Small Business Software to Improve Productivity

Running a business is time consuming. Since time = money, the less time you spend on busy work, the more time you will have for more important aspects of your business. By utilizing the right software programs you can effectively cut costs, increase productivity, and run a smoother operation. As an entrepreneur I understand that you are working on a budget. Pricing, as well as efficiency, is taken into consideration. The more extensive software programs are generally more expensive and can offer your business a wide variety of options. But there are plenty of less expensive programs that can be just as effective. I have no financial stake involved in these suggestions, and I'm not trying to sell you on anything. I'm just providing an opinion of what I think works well. If a certain software program has increased productivity for your business, I'd like to hear about it.

Accounting & Financial Software

Tracking your finances is a task of enormous importance for every business owner. Accounting is one of those things you don't want to leave up to chance, and in most cases hiring a professional is a smart move. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't understand where your money is being spent, and there are some great programs available that can help you track where your spending is going, which will allow you to make necessary changes. The following three programs also include payroll solutions.

1. Sage 50 Complete Accounting - Around $300
Peachtree is a top competitor and offers functionality along with powerful inventory and item management. They offer 4 different programs starting at $300. With robust payroll solutions, Peachtree is an excellent choice for all your accounting needs.

2. Intuit QuickBooks - Around $200
Intuit Inc, the maker of TurboTax and Quicken, is a market leader in Small Business Software. Instantly create invoices, track sales & expenses, and keep your data backed-up and secure - automatically. For only $12.95 a month, QuickBooks is a solid addition to your accounting team.


Document Creation and Management Software


1. Microsoft Office 2010 - $499.99
MS Office is by far the most reliable and effective product for document creation. It includes Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and SharePoint, among many others. The new 2010 edition is the smoothest Office release to date, and with mobile capabilities you can take your Office everywhere. (Available here for less.)

Record Management Software


1. Document Locator
The records management software from Document Locator automates records management policies and procedures. Define and build procedures that bring consistent business practices, secure information, and utilize an audit-traceable log of activity. Contact Document locator at (800) 298-1172 to get a quote.

2. Record Management Software
RMS automates every aspect of your operating with it's state of the art record management software. They offer both a desktop program as well as a web based program that allow you to access files with ease. Contact Record Management Software, Inc at (800) 432-8160 to get a quote.

Technical Support & Customer Service  Software

Customer service software programs allow you to automate and track your communications with customers. They provide your customers with a variety of methods of contacting you, which not only makes your business look more professional, but makes contact more convenient for prospective buyers and receiving feedback.

1.  LiveHelpNow - $21 /mo
LiveHelpNow is one of the most competitive products when it comes to customer service. This live chat support software covers all the bases, and streamlines all technical support which will greatly increase productivity as well as customer satisfaction.

2. Velaro - $52.95 /mo
Velaro offers an outstanding small business package as well as even more powerful options. Provides excellent Customer Relationship Management and a plethora of tools to streamline customer support. Provides monthly reports for visitor reporting, page navigation, and keyword analysis. An excellent program for maintaining customer relationships.

3. WebsiteAlive - $69.95 /mo
WebsiteAlive is a completely web-based program that can be accessed from any computer, even your mobile phone. There are no software installations, and you can manage your customer relationships from virtually anywhere.

Computer Security Software

With all the information on your computer it's important to make sure you're keeping it safe . You wouldn't leave your business documents laying around in a public place, so don't leave them available to people on the internet either. There are so many choices when it comes to PC security, these are the most reliable programs that provide the highest level of protection.

1. Webroot Internet Security Essentials - $59.95
Provides full internet security so you can browse the net care free. Webroot is a leader in anti-spyware, which can cause a bunch of issues on your computer.  Scans all ingoing and outgoing email.

2. Kaspersky - $79.95
Kaspersky has a user-friendly interface and robust virus protection, which makes this a good choice. While Kaspersky boasts excellent anti-virus protection, their anti-spyware protection isn't as powerful as Webroot.

Email Marketing Software

Email Marketing is a great method to stay connected to your customers and provide inside information to your followers. The size of a your mailing list is a good indicator of how well you are reaching potential customers; the more prospects you stay in contact with the more potential you have for profit. It's easier to maintain a customer than to attract a new customer.

1. Email Marketing Director - $495

This product is pricey but you won't find anything better than it. With its astoundingly easy to use interface and streamlined processes, Email Marketing Director will help you execute effective email marketing campaigns.

2. Group Mail - $139.95

Group Mail is a great program that offers a plethora of  options to create an effective email campaign. It's considerably more affordable than Email Marketing Director, but lacks capability in contact management and tracking features.

3. AWeber - $19 /mo

AWeber is great for list building, auto responders, and stat tracking. They provide high quality customer service and offer a full month free so you can test drive the software before making your decision.

Collaboration & Groupware

Collaboration software helps improve productivity by allowing employees to share ideas and information. Although it's not necessary for all businesses, it can improve efficiency and promote teamwork. Employees can share messages, files, data, documents, and even voice recordings.  Promote a sense of community by managing group activities.

1. IBM Lotus - $119

IBM Lotus Software delivers robust collaboration software that empowers people to connect, collaborate, and innovate while optimizing the way they work. Lotus will help you drive better business outcomes through smarter collaboration.

2.  GoToMeeting - $49 /mo

Allows you to host online meetings with up to 15 people. Business trips can get expensive, but GoToMeeting allows you to attend meetings from the comfort of your home. They provide a few other services as well. GoToWebinar allows you to host presentations for a large group of people over your computer, and GoToTraining allows you to conduct live training without having to meet face-to-face.

Data Backup Software

Whether you have an office or work from home, backing up your important documents is a smart move. Don't get caught with your pants down when your hard drive crashes, make sure you have copies of all the documents you will need in the future. This is one of the single most important things you could do for your business.

1. Nova Backup - $49.95

Not only does Nova Backup have a beautiful interface, but it includes features for full and partial backups all done with the click of a button. It includes all of the features you would expect from a data backup service, and allows you to backup individual files and folders, files-in-use, your entire system, network location, address books, favorites, registry keys and individual emails.

2.  PC Backup Pro 11 - $49.99

One click backup allows you to store your files quickly. Offers a wide range of features including full image and Operating System settings backup. A flexible scheduler allows you to automate scheduled backups so you can keep your files updated regularly.

Online Tax Software

Taxes are another time consuming process that can be difficult if done the old-fashioned way. Maximize your tax return and put your mind at ease with a high quality tax preparation program.

1. Turbo Tax Deluxe - $49.95

Turbo Tax Deluxe will efficiently take care of all your federal filing needs. It's the easiest program to use and has a very straightforward layout. The software comes with a bunch of great help features to ensure your returns are accurate.

2. H&R Block At Home - $49.95

H&R block is a leader in the tax filing industry and they now offer a wide range of tax options. It's features include personalized tax guidance, national average comparisons, audit support, and up to 5 federal e-files. H&R Blocks software is novice friendly and with the refunds you will receive the software pays for itself.

Graphic Design Software

You may want to be capable of creating your own logos, banners, and other visual designs. Graphic design programs enable you to design your own brochures, flyers, and other advertisements.

1. Photoshop - $699

Image editing and composition. Manipulate images and create your own designs.

2. CorelDRAW - $499

Illustration, layout, tracing, photo editing and Web graphics, all in one

3. Adobe Creative Suite - starting from $1,699

Includes Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign all in one bundle.

Website Creation

Creating a website is a process that has a long-term learning curve. As a small business owner you might not have enough time to teach yourself, but still want to design your own website. These programs automate the process for you, making website creation a simple task.

1. Intuit Website Creator - $59.88

Offers the most templates out of all the website creation programs. Quickly create your website using thousands of template and stock photos, and build customized 5-page sites using drag and drop tools and step by step assistance. A great choice for creating a customized website for your small business.

2. Web Easy Professional - $49.95

Create your webpage within hours. Whether you're a web design pro or it's your first time, Web Easy Professional makes the process easy.

3. Xara Web Designer - $49.99

Xara offers the most freedom when it comes to page layout. Provides options for publishing, creating animation, graphic and document design and image editing.

Web Hosting Solutions

You need a web hosting provider in order to host your website onto the internet. These are the 5 best web hosts around, they offer a variety of packages to fit your needs.

1. HostGator

2. GoDaddy

3. iPage

4. Blue Host

5. Super Green Hosting

Automation of time-consuming tasks will allow you to focus on what really matters for your business, maintaining your vision and achieving goals. The less time spent on these tasks, the more time you will free up for productive activities, maybe even for some extra sleep each night! So don't drive yourself crazy with busy work, do your homework and find out which programs are right for your needs. You may find that streamlining your processes was the smartest choice you ever made for your business.
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Comments
Oct 5, 2010
by Anonymous

Needs better definition of "small business"

Steve: What is a "small business"? Small businesses can range from single-person, home-office setups to mom-and-pop manufacturing or sales operations (candy maker, gift baskets) to 30-person repair or delivery services (plumbers, florists). The software that's listed doesn't consistently fit any of these categories, and in some cases would be a poor fit for larger small businesses.

There's also an entire category that's missing here: data backup. If a hard drive dies and takes the company ledger or customer database with it, the small business closes its doors tomorrow. I'd put a backup service at the top of the list and certainly ahead of record management.

Business owners can always DIY and put together a customized solution that fits the business. That takes time and energy away from what the business owner does best, which is probably not business system installation and maintenance. It would be better to ask other business owners for recommendations for someone local who helps set up all the moving pieces.

Oct 20, 2010
by Spencer Lanoue

RE: Needs better definition of "small business"

If you would read on to the 2nd and 3rd pages you would see that I do suggest data backup products, as well as many others.  

- Spencer Lanoue

Oct 20, 2010
by Anonymous

hostgator

I have used Hostgator web hosting for last 2 years, the service is great and I've never had any problems.

Oct 26, 2011
by Anonymous

Productivity tools

I use Google Docs for easy online sharing.