Friday, December 16, 2016

Free (& Low Cost) Tech Tools for Business


Powerful technology can be translated into dollars and cents when it helps you run your business more efficiently and profitably. The good news is there's a lot of technology out there that is cost-effective and can be a big help for a small business. The bad news is there's a lot of technology out there making things confusing. Let's clear up some of that confusion...

Collaboration
Sending large files via email can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. Some email system block the transmission of large files. Share files via email means there are multiple copies and version of the same file being used. File collaboration products allow you to manage content and collaborate online with your team, customers, and partners.

Dropbox allows users to upload files and send links to recipients worldwide. Free Dropbox accounts include up to 2 GB of space. Pricing for larger amounts varies. For example, 1 TB of space costs $8.25 per month for a single user or $12.50 per month for 5 users.

Google Drive, like Dropbox, allows users to upload and share documents with designated recipients. However, Google Docs does require a Google account for use. As an issue, that is minimized when all in an organization uses Google products. Users are given 15 GB of free space for all the services where they use Google (email, Docs, etc.). Pricing is available for larger space allotments.

Similar to Dropbox and Google drive, Microsoft OneDrive is free for up to 5GB, and costs $1.99/month for 50GB.

Workplace Productivity
Google Docs is a free web-based application in which documents, spreadsheets and presentations can be created, edited and stored online. Files can be shared and accessed from any computer with an internet connection and web browser.

Another option is Open-source software, which provides small business owners with alternatives to using mainstream commercial applications in the day-to-day management of their businesses, typically without a significant financial investment. One of the most popular open-source tools available for workplace productivity is OpenOffice, an office software suite which you download and install, and contains word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and more.

Remote Desktop Applications
Technology solidifies the connection between small business owners and mobility. Video conferencing, web conferencing, webinars and screen sharing keep you connected to your PC, and better connect you with your customers. Zoom.us offers these services where a basic plan is free. In a Basic plan you get unlimited 1-to-1 meetings, and 40-minute group meetings with up to 50 participants. Plans that do not limit group meeting times and allow you to record your connections start at $14.99/month.

Online Advertising
Google My Business allows you to create a free business profile and offers added visibility on the world’s most-used search engine. Use Google My Business to post your hours, your location with a map, pricing information, and share pictures. All of which will show up for your audience in their Google’search results. Having a robust Google My Business profile can also help your website’s overall SEO ranking.

Email Marketing & Newsletters
Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses email as a means of communicating messages to your audience. It can be a powerful tool for growing your business. MailChimp allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month (limited to 2,000 emails per day) to as many as 2,000 email subscribers absolutely free. Larger email volume and list packages start at just $10 per month.

Websites
WordPress is the most popular blog & website management tool, and when signing up via WordPress.com it is free to use. When you build your website on WordPress.com, you will use the software as installed on the WordPress.com server. As an alternative, you can sign up for WordPress through a web hosting service where you will likely pay a moderate monthly hosting fee to create and manage your website for your business. When installed on a web hosting service, you have the added ability to download and install add-ons from a community of WordPress developers..

Google Blogger is a moderately robust blogging tool that can be configured for use as an attractive business website. In fact, this site is built on Google Blogger. Google Blogger is completely free of hosting charges and runs on the Google Blogger hosted server. While it has limited built-in templates and it lacks some robust features, there is a user community that will provide very robust website templates and features not available "out-of-the-box" for a small cost.

Landline Alternatives
Small business owners do not need to be tied to an office or computer in order to do their work and stay in the loop. One of the ways that business owners can take their business with them is by using an alternative to a traditional landline as their telephone service. Cell phones, VoIP, ​and virtual phone lines are a few of the options available. One VoIP service provider is Ooma. Once you buy the Ooma device (about $100), all calls in the US are free - you will only pay the local taxes of a few dollars/month. Long distance plans and advance features are available at a reasonable cost.

Being a small business owner or in an organization having a limited budget can feel overwhelming and isolating at times, especially in the beginning. Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to be productive. There are many free and low-cost tools that can help you grow your business and be successful.

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2 comments:

  1. David, this is another outstanding piece of information for small business owners which you typically share selflessly.
    I have learned so much from this article and will test-drive some of them. David, please keep writing and sharing your vast knowledge. Remember that this really helps others.
    Alex

    ReplyDelete

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