At the risk of dating myself, I'm going to admit that while I was working on my bachelor's degree, this new invention called the PC hit the market. I was truly wowed! I thought to myself, "No more typing, re-typing and typing once again. And Wite-Out? Who needs Wite-Out?" Of course, the prices of those early computers were staggeringly high for a college student but, as the saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way. I worked and worked, and had my computer the next year.
That was then; this is now. New tools are constantly being developed to make our lives and our businesses easier to run. The problem is that if you are in a routine (or dare I say rut?) and used to a particular tool, you may not be aware that there are several new things out there to make your business more efficient and easier for you to manage.
Here's a list of five web-based replacements for many traditional business needs. Each is not only better-suited for today's entrepreneur, but also will save you time and money.
Any time you have to collaborate with others on a project, you need a way to manage that project.
Old way: Microsoft Project . The downside is that licenses are in the hundreds of dollars, and you're locked into your own machine. It's not web-based and can't be shared with other resources and contributors.
New way: Basecamp by 37 Signals . It's subscription-based, web-based and can be customized to your needs and budget. It is available anywhere, at any time and can be shared with anyone. Another plus: It's available if your computer crashes.
When you have important files that you need to share with others, you need to allow others to access them.
Old way: Build an FTP site. The drawbacks to FTP sites are that they can be expensive to build, and you also need a tech person on your team to build the site. They are not user-friendly, tend to be "buggy" and offer little user customization.
New way: Box.net . It's subscription-based, easy to set up and can be customized to your needs and budget. There's no software to purchase, and you have user permission controls to give you control over your files.
Website Creation and Design
A business without a website is almost as bad as a business without a phone. How else can a company get the word out to hundreds of thousands of potential customers without printing a single brochure?
Old way: Hire a web developer or web designer to create a website for you. The downside is that it can be expensive to hire someone who can create a top-notch, professional-looking site. It also can be expensive and inefficient to manage minor (or major) changes to your site.
New way: SnapPages.com . This service enables you to create a professional and polished-looking website in a snap. Want to quickly change the look or content of your site? SnapPages makes it super easy to create an incredible-looking website with drag-and-drop simplicity.
Who doesn't need word processing? We use it for letters, articles, research, reports and much more.
Old way: Microsoft Word. Microsoft is commonly used today, but unless your computer comes with the software, it's expensive to buy. Another disadvantage is that it's not web-based, and it can't be easily accessed by or shared with others.
New way: Google Docs . This free online tool lets you create a wide variety of documents, such as spreadsheets, presentations and forms. And what makes it even better is that you can share them with anyone who has internet access and the password for the document you want to share.
Telephones have come a long way, too. Remember the first cell phones that had to be carried around in a briefcase? My older brother had one, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
Old way: A cell phone, an office phone, a conference-calling plan and maybe even a separate business line. How many phone lines do we need? The drawbacks are obvious: It's expensive to have all of these lines and features, and there's no integration. Not to mention, how many phone numbers do you want to give out?
New way: Google Voice . This is a free, customizable service that lets you integrate your services, have one phone number, send voice-to-text voice mails to your e-mail and more. Basically all your small business needs wrapped into one free account. At the moment, Google Voice is available only to GrandCentral users, but it will be open to new users soon.
So if you're resistant to change, take heart and know that each of these tools is easy to use and will ultimately make your business more efficient and more effective.