This week my computer died. Just shut down and then refused to boot up again. As everyone knows, this is incredibly frustrating – but this time I wasn’t too stressed. Why? Because all of my important data is in the cloud. So even if my hard-drive had failed, I knew I wouldn’t lose any files. So today, I thought I’d share some of the best technology tools for small business.
These recommendations are all based on my experience and while I’m not an expert, I’ve used each of these tools extensively.
Best Technology Tools for Small Business
This is one of the best tools and I personally think pretty much everyone should use it. I use Dropbox for personal files (sharing folders with family members) and for business purposes (sharing different folders with different team members). You can store any type of file so it’s great for designers too. The files are stored locally on your computer and are synced with another copy online. You can access your files from anywhere by logging in online and if you were to lose your computer (or have your hard-drive fail), you could just download the app onto your new machine, login and voila – all your files are back with you!
This is a technology tool that I absolutely love. It’s where I collect random notes, reminders, brainstorm, and save information that I think might be useful later. Again, I use it for both personal and business purposes. For example, for business use I have lists of potential blog ideas (with links to useful resources I’ve come across), lists of social media updates, save testimonials and praise from customers, record customer suggestions and requests, save information about competitors, save information about suppliers (eg how to order stationery, water for the office, printed materials), keep notes on employees and the recent meetings I’ve had with each of them, record details about any processes that I only do rarely and might otherwise forget, save examples of great marketing / advertisements that I come across, save login details for accessing various sites, and lots more. For personal use, I keep a record of presents I’ve given people and present ideas for next time, keep packing lists, lists of places I want to travel too (with links to articles that I’ve seen), record travel details (eg bookings for places, lists of sights to see), keep measurements of things I need to buy for (eg the size of a wall, my niece’s shoe size), record my goals, and even save recipes that I find online. Evernote has a great apps for your phone and tabet and also extensions that allow you to clip things straight from the web. Their slogan is “Remember Everything” and I really do use Evernote as a place to dump and save all kinds of information.
- Google Docs / Google Drive
I used to think that Dropbox was the answer to any type of file that I wanted to share easily, but I later discovered that Google Docs has some great benefits. In cases where you have documents that need to be constantly updated, edited or accessed by multiple people Google Docs is fantastic. It has the advantage that multiple people can be editing files at the same time (and you can actually see real time what different users are doing). This makes Google Docs great for things like; staff rosters, recording staff hours and leave etc for payroll, storing business processes (and adding to them as you go), storing company-wide contact information (phone numbers, emails etc of team members, suppliers, etc), recording live reports and adding to them each week/month, writing specifications for new website or app features and collaborating with team members, etc. Using Google Docs you can easily send links to other people you’re working with and create very discreet permissions.
- Lightshot Screenshot
This is a tool that makes it super easy to take screenshots. You might not think you have the need to do this very often, but once you start using Lightshot and realise how convenient it is, you might find (like I did) that screenshots actually make it a lot easier to convey information. The beauty of this technology tool is that you can very easily annotate the screen shot to give someone more information. You can also either save the resulting screenshot, copy it (to paste into an email for example), or have it stored online and send a link to someone. I use Lightshot to help customers do something they’re having trouble with (eg by annotating “click here 1st”, “then click here”), to help specify and explain changes I want made when working with developers, to save great ads or bits of websites that I like and want to keep to reference later, and to point out any problems that I’ve found with our website that need fixing.
Once a business gets beyond having just a handful of sales, it really needs to have proper accounting software. I haven’t tried them all but I can certainly vouch for Xero and how convenient it is to use accounting software that is truly online. For one, it means that you can easily have several people working on it at the same time, and two it means that you can check in on things from various locations and devices. Xero has some great features (like integration with most banks) which means that it’s much easier to keep on top of your accounts on a day-to-day basis.
For anyone that needs to create images, this is a must-try tool. It’s incredibly simple to use and the results are incredibly effective. You can easily create text over mages and there are lots of templates set up to use which help make your images look great. You only pay if you use their images. Canva is fantastic for creating images for social media, blog posts, invitations, etc.
This is a tool that changes your email inbox from a nightmare to something that you can actually control. Using this tool, you can schedule emails to return later or scheduled emails to be sent later. This doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, it’s life changing! I use it to clear out all the emails that I can’t or am not going to work on at the moment so that my inbox contains only those items that will be actioned in the very short-term. For example, if there’s an email exchange but I’m waiting on someone to get back to me so that I can take action (but I don’t want to rely on them getting back to me), I’ll archive the email and set it to return in a week only if no-one gets back to me. When I order something online and get the confirmation email, I’ll set that to return to me on a date after I think the order should have arrived. That way if it hasn’t arrived I’ll be prompted to follow it up. The ability to send emails later is also great as you can work on your emails at any time without encouraging an unrealistic “working all hours” work ethic. You can try it out for free but you do need to subscribe to use it properly – worth every cent I say!
There are obviously other technology tools that I use but they tend to get more specific and will vary depending on the type of business. These are the essentials that I believe almost all small businesses should be using – if there’s some that you’re not using, give them a try.
Is something missing? What other technology tools for small business would you add to this list?