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25 must-have technologies for SMBs

Jeff Vance | April 30, 2013
Running a small business isn't easy. I know. I run one. As a freelance writer, I’ve learned that you need to run your writing career as if you were running a business.

Conferencing & Collaboration

You've brought in employees, so now it's time to make sure they can actually collaborate on projects. If you're like many small businesses, many of your employees may work remotely at least some of the time.

I know from experience that videoconferencing tools leave a lot to be desired. Enterprise-class tools may be too expensive for SMBs, while the low-cost (or even free) solutions like Skype don't always perform well.

Moreover, different users will already have different tools installed and will prefer to use what they know. 13) Blue Jeans Networks' technology serves as the glue that holds all of these various conferencing tools together. It allows people to use whatever videoconferencing tool they want. Schedule a meeting, send users a link and all they need is an end device with conferencing capabilities (laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc.).

For instance, early customer Envision Studios, a commercial casting company, uses Blue Jeans-powered videoconferencing to connect casting directors watching via their iPads in Florida with ad agency reps who are on their office PCs in other states. This makes casting less expensive, while also letting agencies tap into a much larger talent pool. You can try Blue Jeans free for two weeks.

14) Bitcasa is an online storage tool that offers 10GB of storage for free. You can get unlimited storage for $69 per year. It includes mobile client tools, and although it is targeted at consumers, SMB features will be rolling out soon.

You can also elect to mirror all your devices (PC, laptop, smartphone, etc.) to your Bitcasa Infinite Drive. Your files are then automatically and continuously backed up and available anywhere. Everything is still available offline, and your changes will sync up when you are back online.

15) Box and 16) Soonr are online file sharing and collaboration services. Both let you securely share (and store) large files, while keeping them in sync across devices. Box for small businesses is priced is $15 per user per month. Soonr's pricing starts at $9.95 per month for three users.

Day-to-Day Operations

The two main tools many small business owners use to run their businesses and track customer interactions are email and Excel spreadsheets. Most owners eventually realize that this approach leaves records scattered across various accounts, hindering sales and marketing efforts and even compromising the customer experience. Meanwhile, big CRM solutions like those from Saleforce.com and Oracle are out of reach for many SMBs.

17) Insightly combines CRM and project management functionalities in one application, so users dont have to manage multiple applications. The cloud-based solution, which tightly integrates with Google Apps, allows users to easily keep track of customer interactions and manage leads, proposals, opportunities, projects and files from any device. Users can start with a free account and upgrade as needed. The most expensive plan, supporting up to 40 users, is priced at $99 per month.

 

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