Could Project Management Software Help Your Business?

There is a lot of software that can aid with starting up a new business. Many of them allow companies to do more with less. There are a variety of packages available, but finding the right one can often be difficult. One of the systems that can help is called project management software.

Making the decision

While project management software can benefit businesses of all sizes, determining if it is right for a particular start-up or small business will depend on a variety of factors.

*If the company plans on working on multiple projects at the same time with teams of at least three or four employees per project, this software should be considered. Also, if those workers are going to be located at different office locations or any of them are working from home, project management software can make the process run better.

*Any business that plans on working on tight deadlines will want to consider project management software. The programs can keep track of individual as well as overall deadlines. These can be accessed by all team members at any given time so they can monitor when certain milestones must be met. If some information should be denied to certain team members, restricted access can also be granted through the software.

*A start-up business could find project management software especially helpful if it intends to start with only a few employees at first but hire more as time goes by. The software makes it easy for new employees to quickly begin working on current projects because all the information is contained in a central database.

*Project management software can help with communication within the company while projects are being worked on. Miscommunication can lead to delays, increased budgets and missed deadlines. Because all the information and communications are stored in a central location, managers can view progress without having to call a meeting of all those working on the team. If the manager decides a particular employee is not progressing as they should, that particular problem can be addressed.

*A new business could use the reports generated by the software each time a project is completed as a way to market itself to future clients. These reports can show how well the company handled problems in the past and how it can help other prospective clients.

*The project calendars generated for the company can also be integrated with outside, third-party calendars such as Google Calendar, iCal or Outlook.

*Organization can often be a problem when a business first starts, and the software can help by allocating the resources that will be needed and helping employees organize their ideas.

Project management software may not be right for all businesses, but it is something that should be considered for certain start-up companies. It can help eliminate some problems before they even occur, which can give the business a fighting chance during its infancy.

This is a guest post from Sandra Hopkins. Sandra writes for a website that helps business owners compare project management software and assess which product is best suited to helping their company grow.

Image Credit: www.lumaxart.com

Small Business Toolbox – March Twenty Five

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below

Docracy – A free online repository of business documents that adds a social element where you can share, edit and sign documents as a community.  Lots of free templates for business owners and freelancers.

Slide Rocket – A web based presentation software service that lets you create, collaborate and embed great looking slide show presentations.  Free and paid versions are available.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

 

Crashplan – Backup All Of Your Computer Files For Free

I think everyone agrees that backing up the files on your computer is a smart idea.

When the hard drive on my desktop died last year, I gave myself a well deserved pat on the back for taking the time to back up all of my files ( I was using a service called SugarSync), thus saving about 2000 images of my four children that were on there. Since i'm the self proclaimed web geek of the family, i'm not sure how I would have explained that to my wife if we had lost all of those memories.

The cost of backing up your files with a cloud storage service like SugarSync or Dropbox gets cheaper every year. These services also offer great features such as file sharing and neat mobile apps that let you create, edit and share files right from your phone. While the cost to backup your files is pretty cheap, it can start to get expensive if you are backing up large amounts of files….especially if you're backing up multiple computers.

I wanted to introduce you to a lesser known, but awesome service called Crashplan that will not only let you backup your files to their servers “The Cloud”, but also lets you automatically backup your files to your own storage device, like an external hard drive.

The best thing about it is that they have a great free plan available that will let you backup all of your computers to your own hard drive for free using their software.

 What is Crashplan?

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Crashplan is a data backup service that let's you backup your files from all of your computers for free to your own backup source. What this means is that instead of backing up your computers to the cloud (a remote server), you can automatically schedule backups to your own external hard drive located anywhere you want. Crashplan also offers paid plans if you want to add additional peace of mind by backing up your files to their servers also.

Features of the free plan:

  • Backup all of your computers and external hard drives
  • Automatically schedule once a day backup
  • You can backup your files to multiple destinations for added redundancy
  • The hard drive where you backup the files can be in a remote location
  • 128 Bit security encryption
  • It's free

Crashplan also offers several paid plans, at rates  lower than most other services that will give you additional functionality such as:

  • Additional backup to Crashplan's storage servers
  • Backup select files to designated storage destinations that you choose
  • Continuous backing up of files in real time
  • 448 Bit file encryption

 

Getting Started – Download the Crashplan software

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Go to Crashplan.com to download the desktop software program. On the homepage of Crashplan's website, you'll see the download button. Click and install their software on each computer you want to backup. The Crashplan software works with Windows, Mac and Linux software.

Sign up for your free account

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After the software has finished installing, you will be asked to sign up for a Crashplan account. Once you've setup an account, you're ready to configure Crashplan on your computer.

Configure Crashplan

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The desktop Crashplan panel is where you will select what files you want to backup, where you want to back them up and and when you would like Crashplan to perform the backups. The panel is fairly easy to read and understand and has a tabbed menu on the left that makes it easy to navigate.

On the main homescreen above, you can view and select which computers you have configured with Crashplan as well as select which files and folders you would like to backup.

Settings Tab

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The Settings tab is where you can select:

  • When you would like to perform your daily backups
  • How much CPU and bandwidth you would like to dedicate to Crashplan for backing up (allocating too much can slow your computer down)
  • Notification settings via email or Twitter of backup status
  • Security encryption level and password protect options

Word of caution* The first time that you perform a full backup on your computer, depending on the size of your backup, it can take a really long time. On my new laptop, I backed up approximately 15 Gigabytes of files and it took forever…….or about a day to backup these files. You may want to perform your initial backup overnight, as not to slow down your computer while you're trying to use it. Also, be aware of any bandwidth caps and overage fees your ISP might have on your internet account

 

What I Like and What I Don't

Like:

  • You can perform backups on all of your computers and external drives to your own storage location for free
  • You can back up your friends and family's computers
  • Unlimited storage if saved on your own storage device
  • Once it's configured, it's pretty simple to use
  • The paid cloud storage options are very reasonably priced

Not so much:

  • The backup process seems sluggish compared to other services like Dropbox
  • Lacks features such as file sharing and document search
  • Mobile app only for paid plan

Summary

Overall, Crashplan is a great option if you have multiple computers and would like to back them all up onto your own storage device. The price of a 1 Terabyte hard drive is well under $100 these days, that same storage capacity in the cloud would cost you several hundred dollars a year, especially for multiple computers.

The way that I incorporate my file backups, is that I use SugarSync and Dropbox for only my important files and images, this allows me to use their more advanced features like sharing, collaborating and searching for files right from my phone while keeping costs down. I use Crashplan to backup everything and the kitchen sink to a dedicated hard drive in my house. As you can see, it's doesn't have to be a single service for backing up your data, every service has their strengths and weaknesses.

If you have any questions on using Crashplan or any other cloud based storage service, shoot me a message and i'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

 

Small Business Toolbox – March Seventeen

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below

Crowdbooster –  A terrific social media analytics tool and dashboard that helps you to get the most out of your social media activities.  It analyzes your activity and suggests to you the best times to post (Facebook) and tweet (Twitter) as well as people who you should be connecting with.  Free plan is available for a one Twitter and one Facebook account.

Mind Meister –  Free online mind mapping tool that let's you visually layout your ideas on a visual “mind map”.  Allows you to share and collaborate with others and is easy to use.  A great tool for visual people.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

Types of Software Solutions for Small Business

Don’t let the size of your business fool you, tasks like accounting and inventory management are best handled by software designed for that purpose.  The amount of things you have on your plate, as a small business owner is overwhelming enough as it is without counting everything by hand all the time and errors can be devastating.  Why not make life a whole lot easier by outfitting your company with the right kind of software to free up your human talents and those of your staff for things that computers can’t do—like quality customer service, marketing and sales.

Here are a couple of kinds of software you may want to consider for your business:

 

  • Ecommerce Software

Though this isn’t the kind of software a brick and mortar business needs, most businesses these days have a website.  And if you’re doing any online sales, you’ll want to be armed with general ecommerce software to help keep track of it all online.

 

  • Logistics Software

The world of global commerce requires a great deal of shipping and things can get pretty complicated.  Solid logistics software can help keep track of the multiple shipping partners involved especially if you’re importing goods from international sources and exporting to international destinations.

 

  • Supply Chain Management Software

In today’s world of multiple sources, offsite production and manufacturing portions require a complex network of ‘channel partners’ to get a final product under your label. If the ball gets dropped somewhere you need to know immediately and supply chain management software can help you keep tabs on everyone involved to prevent or at the very least warn you about hold ups.

 

  • Shopping Cart Software

If you have an ecommerce website, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right kind of shopping cart software to service your customer purchases.  Shopping cart software creates a real time page for every use that is fueled with up to date inventory and calculates taxes and shipping costs for the customer.  It doesn’t have to be complex or expensive, just user friendly, accurate and suitable for your site and possible company growth.

 

  • Inventory Management Software

An accurate and up to date count on your inventory is an absolute must.  There is no quicker way to lose a customer than saying you’ll be able to fulfill an order and then taking back those words in exchange for a ‘sorry we’re out of that, our records show we have it in stock, but for some reason we can’t find it.’  The sale is lost and the customer will go elsewhere.

 

  • Accounting Software

Chances are, if you’re a small business you don’t employ a full time accountant to do your books and even if you do they’ll need infallible software to keep track of things.  There’s nothing sadder than money lost due to poor book keeping when there are plenty of quality and easy to use accounting software options on the market.

 

A small investment in the right kinds of software to help make your life easier and your business run smoothly is totally worth it in the long run.  Read a few reviews and be honest about the size, tech capabilities of your staff and prospective growth of your company and get what you need to succeed.

 

 

Carolyn is a guest post blogger who writes about business software solutions for any sized business to help with everything from inventory management to supply chain management. 

Small Business Toolbox – March Tenth

 

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Primadesk – Do you have multiple social media, cloud storage and email accounts to keep track of?  Primadesk is a free service where you can keep track of all your files, emails and photos in one place.  Supports almost every major service such as Flickr, Gmail, Facebook and Dropbox.  Android and iPhone apps also available.

EasyHi – Free tool where you can create great looking video and music cards online.  This is a great tool for sending quick and creative special occasion messages  to your customers and clients.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

How Do I Optimize My Business Website

How well is your website performing for your business?
I'm not asking how nice it looks, i'm asking how well does it perform in the way it's supposed to perform….as a tool to attract and gain new customers.

Most (not all) small business websites are nice to look at. They have pretty graphics, maybe a fancy flash into……..but the way your website looks is only one part of having an effective website. If your website cannot be found online, does not drive potential customers to take action and is frustrating to navigate…..then what's the point?

I see so many small business websites that act as nothing more than a digital brochure. Many are static html sites that virtually stay the same…….forever. After you've seen the site once, why would anyone go back? Your website should be a place where you can start the relationship and trust building process, where you can educate your customers and where you can show them that you're an authority in your industry. It should be a place that they see as a resource, not another advertisement for your business.

Though there are hundreds of things that you can do to improve your website, below are some relatively easy to understand ideas that you can start implementing today. Hopefully, you're already doing several of these and are well on your way to building a great website.

Thing you can do on your website

Install Google Analytics.  You'll find it very hard to improve your website if you don't know what's happening on it.  Google Analytics will allow you to see how many visitors your getting, where they are located and how they are getting to your website.  That's in addition to about a hundred other useful things it can tell you about your website and how it's performing.  Google Analytics is free and is installed by placing a small strip of code onto your website.  You'll probably need someone familiar with the back end of your website to install this, unless you're using WordPress, then you can use this simple plugin.

the small business playbook

Add your business contact information on every page.  Having your contact information such as your business name, address and telephone number is not only a good idea from a customer standpoint, it helps the search engines determine that you are a local business in  that area.  You can place this information in the header, footer or sidebar of each page.  With the heavy emphasis Google is putting on local search results, it's something every location based business should have.  Having your business information prominently on your website tells the search engines that this is a real business with a real location.

local citations for small business websites

Have a clear call to action.  What do you want visitors to do before they leave your website?  If you're not sure, then it's safe to say that your visitors are not sure either.  Think about what you'd like them to do…..is it to fill out a contact form?  Sign up for your mailing list and receive a coupon or a free report?  Give you a call for more information?  Once you determine what you'd like them to do, you can then think about what incentives you will put in place in order for them to complete the desired action.  Bottom line, if you want results, you have to ask your visitors to take some sort of action.

small business call to action

Have valuable content.  Adding engaging, educational content to your website is a powerful way to not only be seen as a thought leader in your industry, but as a trusted source in the eyes of the search engines.  The more valuable content you can provide to your customers on your website, the easier it is for the search engines to determine that you have something useful to offer.    I highly recommend having a blog for your website, but even if you are against it, at least have several pages of locally targeted content  via articles, white papers and research reports that both visitors and search engines can use.

start a small business blog today

Optimize you images.  Did you know that you can optimize the images on your website and that can help you in your search engine rankings?  There are two things you should focus on.  One, the name of the image file…..make it descriptive to what the image is, not just a random collection of letters and numbers.  Two, the alt tag for the image.  The alt tag is alternative text that is displayed when an image cannot load or if someone that is visually impaired and is using a screen reading program.  You can learn more about using alt tags here.

Use descriptive URL's.  If you have a page on your website that talks about “how to arrange flowers for a wedding”, a descriptive URL would look something like “www. yoursamplewebsite.com/how-arrange-flowers-wedding”.  If you were not using descriptive URL's, it might look something like “www. yoursamplewebsite.com/?page_id=14” or some other weird looking URL.  As you can see, the first one is much easier for both people and search engines to understand.  If you have alot of pages and content on your website, it may be tricky to make a change, but for newer or new websites, descriptive URL's should be standard.  Don't try to change this yourself, please get someone that knows what their doing.  You can find out more about changing your URL structure here.

Make your content shareable with Social Media buttons.  Now this only really works when you have content worthy of sharing on your site.  If your website acts like an extension of your printed brochure, don't expect much to happen.  But when you do have valuable content on your website, Social Media can do wonderful things in spreading the news that you're business rocks.  All of the major social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook let you grab the necessary code to put on your website.  If you're on WordPress, you can do it using plugins.

using social sharing buttons on your website

Things you can do outside of your website

Setup a Google Places page.  If you haven't done this already and you're a local business, please make this the first thing you do on this list.  Google gives every business (whether you have a website or not), a free local webpage that they can customize with images, video and descriptions of products and services.  Google let's you link this page to your website and your Google Places listing will often times show up higher in the local search results than your actual website.  Bing and Yahoo also offer small businesses a local listing, though they are not as powerful as Google Places.

how do I get a google places page

Add local citations.  A local citation is a “mention” of your business on another website.  The easiest way to explain this is the Yellow Pages website displaying your business information, including all of your contact info.  These “mentions” serve as a sign of trust that your local business is legitimate.  The most important thing to know is that you should always write in your contact information exactly the way it is on your website.  If you abbreviate your state, or spell it out, make sure you do the same when adding your information to other websites, like online directories.  The easier it is for the search engines to match your business on other websites, the easier it is for them to give you that added trust.  Click here for a list of local websites you can add your listing to.

small business local seo

Get links from other relevant websites.  Having another website link to your website sends a signal to the search engines saying that you have some sort of relevance.  If you are linked to from an authoritative website, say The New York Times, and they link to you in an article……you're not only going to get loads of traffic, but the search engines will deem you somewhat of an authority (on whatever topic you are mentioned in) and increase your online rankings.  Writing guest articles on blogs, news websites and getting one of your articles cited by another website are ways to gain links.  You can also gain links through online directories and from buying advertising space, but these are far less effective.

Summary

As you can see, there are lots of things you can do to create a better website experience for your visitors and to increase your likelihood of getting found online.  Some are easy to implement and others will require the help of someone who knows what they're doing.  You don't have to do all of the above, but I strongly suggest you do at least a few (especially Google Places and Google Analytics).  You most likely spent alot of time and money on your website, why not make a few tweaks and get some more mileage out of it?

A free tool you can use to get a high level overview of your website, is Website Grader, by Hubspot.  It'll act as a good starting point to see where you can start improving your website's performance.

If you have any questions on any of the above, feel free to contact me here.  I reply to all requests.  Cheers

Small Business Toolbox – March Third

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.

I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Screenr – A free web based screen recording service that lets you create quick and easy screen share videos.  Great for creating tutorials, how to's and explaining other ideas when text won't do.  You can embed finished videos on your own website as well as share it on various social networks.

Lastpass – Having trouble keeping track of all of your online passwords?  Last pass is a free password manager that helps make your web browsing and password storing more secure.  Passwords are stored and encrypted directly on your computer and can be used on multiple computers.

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here