Online business tools are the employedpreneur’s best friend. They allow us to promote our business, engage with prospects, manage invoicing, schedule client calls, and network with other employedpreneurs. One of the most important purposes online tools serve is in helping to streamline and protect the back-end admin processes that keep our business running smooth.
I learned the hard way what happens when you rely on hardware (a laptop or PC) only, without having virtual options for managing business critical functions. Last year MS Outlook crashed on my laptop, taking with it all the client folders I had set up. I also lost contact information, receipts, and and admin account details for the many online accounts I used. Needless to say things came to an abrupt halt in my business. The next three weeks were spent creating a new and improved system.
Here’s a list of the five online tools I put in place to keep my data safe and my business operating smoothly regardless of what happens to my hardware:
gMail: Initially I was a little hesitant about moving to a completely online solution to handle email. I’ve used Outlook for over 15 years, I am familiar with its bells, whistles, and quirks. And more importantly the ease of organizing messages into folders. Gmail is a huge learning curve for me. Ask me to work with css snippets to modify wordpress and I’ll enjoy the challenge – but gMails’ way of organizing related messages is an annoying challenge. But the trade off is having access to my mail even if my machine crashes and gmail has pretty good spam blockers.
Backupify: As great as gmail is – there was still a concern about accidental deletes or bugs through Google – you just never know. I was fortunate enough to find an offer for a free PRO account to back up my accounts through this service. Apparently quite a few people have had a problem with gmail messages being lost. Backupify can also back up your social networking accounts, like LinkedIn and Facebook. And it does Google apps too.
SugarSynch: Back-up and synching of files. Back-up to online storage space and syncing of chosen files between multiple computers. I have a Mac desktop, and two lap tops that are all connected using this cloud application that now holds all of my content and downloads. The best feature is the Magic Briefcase: anything I place in the briefcase in one machine becomes accessible on all machines that I have installed the briefcase on, and gets automatically synced to the cloud. This is great for quick access to files regardless of the machine I am working from.
Roboform: If you do lots of work online – you end up with a bunch of different usernames and passwords. Roboform not only stores my log in information in one place and gives me one master password to remember, it is also accessible between machines. They have desktop programs for both pc and mac, as well as a Roboform Everywhere 7 (on sale for 9.99 the first year) which supports mobile devices like my iPad, iPhone and unlimited computers.
Basecamp and Highrise: After searching high and low for a CRM (customer relationship management) tool and project management software I fell in love with the ease and clean UI of 37 Signals’ products. I use Basecamp for client and internal projects. My favorite features: the templates I can set up for each tasks and the messaging system in the program. You can also upload files to via email. Both tools are super intuitive – and well priced for team work if you are outsourcing.
While it was quite painful to go through – it was also a great learning experience. The big learning - back up and protect your data at all costs. This also put me in the place of my audience by helping me see things from the perspective of being new to a tool and it’s processes. Yes I get Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (and the apps that go with them) – but having to find that refresh button in gmail is a reminder of exactly what my clients feel when they get started with a new social media platform: tackling a learning curve can be more than frustrating when you’ve got things to do.
What online tools are you using to streamline your business operations?
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