Yesterday it was the fax and today it’s the app. What next? Technology moves quickly and although faxes have hopefully run out of toner for the last time, it seems likely that the app is here to stay. For small business owners staying on top of the rapidly changing world of IT is essential. Cloud computing and the rapidly expanding world of the app are two of the most significant developments, and two that offer incredible benefits, especially to the smallest firms. Here’s some that you shouldn’t be without and some to keep an eye out for in a future near you.
If you haven’t already got SKYPE on your mobile what can we say? Yesterday is the time to do it. SKYPE offers your clients the chance to call you for free, as long as they too have the service. If there is one thing guaranteed to put a client off it’s the thought of those hefty mobile charges but with SKYPE on your mobile they’ll not think twice about constantly giving you a buzz. The service is well established and, importantly, trusted. It also has a range of features to make if flexible for those who need quiet times while they work, such as voicemail. From the client’s perspective you are only a click away and from yours you can present an accessible web presence. Good news all round.
Evernote is a nice, simple, straightforward concept now available in app form. It allows you to make notes, set reminders or record audio memos, all on the go and all accessible from your phone or online. It’s the long awaited replacement to the Filofax, the mini-recorder and the “really important note written on the back of a napkin and then lost on the way home”. No more excuses, Evernote will mean you’ll never lose a note or an important number again. Even if you lose the phone it’ll be there and waiting for you back at the office.
As a small business person I feel I’m not alone in hating accounts. Nobody mentioned them much when I started up and the main problem is that they don’t pay the hourly rate I’ve come to love. They pay nothing and half the time I’m paying them. Accounts are one of those additional little tasks you find tacked on to the “end” of the working day, the weekend and if you’re “planning-challenged”, the holiday as well. Cloud computing and apps offer a range of accounting software solutions which makes life considerably easier. For the mobile worker the app is simply a godsend! QuickBooks online from Intuit is a well-priced example of a smart phone accessible accounting solution and is one of the most popular amongst the smallest of firms – probably because this is who it’s designed for.
Online Storage & Back Up
Document storage and sharing apps. There’s a few to choose from these days, Google Drive, Box.net and Drop.box to name just a few. These three are competitors and the choice is yours; Dropbox is well established, Google Drive has a reputation all of its own and Box.net is a relative newcomer. Functionality is good on all three and the main advantages include that you can upload, create and share documents at will. A business proposal need never be left back at the office again and you can work on it up to the last moment before that essential business meeting. If you’d rather sit back and relax on the journey you can delegate to colleagues anywhere in the world! In terms of storage and back up facilities the different providers offer different options and these should be part of the decision making process when you pick a provider.
Watch This Space
Every small business owner’s friend, the HMRC, is in the process of developing a range of useful apps to help the SME sector manage their record keeping. A launch date has not yet been announced but the apps are designed specifically with the small and medium business sector in mind, to create an on-the-go access to existing tools and guides available from the HMRC. Helping to estimate tax liabilities as you go could be useful in planning and management, and help to reduce the amount of home-work done outside of the (none)standard working hours of the average small business owner.
Intuit, the provider of QuickBooks, mentioned above, has launched their “GoPayment” app in Canada recently. This is definitely one to watch out for in the UK, it simply turns your smart phone into a card reader, allowing you to take payments from your clients without the need to invest in the traditionally expensive and bulky handheld readers. This simplest of payment solutions may only be available across the pond at the moment, but it’s likely to be taking over the world soon.