The loss of a client could upset the entire income of a small business. Technology has helped small businesses increase their competitive advantage in a variety of areas. I have found the software that I think highlights the best of those advantages.
MS Office Suite 2007
Doing business today almost requires that you invest in the MS Office Suite software. The 2007 version one of the best packages available for small business. The suite has all the previous buttons along with some new features that give the suite a new attitude. The suite has better options for presentation and document choices. The downsides to the suite are the cost and compatibility with earlier versions. The suite costs in 2009, at the low end, about $400. Upgrades from your current system in 2009 cost $240 and up.
The compatibility issue shouldn’t be ignored as it can wreak havoc with new users. The 2007 version provides you with the option to save your documents in earlier version. If your documents are not converted to an earlier version and are sent to someone using an earlier version, they will not be able to view the document. To get around that issue, save all documents going outside of the business in the 97-2003 versions. All versions allow you a 60-day free trial.
This is one of my business favorites. Skype allows your business to video conference or conduct regular conference calls for free over the Internet. Skype enables your business to group instant message, send files, start a call or instant message with one button. Your business can also call landlines and mobile phone numbers for less than $15 a month. For small businesses that do a lot of national, international and remote teamwork this system is a wonderful tool.
The only downside to Skype is that most of the free options require Skype to Skype contact. The landline usage is subject to a contract and a 50 different numbers a day restriction. The contracts can be in three- or 12-month increments, with a monthly usage charge.
Microsoft Office Communicator
This option is good for small businesses that communicate heavily with subcontractors or remote team members. This option allows you to instant message and teleconference remotely. You can adjust your instant message status to be general (busy) or specific (in a meeting); your status can also be set using your Outlook calendar. This tool can be used outside of your organization with MS Windows Live, MSN, AOL and Yahoo. Communicator allows you to control the level of viewer access and to customize your location settings to reflect where you actually are (at home, office, mobile). The contact management features allow you to add corporate distribution groups to your contacts list with one button. Contacts can be brought into a conference call by clicking and dragging their names into the conversation window. Contact lists can also be accessed through your desktop, mobile and IP phone. The best part of this program is the option to instantly conference during instant messaging or phone conversations.
Quicken Home and Business
Many small-business owners would do anything to escape balancing their books. The best solution I have experienced has been Quicken. This software is easy to use and is comparable to Sage and Peartree, without needing advanced training. Quicken Home and Business gives you the ability to monitor your finances, track expenses and review your income in relation to those expense in a very nice graph. The program tracks your invoices, showing paid and unpaid invoices, due dates and account balances. If your account does not have enough funds to cover all of your invoices, the program will notify you. The savings plan option allows you to view your actual spending in comparison to projected spending identifying the areas you spend the most money. The high spending areas also show the frequency with which you purchase the products.
This program is good for home and small businesses. The program lets you send and receive faxes as email attachments. You can create an account for a monthly fee (usually less than $10 per month). You’re given a fax number and you can begin receiving and sending faxes immediately. The best part of this program is your company can have an international presence instantly. The program gives you a free 30-day trial.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but the programs listed can put together a pretty professional image for a small business. These programs are my picks because they give efficiency and growth without needing a translator.