Here’s our Top 10 list of tools that make blogging, marketing, backups, security and all those other must-do’s easier, cheaper and less frustrating. We focus on Windows, since that’s what most of you use. And since our focus is running your business, you won’t find consumer-oriented iPhone and Android apps like exercise logs and food tracking tools either.
You try to pull up a health club member record — oops, the server’s hard disk is fried, and you don’t use cloud-based membership management software or back office tools. Does your wellness business have an up-to-date backup of all your member files? What about those Powerpoint membership presentations, email archives, sales and marketing info, financial records, etc.?
Not sure? Oh, you’re pretty sure your backup from October’s around here somewhere? How about the rest of your staff’s files?
CrashPlan’s a very affordable online backup system for small businesses. We use it ourselves. Love it, love it, love it. Set it and forget it — it automatically backs up your computers, network-attached storage, etc. throughout the day or at times you set. No data limits, and file restores are quick and easy.
For heavy Outlook client users only. If you get lots of emails, this is hands-down the best way to file them that we’ve found. The problem with using rules is that emails get moved before you’re ready. With SimplyFile, just click a button to automatically file an email. It memorizes where you normally stash each email, so next time it’ll suggest the right folder.
(And for finding just about anything on your desktop: X1’s search tool. So much better than Outlook’s native Advanced Find tools.)
3. Giga Alert/Google Alert
A free to low-cost way to track mentions of topics you care about — whether it’s you, your company, or the latest findings for the treatment of obesity.
http://www.google.com/alerts (free; searches Google, of course)
http://www.GigaAlert.com (free/low-cost; searches Yahoo/Bing, not Google)
Don’t forget — you can also customize your Google News feed for specific topics of interest, too.
4. Evernote or OneNote
Evernote’s like a spiral notebook that never runs out of pages — that you can search. This cloud-based tool lets you quickly capture and later find anything from client notes, meeting notes, brainstorming ideas, and project outlines to photos, web pages and lots more.
Personally, I prefer Microsoft’s OneNote (even better with a tablet PC) but Evernote’s a consensus favorite so I’m including it.
5. bit.ly and tinyURL
Sending a long web address (aka “URL”) is a pain. URL shorteners let you enter a web address which they then transform into a short address that you can even customize. Great when you want to include a short and sweet web address on a postcard, for example, or in your signature when you comment on blogs.
For example, we can turn this URL:
into the instantly readable and much shorter
And bit.ly even lets you track clicks for your shortened URL.
First, the problem. Here’s a partial list of all the logins we used this morning:
- submitted client brochure and postcard jobs at online printer
- worked on weekly newsletters at Constant Contact and MailChimp
- made clipart purchases from iStockPhoto and Dreamstime
- conducted online business banking
- made online software purchase
- processed monthly billing for online backup service
- checked frequent flyer miles
- checked email from multiple providers — each with a different login!
- updated LinkedIn status for Leslie
- posted on blog
- scheduled client conference call at FreeConferenceCall.com
- scheduled client training at GoToMeeting
And that’s not all.
SplashID keeps track of all these passwords and logins, plus gives you a spot where you can enter answers to security questions. Available for mobile and desktop devices.
7. FreeConferenceCall.com & others
Just what it sounds like. Free to the host, and participants pay only their usual long-distance charges. Has all the features you’d expect, like mute, conference record and more.
Other good choices with free or cheap plans: UberConference and Zoom.
8. eFax & HelloFax
Faxes are obsolete everywhere except medical offices – but when you really need to receive one, nothing else will do.
eFax gives you a free inbound fax number you can give out, then delivers your fax via email.
I actually use HelloFax even more. This service lets you send faxes right from your laptop. The first few faxes are free, then a minimal charge for subsequent faxes.
Simple yet surprisingly powerful task management that works on mobile and your laptop.
One of my favorite features: geo-based reminders, so your app tells you “Hey, you’re near Home Depot — and you wanted to get spray paint next time you were here.”
10. Other tools we like
Other tools we like that didn’t quite make our Top 10:
RescueTime — spend too much time surfing? These tools help you rein yourself back in.
David Seah’s free Printable CEO paper-based productivity tools — all about plan your work, work your plan.
TechSmith’s SnagIt and Camtasia Studio — perfect for grabbing and annotating screen captures and creating sophisticated professional-quality marketing and training videos. PC and Mac versions.
Irfanview — the free Swiss Army knife of graphics tools (site looks bad, but the tool’s the real deal)
Dropbox — free online storage — handy for swapping big files or backing up a project folder. Paid versions if you need to store a lot.