noise like an airplane engine or fan. They are expensive, but all the reviews I've read say that they are the best and I can personally testify to how well they work for me. These use a standard headphone jack but they work regardless of whether they are plugged into anything or not. The version for Apple devices is on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2DqkTAH.
Fellow Microsoft MVP Ric B had this backpack at a conference a few years ago. It is so much slimmer than my old backpack but I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to fit everything into it. I fit all I need and it is so slim it fits under the seat in front on a flight if there is no room in the overhead bins. I like all the organizing pockets and pockets. It is the eBags Professional Slim Laptop Backpack.
To keep everything organized in my suitcase, I use packing cubes. eBags makes good ones that we have given as gifts because we like them so much. I think this six piece value pack is a good choice and it comes in many different colors.
My latest carry-on suitcase is a Travelpro Crew 11 20 inch model. It is not a spinner, it only has two wheels, so I can fit more inside. It still rolls smoothly across all surfaces, fits what I need (even when I put my CPAP inside), and has solid zippers. Link to buy on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2rrSbuv
Until your website comes under attack, you won't know why you need a service like Sucuri. You direct all of your website traffic to them instead of directly to your website server. They check each request to access your site and prevent the hackers, overload attacks, and other nasty traffic from ever reaching your site. They even allow you to block traffic from certain countries if you see too many threats from them (I block five countries). It is the best $10 I spend each month to prevent my website from going down. Check them out and sign up at https://sucuri.7eer.net/c/1139550/212721/3713.
If you have never had a hard drive fail, consider yourself lucky. I've had it happen at least twice. Without a backup, you are in deep trouble. All your critical client, supplier, and other business files are gone. Having a local backup on an external drive is good, but if you lose access to your office or home, how are you going to get access to that backup drive? Anyone who has experienced a natural disaster will tell you how quickly local backups become useless. I use Backblaze as a cloud backup service. It runs continuously and backs up every file as soon as it is saved. A glitch in a software program once deleted half our archive of family photos. I was able to download all the files from Backblaze and restored our treasured family photos. For $50 per year, it gives me the peace of mind that I want. Check them out and sign up at https://secure.backblaze.com/r/011aih.
Accounting software (in the cloud)
I don't know any small business owner who likes doing the books. You can hire someone to do it and many choose to do so. If you do it yourself, I suggest you check out Freshbooks. I've used them for a number of years and like how they work. They are cloud based which means I can access and update my data from anywhere, including their apps for my phone and iPad. They offer all the features I need, including HST filing. Check them out and sign up at http://fbuy.me/kUPfJ.