Why use business software?

Business software is most likely to benefit your company and will help you to increase and measure your productivity; save time, money, and make your staff/processes more efficient.

Desktop or web-based applications?

With the growth of the web and mobile computing, the choice of business software has expanded significantly. Desktop software now offers a bigger functionality than web-based tools because it can use the operating system and storage more easily.

Browser-based applications often carry a lower cost or can be used for free in some cases and staff can access them wherever there is an internet connection. With the growth of Software as a Service (SaaS), or on-demand applications, everything from office productivity to customer relationship management (CRM) can be accessed via the web.

What can different software offer?                        

Accounting:

Few businesses can do without finance and accounting software, which can automate activities such as billing, invoices and payroll. Accounting software provides a way of recording and measuring sales, costs and profits. It can also be used to automatically generate invoices and formal business correspondence. Some accounting software includes analysis for figures, to see trends and patterns in your business’ performance.

Office software:

The majority of businesses use Microsoft Office for their office productivity applications, and are familiar with tools such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. There are others than Microsoft that are also worth considering, such as OpenOffice.org, or Sun’s StarOffice. These are compatible with Microsoft’s applications and also carry a free or low-cost price tag.

Communication and collaboration:

Groupware and collaboration is another level of office productivity software, and can help employees to work together by sharing information. Although it can be not suitable for all businesses, this type of software has its qualities and can facilitate teamwork, and increase business processes. These tools can help to simplify electronic communications, team members can send messages, files, data, or documents more easily, and even send and share voice files. These tools can also include online conferencing, electronic faxing, interactive voice mail, wikis, web publishing and revision control of documents. They can communicate using online chat, instant messaging and video conferencing.

Find out more about Collaboration:

What type of software applications do larger SMEs use?

When it comes to business software, some are designed for the larger or more ambitious businesses. The deeper business tools that tend to be favoured by larger businesses include CRM, for recording customer information and finding out trends in buying habits; and sales force automation, which are helpful for organising and managing sales teams and leads.

Business may also choose to use human resources software; business intelligence and dashboard tools; database management systems; and enterprise resource planning and supply chain management tools. However, these may not be for everyone and can add cost and complexity to small businesses’ IT systems.

Software and tools that may come in handy for your business:

Accounting Software

QuickBooks is a flowchart-based accounting software, and is as close to a standard in financial management as the small-business world has. It is well-known as the easiest way for non-professionals to transfer their books from the filing cabinet to the computer. Most actions, from cutting a check to billing a client, are just a click or two away from the start screen.
(From £2.99 p/m* – £15.00 p/m*)

Backup and Recovery

Mozy’s remote backup service lets you select what you want to back up. You can regularly backup files to an external hard drive or NAS (network-attached storage). Mozy automatically archives whatever you’d like across the Internet, safe and sound. Just select what you want backed up, and Mozy does the rest, either in bulk while you sleep, or in real time, as files are changed.
(Price varies on GB, from £109.78 per year unlimited servers.)

Blogging Tool

WordPress offers one of the easiest blogging platforms you can find. If your business still doesn’t have a blog, it’s not too late to catch up: WordPress installs in minutes, and the platform is really easy to use . WordPress.com has millions of users and all the features you need and more. This is the most popular blogging software on the web for your online home.
(Free)

Certa offers a WordPress hosting environment that is second to none. When you host your WordPress website with us, you’ll get access to a highly optimised hosting plan that can be scaled to suit your growing needs.

Calendar tool

Mozilla’s Thunderbird is there for most business users to rely on the equally free Sunbird, for scheduling. It’s a very straightforward application, with the day, week, and month views, and even a publishing feature to enable sending your calendar to a Web site, should you wish to make it public. Get the Lightning plug-in to integrate Sunbird directly with Thunderbird
(Free)

Collaboration/Office Suite

Google Docs lets a team share and collaborate on spreadsheets and documents. If your team members all have Google accounts, you can share files and collaborate on them simultaneously and in real-time with Google Docs. A word processor and spreadsheet are your only choices–no free-form whiteboarding –but the service is free and easy to operate.
(For Basic 30GB is $5 per user/per month and Business is $10 per user/per month.)

CRM

Salesforce.com offers many sales- and lead-tracking tools. Customer relationship management isn’t just for the Fortune 500. Even one-person shops can benefit from a more ordered approach to managing the sales process, tracking leads, and ensuring that follow-ups are done in a timely fashion. Salesforce.com requires some training and patience due to its vastness, but its exhaustive feature set and affordable pricing options make it a business must-have.
(Varies from £20 per user/ per month to £240 per user per month)

Database

FileMaker Pro is more intuitive than Access, with many prebuilt templates to get you started. Access is a part of many editions of Microsoft Office, but if you don’t already have that database program in your toolkit, consider springing for FileMaker Pro instead. This database application is more intuitive than Access while offering high-end features like live SQL data source support and easy Web-publishing capabilities, so your whole team can access the database via a browser. There is an array of pre-built templates to help you get up and running in no time.
(Price depends on number of users 5 – 100+)

Instant Messaging

With Pidgin, you don’t have to run four different instant-messaging applications just to communicate with your clients and with everyone in your office. Multiprotocol software like Pidgin allows you to communicate with users across more than a dozen IM services: Not just AIM, ICQ, and other biggies, but also lesser-known ones like Gadu-Gadu (it’s Polish) and Zephyr. Trillian is similar, but it supports fewer services.
(Free)

Invoicing

Zoho Invoice offers simple, flexible Web-based billing. If you don’t need a full-fledged accounting app like QuickBooks, Zoho Invoice is a near-perfect Web-based solution for managing simple billing needs. Create and manage customer accounts, build invoices, and then print or e-mail them with a mouse click. You can also tie in your use of Invoice with Zoho’s other, extra-cost business services.
(Free)

Project Management

Basecamp, you can build complicated project timelines, to-do lists, and message boards, and share files among your team members all via one simple-to-use Web tool. Basecamp can keep all your workers on task while letting everyone else know what other team members are up to. It can even track project time on a per-member basis, for creating detailed billing and reports when the job is done.
($99 per month for unlimited)

Remote Access/Syncing

LogMeIn is great is all you need is occasional access to a single PC that isn’t within walking distance, you can get by with this simple remote-access tool. LogMeIn lets you quickly connect to your office computer to grab a file or check an application you don’t have on your laptop, all via any computer with a Web browser.
(From £209.99 per year)

Task Manager

With Droptask you can organise to-dos in your very own Calendar and quickly assess where your time should be spent. If you’re working with others, a personal calendar just won’t cut it. Use team calendars to view the availability of your entire team at a glance. Invite others and work together to increase the productivity of your entire team. With real-time collaboration, you’ll always be on the same page. Drop members of the team onto the tasks that they’re responsible for. You have the ability to filter by progress and assigned, you can track performance with ease. Define which tasks are dependent on others and receive instant updates when priorities change.
(Available to download for free on Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone and iPad.)

VoIP

Skype for Business is perfect for modest calling needs especially if you place a lot of international calls-Skype is a solid and hugely affordable choice. Other features include free group calling, instant messaging, call mobile and landline numbers at affordable rates and screen sharing.
(Free)

From creating and storing documents and staying on top of e-mails to keeping the books and getting teams working together, it takes a lot to run a business. Setting up your company isn’t as easy as just fishing apps randomly. You want the best you can get, and at a price that isn’t through the roof. Not every business needs every type of program or service, but if your small business could use some help there are programmes and software out there.