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Software for the SMB (Small to Medium sized Business)

LongIsland.com

Essentials for Business In today's high-tech world, computers and the software they run really help provide a company with a competive advantage. In this 2 part series I will outline some of what ...

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Essentials for Business

In today's high-tech world, computers and the software they run really help provide a company with a competive advantage. In this 2 part series I will outline some of what I feel is essential software for a company to have and then the "nice-to-have" software which can add up to an even higher level of competitive advantage for an SMB.

Email

software is probably the most frequently used software application in any business. It provides a great means for collaboration, documentation and overall organization for any company and the nice thing about this type of software is that it can be either bought or leased. Leasing or renting (pay a monthly fee to a hosting provider) usually is a very good option if you do not need the flexibility of hosting your own in-house email and you do not have the luxury of an IT staff. Owning or having your own in-house email environment such as Exchange 2003 can be challenging. However, while a challenge, your own solution allows you to provide as many accounts as needed, allows you to provide encryption with partners and clients, etc. Keep in mind that you will need to consider providing your own SPAM and anti-virus protection as well as having a contingency plan when having your own email in-house.

Financially, it's a classic rent vs. buy dilemma. On the one hand, you pay for the server and software and then you own it. On the other hand, you subscribe and keep paying month in, month out.

Backup

software is a must (refer to my article on

Backing Up data...

) Get a lay-of-the-land so you know what needs to be backed up. Come up with a schedule for when it gets done. Think about offsite storage and where you may be able to store the backup media.

There are many solutions which often come installed (i.e. Windows SBS 2003 backup software). There are also various vendors specializing in this type of software, i.e. Computer Associates has a solution called ARCServe, Symantec's Backup Exec, as well as many online storage sites such as SOS Online Backup.

AntiVirus/AntiSpyware

in today's environments with employees having access to the internet is a must. Please refer to my previous article on

layering the levels of defense for a secured computing environment.


Phone Admin

- while this may seem like an odd entry to this list it is one that I feel is critical in order to manage the telephony side of the network. With VOIP being the new common mode of providing low cost phone usage, the management of such devices becomes a network administration function and thus needs to have the right software to manage it.

CRM

or Customer Relationship Mgmt software can be very useful in order to keep contacts, notations, customer proposal information and other documents, etc. properly organized. Often this type of software can be used to invoice as well. Integration with Outlook is also most often a common feature and can be helpful in managing appointments and email communications.

Financial

- This is one of the most obvious as billing and managing payables are critical to a business. One of the most popular software packages for SMB's is probably Quickbooks. As your company grows and much more advanced capabilities are needed, software from Sage or Microsoft Office Accounting can be used. These packages are often purchased as modules and so the software can grow as the business does.

Note:

Some of the way these solutions are delivered include packaged shrink wrapped version or as online hosted solutions as well.

Vertical based software

- Software that is specific to a particular business function. There are many vendors that provide solutions specific to particular industries. Look for a reputable vendor and one that has a good reputation and where possible get competing product evaluations so you can stack each solution against each other. Nowadays any reputable software vendor supplies evaluation copies of software that has all features enabled, so look for this. Also, a great way for a vendor to demo their wares is to have a web based meeting and/or demo. These are very common with reputable vendors.

Microsoft Office

- Almost known by default as the word processor and spreadsheet software of choice. If you don't need to use it chances are your clients and/or vendors usually do so it almost becomes a necessity. As MS Office progresses throughout its life it is becoming more and more useful and collaborative.

Acrobat PDF

- Almost seems to be another staple of the computing environment as many documents, web pages, manuals, books, etc. require this plug-in. This is free for download from Adobe and is a very valuable tool. If you need advanced features such as the option to create your own PDF's then purchasing the full Acrobat Reader version will be necessary.

Java

- Again another piece of software that seems almost to be a necessity especially when having to administer devices on a network and/or even processing data within certain applications. The JVM which it is sometimes referred will provide the browser the capability to run "rich" user experience applications. It is easily installed and will be needed somewhere along the way.

Macromedia Flash

- Another great user-experience related piece of software that allows the user to browse web sites and/or to view very animated and vivid presentations right from a browser. It is a plug-in like piece of software from adobe that is also free and easily downloaded. Often web sites are built completely in flash and require this plug-in. It can be a very interactive experience when built correctly.

One last thing I want to leave you with...

A

very important tip

would be to make yourself a binder to keep all media and copies of license agreements, serial numbers, etc. Also, try to keep a spreadsheet reflecting what computers have what software and their versions. If you email me at

toddj@juicedtech.com

I will send you a copy of a spreadsheet that has worked very effectively for me. ;)