Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

The Top 11 Free Applications for Small Business

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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

The best way to share and sync files between all of your computers

If you’re like me you have several computers… One at work, another at home, a netbook and/or laptop for travelling… And it’s a pain to make sure you have the files you need available at all times no matter which computer you are on. Until now…

Over the years I’ve tested online document management editors such as Google Docs, Google Wave (which has since been retired), and Zoho Docs; but you need internet access to make them work, you have to use the rudimentary web-based office applications they provide, and you can’t open common file types such as audio files or OpenOffice documents.

In the real world, we don’t always have high-speed internet access, web browsers crash, and our desktop office suite (such as Microsoft Office or OpenOffice) are a lot more powerful and easier to work with.

Now there is a better way and it’s called DropBox. Here’s how it works

  1. You install DropBox on all of your computers and create a login.
  2. It then creates a DropBox folder on each computer.
  3. Move your important files that you want to access from anywhere into your DropBox folder. Don’t copy because then you’ll have different versions and you’ll never know which is the “right” one.
  4. Save all of your important new files into your DropBox folder.
  5. Invite your friends to DropBox and create folders to share with them for work you’re both collaborating on.

You can drop in files from any of your computers and, no matter what type of file you put in DropBox, it syncs each DropBox folder to have the exact same documents all the time. It’s so fast that it will actually sync between computers every time Word does an auto-save. DropBox doesn’t even wait until you’ve closed the file. Even more impressive, it will sync documents simultaneously across Linux, Windows and Macintosh. I regularly switch between Windows and Linux computers and DropBox keeps all of my documents synced.

Even better, you can access your DropBox files from your iPhone or Droid device or from a web browser on any computer. If your laptop dies, just login to your account from any computer and your files are there.

It’s also extremely helpful when sharing documents with colleagues. You can create folders that can be shared with any DropBox user. Currently I have 4 different DropBox folders synced between 3 computers. Two of the folders are shared with clients. One of the folders is shared with my business partner, and the last one is just for my personal information.

If you’re a die-hard Linux fan, Ubuntu One is a great option as well that offers much of the same technology with 2 glaring exceptions. The beta Windows client doesn’t seem to work at all in Windows 7 starter and you don’t get additional free space by referring friends.

The best part of both options? It’s FREE for your first 2GB of space.

Download DropBox and get your documents organized today.

To your success, Bryan