The Bloomberg Terminal is the de facto standard machine for any professional working in finance. And it doesn't come cheap, costing about $1,600 per month.
But what about the rest of us? How can we possibly stand up to traders with near-unlimited resources and lightning fast data?
We'll show you how you can build your own awesome setup for under a grand. You'll get breaking news, rumors, and data, as well as the ability to pull up charts to your heart's content. You'll even get Bloomberg's social aspect.
You'll never be truly on par with a Bloomberg Terminal, but you can sure as hell come close.
The Hardware Setup
Typically, you'll see the Bloomberg Terminal Twin Flat-Panel Monitor setup at an office. Two monitors, Bloomy's user interface. All you need is a good, fast, and cheap PC. No fancy Mac hardware this time around. Call up Dell or HP and get a box for around $500 for small business use. All you need to worry about is RAM. Make sure you get at least 4 gigabytes worth and a fast processor. This shouldn't add too much to your overall cost, as RAM is a dime a gigabyte nowadays (figuratively speaking, of course). All in all, expect to shell out $450-$500 for this.
Two 19-inch LCD monitors will run you about $320. Now that you've got the hardware, it's time to move to the software and data.
Real-time news and updates are a must
You must remember that Bloomberg costs thousands per month. So while we've used up a good chunk of our $1,000 on the hardware, the rest will be spent subscribing to various services around the internet. There is no easy way to avoid this and you're going to have to bite the bullet and shell out money for data services.
So let's take a look at the various services we can get on the cheap out there.
The Fly On The Wall
We're personally big fans of this service.
For $65 a month, you can get all that The Fly On The Walloffers, including Fly News, Syndicate, and Events. With this subscription, you get a nice little web-based window that feeds you live news and market data. It's very customizable and you can set various alerts to trigger when a company in your portfolio is doing well (or failing miserably).
The Fly usually beats the major wires and CNBC by a few minutes, sometimes as much as 10.
Trade On The News
Trade The News is very similar to the previously mentioned Fly On The Wall, but it's also more expensive, costing anywhere from $50 to $500 a month for a subscription depending on what you want.
Its Global Equities coverage is a 24-hour real-time news portal for anything and everything related to stocks. You'll get breaking market alerts on everything from technical activity to IPO offerings to government decisions.
Not only is it free, but it provides push updates to your phone to hound you on important news and numbers, such as GDP, ISM, and FOMC meetings to name a few. The app itself is full of rich information and provides quotations, news, and plenty of other useful features.
Cyborg Trading - HFT for amateurs
Cyborg Trading is a pioneer in its field. It's trying to bridge the gap between the professional trader and amateur investor by allowing the smaller players to get into the game of algorithmic and high-frequency trading. For a couple hundred a month (varying price plans for various needs, obviously), you can have access to algorithm-building tools and advanced liquidity systems that let you trade like the bots do.
Real-time chat via Twitter
One key feature that Bloomberg offers is a centralized chat system that allows you to talk with other traders and investors in real-time. No service has quite perfected this, but StockTwits has come the closest so far.
It's worth noting that Twitter simply cannot be overlooked at this point and is an invaluable tool for anyone doing intraday trading or looking for answers from other professionals--as well as amateurs! You can seriously get some solid tips, rumors, and news all under one roof using Twitter and following the right people.
Connectivity from anywhere in the world
This part is easy. Just get a VNC client like RealVNC that allows you to do remote screen sharing from around the world. Configure the server, install the client on your laptop, and as long as it's configured right and you have internet access, you're good to go. It's as if you have your desktop right in front of you, sans dual monitors of course.
To get the edge against those who use Bloomberg, you'll need to start getting some analyst research flow.
Charts, charts, charts
Whether you're traditional or technical, any investor will love a good chart.
There's no shortage of these at websites like Yahoo! and Google Finance, but one of the best free solutions out there is a site called Finviz.com (that's short for Financial Visualizations).
Finviz has everything from Forex to Futures to Commodities to Equities and way more, all wrapped up in a easy-to-navigate website with endless options for customizing your graphs.
Buy the rumor, sell the news
Need rumors? Don't have thousands for Bloomberg? We recommend checking out the aforementioned data feeds and analyst reports. Blogs are also a great source of stuff that's being heard. And don't forget Twitter!
Real cheapskates can opt for picking up a copy of The Wall Street Journal and reading its famous "Heard On The Street" column.
Short on change? May we recommend your office water cooler?
This story, "Build Your Own Bloomberg-Killer " was originally published by Entrepreneur.com.