The apps you need to run a business

These software and mobile applications will enable you to manage virtually every part of your startup or small business: from organization to communication to finance to security.

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“There’s an app for that” may be cliché nowadays, but there’s also some truth to it — if you need it for your business, chances are good there really is an app that covers that service. In fact, today's business owners can virtually run their entire business using these software and mobile applications.

Organization

Document Sharing

Services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Box have become ubiquitous office features for businesses of all sizes, and with good reason: they allow you to share, edit and organize files and documents. They also make telework — an increasing trend — easier and more efficient than ever. All three work on a range of devices and operating systems. Dropbox offers a basic plan for free, which works for individuals and small groups; a pro plan is $8.25 per user per month, and a business plan is $12.50 per user per month. Google Drive lets you use up to 15GB for free, 100GB per month for $1.99 per month, or 1TB per month for $9.99 per month. Box does not have a free version; it starts at $5 per user per month for small teams, with a business plan at $15 per user per month and an enterprise plan (the price of which you must contact the company for).

Travel organization

If you travel a lot for work, this is for you: you forward your travel emails to TripIt, and the app consolidates your travel plans into one master itinerary. You can then access them from any device, as well as check for travel updates like delays and departure times. You can get a basic version for free, or TripIt Pro for $49 per year as well as TripIt for Teams at $29 per months for up to 10 users. It works on all operating systems and devices, including Blackberry.

Remote access tools

Apps like LogMeIn and TeamViewer allow you to remotely access your PC or Mac from a browser or mobile device app. LogMeIn offers three services: Pro, Central and Rescue. Pro is for individuals and small businesses, and ranges in price from $149 per year to $649 per year, depending on the number of users. It allows remote access, remote printing, file storage, and comes with LastPass Premium. Central is for larger businesses, and range in price from $499 to $1,299 per year. It’s more feature-rich, with reporting, computer grouping, user management, and encryption. Rescue is for IT professionals and technicians, and provides remote support on-demand.

TeamViewer also allows for remote support and remote access, and also includes online meeting software. It works across platforms and with a range of operating systems, and works as soon as it’s downloaded. TeamViewer offers a free version for personal use; for businesses, packages range from $809 to $2,999, and includes connections from multiple devices, device management, remote access, and meetings and presentations.

Project management

There are a lot of choices when it comes to project management apps, and finding the right one depends largely on your style. Asana, Basecamp and Trello are some of the most popular project management apps, and all go a step beyond lists, chats, and reminders that to-do lists offer. Asana lets project managers share projects with third party groups like clients, vendors or contractors, as well as smaller groups within a team. Basecamp lets you outline and assign tasks, use conversation threads as well as chats, upload and edit files, and set deadlines. And Trello, which is a Kanban-style app, lets you see tasks as they move through various steps. You can also share files within Trello.

Communication

To-do lists

To-do lists are great tools to keep your days organized and collaborate with your team, and are great for individual tasks, one-off projects with a group, for individual recurring projects, and to augment regular meetings. Wunderlist, Remember The Milk and Any.Do let you prioritize and share tasks, and will sync across devices. All have free versions; Remember The Milk offers an upgraded versions for $39.99 per year, Wunderlist offers Pro for $4.99 per month, and Any.Do offers a monthly upgraded subscription for $2.99 per month or an annual subscription for $26.99 per year.

Work chat

Sick of lengthy email chains? Consider a business chat app. Slack is an app that organizes team conversations lets you chat back and forth without clogging up your inbox. You can make channels for projects, topics, or teams, send direct messages, and share files, including images, documents, and PDFs. Slack has a free version, a standard version for $6.67 per user per month, and plus version for $12.50 per user per month. The subscription versions include features like unlimited searchable message archives, group calls and priority support.

Videoconferencing

Videoconferencing is especially useful for organizations that work with offsite teams or contractors, because video conversations incorporate facial expressions, gestures and other body language that are critical to effective communication. Google Hangouts and Skype are both free and extremely useful video chat applications. Fuze is another videoconferencing app that lets you host online meetings. It works across all devices and operating systems, and has high-definition video. It’s free to download; businesses can contact the company for custom pricing. 

Social media scheduling

In order to keep up with the ever-growing volume of popular social media channels, businesses need to utilize an app. Buffer and Hootsuite are two of the most popular social media managers. Buffer is a very simple tool primarily focused on scheduling posts to various social media portals and features a special tool to automatically identify the best times for posts to go live. Hootsuite has a different layout, but provides a similar service that lets you schedule posts on multiple social media streams, reply to messages, repost from other streams, create customized streams, and get custom metrics. Buffer offers a free account to manage one social media profile per platform and paid accounts range from $10 to $400 per month. Hootsuite comes in a free version, professional, team, business, and enterprise levels. Prices range from $9.99 per month to $99.99 per month, or customized pricing for enterprise packages.

Calendar/email app

Web meetings and inter-office chat apps aside, we still rely heavily on our email, so having an app like Outlook or Gmail that lets you access your messages and calendar — and sync them — is invaluable.

Fax

Even if you don’t want an online fax subscription, you can get the benefits of Internet faxing with an online faxing app. Most will let you send PDF, photo and doc/docx files right from your phone or tablet.

(*Disclosure: I own FaxCompare.com, the website that is linked to from here.)

eSign app

Further freeing you from paper is eSigning, or electronic signatures. Some popular services include DocuSign, HelloSign and Adobe Sign. Beyond the immediacy of being able to sign documents from any device, eSigning is also secure — most providers use encryption — and lets you immediately share copies with all parties involved.

Financials

Bookkeeping

From tracking sales to paying vendors, Quickbooks’s accounting software** is a great tool for keeping on top of your business’s financial health. The online version lets you access Quickbooks on any device, and even lets you upload photos of receipts you take you're your phone. Quickbooks connects to and uploads data from multiple accounts, including bank accounts, credit cards and payment sites like PayPal and Square. If you have a Quickbooks online subscription, the app is free to download.

Xero** is an online bookkeeping and payroll service to come to the US market recently. The service’s intuitive interface, competitive pricing and broad integrations have lead to rapid growth, and the service appears to be the first to give QuickBooks some serious competition in quite some time.

(**Disclosure: I own ChooseWhat.com, the website that is linked to from here.)

Payment Transaction

Being able to accept credit card transactions on a website or in person is vital for many business. PayPal is ubiquitous with online payments and Square made a name for itself by bringing credit card readers to mobile devices. Square is currently compatible with iPhone and Android only, although you’re likely to see a number of petitions floating around to bring it to Windows devices. Square includes a card reader that plugs into your phone, allowing small businesses to accept credit cards from mobile devices. It’s worth noting that Square takes 2.75 percent of each transaction.

Security

Online backup

One of the worst feelings in the world might be “I should have backed that up” after experiencing a data loss. Services like iDrive and Carbonite let you back up multiple devices, securely access backed up files remotely, and will sync with connected devices. They back up your data continuously, so that in the event of theft or a crash, you can log into your account and restore your files and information.

Password manager

It’s common knowledge that most of us use terribly insecure passwords. At the same time, no one can remember random strings of letters and numbers for the many accounts we need to access. That’s where password managers like LastPass, 1Password and Dashlane come in. A password manager will generate and store your passwords across devices, which means you can have hard-to-break passwords on all your accounts.

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