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Ten Serious Apps for Small Business

July 19, 2011

Lynn, Samara, PCMag.com, “Ten Serious Apps for Small Business ” http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow/story/266878/ten-serious-apps-for-small-business. Posted  date unknown. Retrieved July, 19th, 2011.

With the technology shift to cloud and mobile computing, small businesses have never had so many affordable, feature-rich and scalable business applications at their disposal. We’ve picked ten of the best, apps ranging from sophisticated billing/accounting systems to lightweight web publishing. And of the ten apps presented here, six are strictly web-based, two are mobile apps and only two are locally-installed software. Even a decade ago, most small businesses were shackled to locally installed software for their business needs.

Much of the SMB was pressed to use Office for line-of-business rather than purchasing dedicated Line-of-Business solutions from vendors like Peachtree or ERP programs from Lotus and IBM. Such software was first off, expensive especially when purchasing licenses and often required knowledgeable IT staff to deploy and maintain. Programs in the Office suite were substitutes for more robust solutions: Excel for financials and bookkeeping, Publisher for desktop publishing, Front Page for creating websites and so on.

With the emergence of cloud computing, however, SMBs now have vast numbers of solutions to choose from. Multi-tenancy cloud platforms from the likes of Amazon and Salesforce.com can scale to support millions of users. A small business simply can sign up for any of the wealth of cloud-basedservices available, and can never outgrow the service no matter how the business grows.

Cloud computing has also made way for the skyrocketing adoption of mobile computing. The two technologies make data and access ultra-portable and always available to users no matter where they may be located.

Of course, cloud computing is not without its dark side. We’ve witnessed the outrage of users who could not access their financial services when Intuit suffered multiple outages. Even more sobering are the onslaught of security breaches like the hacking of the Sony Playstation network and potential compromise of millions of users’ credit card information.

But even with the issues and risk associated with cloud-computing, many small businesses are choosing to make the leap to the cloud and are in turn reaping great rewards in terms of savings. Moving into the cloud can mean having to purchase less equipment and employ fewer people to support locally installed. It’s not surprising, therefore that this batch of apps, all among the best that we’ve reviewed in the past year, should be 60 percent cloud-based apps. Clearly not all business tasks are ready to migrate to the cloud, but that’s the direction in which business will continue in the year to come.

1. Communications: Adobe Connect

 
$55/month ($45/month if you sign up for a year)
Web-based conferencing Adobe Connect is the most capable, customizable web conferencing option available. While slightly more expensive than WebEx and GoToMeeting, Connect’s $10/month premium is compensated for many times over in scalability. With impressive video conferencing and features such as whiteboard, video annotating and an abundance of plug-ins to support Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes and more, Adobe Connect to worth the price.

2. Productivity: IBM Lotus Symphony 3.0

 
Free
IBM Lotus Symphony is a free-for-download office application suite created by putting a tried-and-true open-source engine into a shiny chassis created by IBM. Under the hood, Lotus Symphony is based on OpenOffice.org a slightly earlier version of the same office-suite code that powersLibreOffice. For small businesses reluctant to shell out cash for Microsoft Office or don’t want to depend on the cloud forproductivity via Google Apps or Docs, IBM Lotus Symphony 3.0 is a worthy alternative.

3. E-Commerce: Square

 
Small fee per transaction
For small businesses, mobile payment solutions, which let you accept credit cards using your cell phone, are a welcomeinnovationSquare is one such solution, and for some circumstances it’s a perfect one: It features a hardware component that plugs into a variety of mobile devices and uses a simple, attractive interface to allow you to accept credit card payments. Card Case, the buyer’s interface to Square, is a similarly easy and intuitive way to pay for things, making it easier than ever to buy at your most-frequented haunts. It’s free to use, but Square charges a small fee for every transaction. The fees aren’t exorbitant, though, and Square’s excellent aesthetics and ease of use on many devices make it our Editors’ Choice for mobile credit card readers.

4. Promotions/Marketing: LinkedIn

 
Free for Basic Account; $19.95/month for Annual or $24.95/month for Business Account; $39.95/month for Annual or $49.95/month for Business Plus Account ; $74.95/month for Annual or $99.95/month for Executive Account
We all know LinkedIn is great for promoting your career and for networking, but it’s also great for promoting your smallbusiness and services that you offer. It’s also an ideal resource for acquiring clients for your business. LinkedIn is the most developed business- and career-oriented networking site and service out there. It’s the way millions of career-minded people cannot only find new jobs and opportunities, but allows professionals to build their reputations.

5. Network management: Windows Intune

 
$11 per PC per month
Windows is still widely deployed in the SMB. Many small businesses have not only Windows clients but servers as well to manage. Microsoft has released a cloud-based service, Windows Intune for anywhere, centralized management of Windows domains and workgroups. Intune lets system administrators manage updates as well as endpoint management and security, centrally, on the client side. At $11 per PC, per month; Intune offers a centralized way to administer PCs especially for organizations with limited IT support.

6. Project Management: MindView 4 Business Edition

 
$379
MatchWare’s MindView 4 Business Edition, priced at $379 is one of the more expensive project management apps for small business. But for businesses looking to move from brainstorming to project implementation, MindView also packs the most bang for buck. Outstanding features include advanced import/exports, polishedMicrosoft Office integration, and versatile viewing options. MatchWare lets you repurpose, recreate, and redistribute existing data. MindView 4 Business Edition captures the Editors’ Choice award because it both acknowledges and ameliorates the limitations of the software category in which it resides.

7. Web Publishing: Tweak.com

 
Pricing varies
For small businesses looking to make a good impression without breaking the bank, Tweak.com lets you access and tailor high-quality stock photography, copy, and design without leaving your browser. The service allows you to design and order everything from business cards outdoor banners. With an elegant all-inclusive online interface, Tweak.com offers excellent stock photography, copy, and design—plus a free logo creator.

8. CRM: Sugar Professional 6 (Beta)


Free for Basic, $30 per user, per month for Professional; $50 per user, per month for Enterprise
Yes, when it comes to CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Salesforce.com reigns. However, don’t discount Sugar Professional 6, an alternative CRM solution which provides more features at a lowercost than Salesforce. One example is forecasting, which lets you track how your individual salespeople have updated their projected results over the course of a given quarter. To get this with Salesforce, you’ll need to upgrade to the Enterprise version, which costs $125 per user per month over four times what SugarCRM costs. SugarCRM has integrated e-mail marketing and document sharing a thriving open-source community and extensive third-party plug-in support.

9. Billing/Invoicing:FreshBooks

 
Free (three clients, unlimited invoices) to $39.95/month (unlimited clients and invoices).
Freshbooks is a cloud-based financials service that lets you create—or import—databases of companies, contacts, and products/service. It provides customizable invoice and quote/estimate forms that you can either fill in manually or complete using lists. FreshBooks allows you to dispatch these forms by e-mail or U.S. Mail, and you can record payments and expenses. Reports give you a birds-eye view of your finances. Besides a host of add-ons, it integrates data with other sites. It incorporates time-tracking and support tickets, and it lets you upload documents to a shared area, something competitors don’t do. Basically, it does everything that everyone else does, and a lot more. Multiple subscription levels are available, ranging from free (three clients, unlimited invoices) to $39.95/month (unlimited clients and invoices).

10. Database: Bento (for iPad)

 
$4.99
FileMaker’s recently updated $4.99 handyorganizational iPad app (also available as a free update for those who purchased the original version) makes it simple for anyone—even novices—to create attractivedatabases in just minutes, thanks to 25 pre-designed templates, a flexible editing system, and a clean, intuitive interface.Bento for iPad (also available on the iPhone and iPod touch) can be used as a standalone iPad app, or in conjunction with the new $49 Bento 4 for Mac OS X.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 11, 2011 10:56 am

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