In the new post-recession economy (yes, I’m optimistic about the post) the name of the game is leverage… In other words, doing ever more with ever less. Here are the top 11 ways any brick-and-mortar business can have top-notch IT without spending a penny.
- Google Apps – Get rid of your small business server and get on Google Apps right away before they start limiting you to 10 users. Read my previous blog about how my small business has used Google Apps for some ideas.
- MailChimp.com – Don’t even bother considering another service (unless you’re big into auto-responders then I’d say check out Aweber.com). For sending out mass emails this is your best choice by far and it’s amazingly simple. If you’re still sending out mass emails via Outlook, then go to Mailchimp.com right away. Please.
- DropBox.com – This product allows you to sync documents across multiple computers, your smart phone, and even multiple operating systems with ease. Initially it even includes 2 free GB. Learn more about it in my previous blog about DropBox.
- OpenOffice.org – Why do you keep paying to upgrade MS Office every year? And if you’ve been thinking about using Google Docs or some other web-based service, they’re still not fast or reliable enough for the real world. OpenOffice is an open source alternative to Microsoft Office that actually has more features and near-seamless integration with the Microsoft products.
- Google Analytics – Yes there are other website analytic tools out there but for the standard web data this free service is still the best and easiest to use. Make sure your web developer gives you access to your Google Analytics because it’s free for him to do that. If you want to get more advanced (and start paying) consider adding CrazyEgg.com to your bag of internet tricks.
- SurveyMonkey.com – Just as it sounds this is a free service for creating polls and surveys for your customers, or suppliers, or even your Team Members. It can be posted on your website or on your Facebook page or emailed to the interested parties. It’s a marketers dream-come-true to so easily get valuable feedback from existing and potential clients.
- WordPress.com / Joomla / Drupal – These are all grouped together because they’re all providing similar power and options and they’re all free. WordPress is a free blogging program (the one I use for this blog) but more importantly can also be used as a powerful Content Management System to help you create and easily maintain high-quality, professional websites.
- FreeConferenceCall.com – And it’s new brother, FreeScreenSharing.com, are completely Free and don’t even appear to have a paid option if you wanted to pay them. They’re a great cost-effective option for phone conference calls and web meetings.
- Skype.com – By now you hopefully know about this free video conferencing tool. Last week I did my first Skype call with my new HTC Evo 4G Android-based phone. I’ve also used it on my Linux laptop, and Windows 7 netbook. No matter where you are it’s hard to beat Skype for free video conferencing.
- Crashplan.com – It’s like Carbonite.com or Mozy.com except it’s free if you’re backing up to a friend or to another computer. In other words, if you backup you work computer to your home computer and vice versa, then it doesn’t cost a cent. What are the chances that your house and your office are going to burn down the same day? I recommend partnering with a friend in another state just in case a major disaster does hit your local area, though.
- Google Voice – With an Android based phone, you are finally able to seamlessly have 2 phone lines, a business and personal, ring to and call from the same phone. You can even utilize the Google Voicemail that transcribes the message and texts it to your phone.
As a final note, I really wish I could recommend Linux (particularly Ubuntu) since it’s my preferred operating system 90% of the time. However 10% of the time it can’t do what I need… For instance, certain web applications like GoToMeeting.com and USAA‘s online check deposit feature won’t work in Linux. My Xerox scanner and NeatReceipts software won’t work in Linux. The software I use for engine tuning from Motec and EvoScan won’t work in Linux. Streaming Netflix requires you to install Windows inside of Linux… So though Linux is 90% the best free product for small business, I can’t just give up that other 10% and neither can you.
To your success with keeping costs down and services up, Bryan