September 17, 2010
Here at The Approachable Geek I’ve been making use of a whole bunch of online services to get up and running. Not all of these are appropriate to every business, but they might well be helpful to you too. The good news is that many of these “Software As A Service” bits of kit are as functional and usable as their installed counterparts. Gone are the days of needing to be a hardcore geek to get going, and if you need a bit of help along the way there as lots of people out there using them (and you can always give me a ring).
FreeAgent is a great online tool for tracking time, expenses and invoicing. It lets me keep track of all of my time spent and out-of-pocket expenses, and to generate client invoices with these added to them if I like. The dashboard gives me a quick view on who I have to chase because they’re running late paying me, and what my current (estimated) tax liability is (roughly, you’re still going to need an accountant). I can’t speak highly enough of FreeAgent, it keep’s an eejit like me straight with time and money.
Google Apps for Domains unlocks the power of Google Apps (email, spreadsheets, documents and calendaring), all based on your own domain names, configurable to be accessible to only your staff. There are multiple options available but the two of most use are likely to be, Standard Edition and For Business. For Business is paid for and offers more services, probably most importantly for most businesses, the ability to import from your existing systems (Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes etc). I’m currently using Google Apps for Domains to provide my email (sending and receiving from theapproachablegeek.co.uk), calendaring (including syncing to my HTC Desire phone) and for handling documentation (including pesky Microsoft Word documents).
Dropbox is what happens when technology evolves to a point where very complex things suddenly become accessible to the rest of us. Dropbox provides the equivalent of shared disk drive, but instead of being stored on a server somewhere in your office it is provided by Dropbox online. This doesn’t mean you have to be online to access it, the files are stored locally on your computer, and syncronised online. The neat trick about Dropbox is that you can install it to multiple computers, and they stay in sync. Your files are also available online through the Dropbox website. No messing about with USB keyrings, external hard drives and complex homebrew backup solutions.
Open Office is a substitute for Microsoft Office. Open Office is free, and very interoperable with MS Office. You need to be careful when you save files if you’re sending them to people using MS Office, but for 99% of the time it causes me very few problems. With the cost of a full version of MS Office close to £350 for a single business license, Open Office provides a very affordable options for those of us who only need to work with simple documents.
Ubuntu Linux is a very usable flavour of the open source operating system Linux. I use Ubuntu on all three of my computers (laptop, desktop and servers). I no long use Windows or Apple software, which was a big step for me, but the conversion has been reasonably smooth.
There are a hundred other pieces of software that are free (and mostly open source) that I also use day to day, but I’ll save these for another time.
I should point out that if you use the links I provided for Dropbox and FreeAgent then we will both benefit, as both provide referral discounts. In the case of Dropbox you will get an extra 500mb of space, and FreeAgent will come with a 10% discount.comments powered by Disqus