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25 Best Small Business Apps for 2012
25 excellent applications for small-to-mid-sized businesses to consider in 2012.
While recent trends indicate that many of us are opting to use cloud-based and mobile software, businesses rely on software that can reside on a variety of platforms: cloud, mobile, and yes, on-premise.
We have picked 25 small business apps—some of which are clouds services, others for mobile devices and some are standard on-premise software installs. What they all have in common are ways to enhance your business and your business success. Some of the apps focus on financials: allowing you to easily manage a general ledger, accounts payable and receivables. One app focuses primarily on tracking billable work typically done by freelance workers, a workforce that is increasingly being used by businesses in a turbulent economy.
Other apps focus on productivity. While “productivity” may be an over-used buzzword in the software/application industry, productivity apps are crucial. They allow creating and managing documents that comprise your business data; help you keep sensitive data protected and retained within company walls; and aid in communication and collaboration between employees, customers and external contacts.
There are apps listed that fill a more specialized niche like the app we list that lets you create a customized virtual, human assistant avatar to add to your website. This virtual assistant can chat, offer support, answer questions serve as an elegant, sophisticated customer service representative for your business. This is all done with complex Artificial Intelligence technology that is now available for SMBs to incorporate on their websites.
Of course, we also include more traditional business applications such e-mail and backup and restore. The resulting list is comprehensive of all the varied applications that are critical for business and that have solutions tailored for small business. Here are 25 excellent business apps to consider for 2012:
$10.50 per user session
Category: User Management
UserLock is named for what it does: lock down a Windows-based business network. It restricts users from accessing designated machines, provides reports on user activity, and gives network administrators a way to remotely control user sessions. It’s of particular use to healthcare and legal organizations that may have to adhere to compliance regulations like HIPAA or SOX. It’s also scalable and can be deployed to a network with 10 or 1,000 users.
The latest version, 6.0 has been tweaked with enhancements. These include improved synchronization with Active Directory; policy restrictions that can be applied per user, user group, or Organizational Unit; and defining and enforcing the number of maximum concurrent IIS sessions for a specific IIS application like Outlook Web Access or an Intranet site.
Handy Backup Small Server
$199 per license
Category: Enterprise Backup
Handy Backup Small Server is software designed to seamlessly backup applications that are mission-critical to many SMBs such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes/Domino, SQL, Oracle and any ODBC database as well as files and folders.
Backup to any local or networked drive, removable media, or remote FTP or SFTP location. The software maker Novosoft, also offers an integrated online backup service. Additional features include running as a Windows service, opem file management, email nofications, timestamping and extensibility with extra plugins for customization.
Free for basic version
Platform: Web (Firefox, Chrome, and Safari)
Category: Online Form Builder, Project Management
Bizodo is true “point and click” for building online forms. Forms are secured and users can opt for encryption of sensitive data as well as SSL. CAPTCHA can be used to prevent form spamming. Although the forms are easy to make, otherwise complex tasks like customizing the flow of a form, requiring specific information to be entered, or showing/hiding items based on user input can all be implemented by using a set of prebuilt rules.
Customers can use Bizodo created forms on either the Odo site or by simply copying and pasting code into an existing site.
The software is still in beta but Bizodo offers a free version which supports up to three forms, gives unlimited form fields, 150 submissions per month, 5GB cloud storage and additional $5 per user/per month. Larger business and enterprise packages range from $7.95-$29.95 per month.
$39 per year and up
Platform: Mobile: iOS, Android, and Blackberry
Abukai Expenses is an Editor’s Choice winning app for anyone who has to perform the mundane task of filing business expense reports. Expense reports are filed in three easy steps that require users to type in nary a character: take a picture of your receipt from a smartphone, submit it, and receive your finished expense report.
Interested users can try Abukai for a 30-day free trial. To get started, the app is downloaded from Apple’s App Store, Blackberry App World and the Android Market. Pricing starts at $39 a year for an individual; corporate accounts have a one-time charge of $49 plus $99 per seat. There are also custom plans available which are priced accordingly.
TITUS Classification for Microsoft Office
Category: Document Management
TITUS Classification for Microsoft Office is software that allows an organization to keep tabs on and protect sensitive data created with Microsoft Office applications; keeping this data in compliance and secure.
With TITUS, organizations can create custom labels to identify classified information, for example, labels can indicate data sensitivity level (Public, Classified) or can indicate which departments should only access specific documents (HR, Finance). An intuitive interface makes labeling and classification easy for users even with little technical knowledge.
TITUS offers a free trial and pricing is according to an organization’s needs.
SolarWinds User Device Tracker 2.0
Pricing starts at $1795
Platform: Windows (for management interface)
Category: Network Management
User Device Tracker (UDT) 2.0 is a product for tracking where users or computers are connected to the network and for switch port management.
UDT supports collection of user information from Active Direcory, allowing customers to see who is logged in to a specific machine and to what port the machine and user are connected. Endpoint detail pages provide information on specific endpoints and users.
Reporting capabilities include endpoints by VLAN, all endpoints with details, port capacity by switch, number of connected devices by port, all IPv6 addresses in the network, OUI summary report, and an unused port report. Network administrators can receive alerts whenever a new device is connected to the network.
Small business plans start at $6 per user, per month
Office 365 is far more than simply a Web version of Office 2010. Office 365 is a service comprised of cloud-based versions of Microsoft’s four front-running business products. Of course, that does include Microsoft Office. But it also bundles in Exchange (the widely-used email platform), Sharepoint (a platform for document sharing and collaboration) and Lync (a service that provides IM, video conferencing, PC phone calling and some enterprise social networking) all delivered through an interface that will make IT admins happy, thanks to the granular level of control that can be imposed on a business, regardless of size.
End-users can have access to Office 2010 document editing via the cloud or through the included, locally installed, Office 2010 Professional Plus client.
Category: Network Management
DNS issues can be among the most frustrating and bothersome of problems for network administrators. Have DNS configured incorrectly, and you are not only looking at problems with outbound and inbound traffic with your network, but you may comprise network security. In particular, DNSSEC, (Domain Name System Security Extensions) a set of specifications used to secure information provided by DNS to cut down on forged DNS data and cache poisoning, which was mandated for all government systems in 2008, can be tricky to master.
DNSViz can help. It’s a free visualization tool to help network administrators within the federal government and global IT community better understand Domain Name System Security (DNSSEC) and to help them troubleshoot problems. It provides a visual analysis of the DNSSEC authentication chain for a domain name and its resolution path in the DNS namespace, and it lists configuration errors detected by the tool.
Platform: Web, mobile: iOS and Android
Category: Content Management
Primadesk helps keep your cloud content organized. With it, users can search, view, manage and backup all their cloud-based content from a single interface regardless of the device they are using.
Users and businesses can perform universal searches across their online accounts in a centralized location. The software also supports drag and drop documents and photos between Web providers and between the Web and desktop. It is compatible with Access Box, SugarSync, Dropbox, Facebook, Googlr+, Flickr and 27 other major online services. With Primadesk, users can backup documents, photos and emails scattered about on various online sites. Best of all, the beta release is free.
Platforms: Mac, Windows, mobile: iOS
OfficeTime is time tracking software for the PC and Mac with versions for mobile devices. Its purpose is to allow SMBs and freelance workers keep track of billable time. The newest has updates capabilities including improved export to Excel, decimal time entry, and automated backup.
Features such as cross-team reporting and summary graphs allow businesses to get quick, at-a-glance information on billable projects and workers, improving productivity and reducing project turnaround time. In fact, the OfficeTime team is so confident that if OfficeTime does not pay for itself in increased productivity, it offers customers a full refund within 120 days.
Free for personal use
Have a business that is heavily-dependent on the customer service you provide? Jazz up customer service and interaction with MyCyberTwin, a truly revolutionary technology for businesses.
MyCyberTwin allows customers to create a virtual intelligent human being that can be added onto a website and used to interact and provide assistance to site visitors. It employs sophisticated Artifical Intelligence, but customers do not have to be programmers or computer scientists to create a CyberTwin. Known as “chatbox technology”, use MyCyberTwin to create a personal twin to chat with friends in Facebook, a business Twin to chat with customers on your website, or a high-quality virtual assistant for enterprise use.
CyberTwin virtual agents have both Text to Speech (TTS) and Siri-like Speech to Text (STT) capabilities, and can live in any environment (website chat, social media, MSN, mobile, video games, virtual worlds, voice).Building a Twin is easy (and fun!). It takes from half an hour to a few days, depending on how smart you want it to be.
Business users free 30 day trial with no obligation, then $25 a month for regular websites. Personal users can create a twin for free.
$19 per month
Platform: Web, mobile
YouDazzle is a tool that integrates with Dropbox. Users can add custom branding, integrate web meetings and add more analytical and collaboration enhancements to Dropbox. With a YouDazzle-Dropbox integration, users have integrated file sharing, online meetings and more.
With YouDazzle, Dropbox users can view files from within a browser and see them in large format with zoom and multiple page diaplays. The YouDazzle viewer supports 300+ popular file types including MS Office, PDFs and many more.
YouDazzle-Dropbox integration also lets you share your Dropbox files with up to 100 people at once. It also makes web meetings easier because it is 100 percent browser-based, requires no download and works with virtually any computer, tablet or device. New analytics help you know what people are looking at.
Free for up to 10 mailboxes
Platform: PC, Mac
Have a need for low-cost, yet-powerful email server for your organization? Consider SmarterMail. It delivers Exchange-level email server software and instant messaging at lower costs.
Now in version 9, SmarterMail has a clean, updated new look and users can access email, calendars, contacts, tasks, chats and notes in the office, on the road, or at home. Plus, email can be migrated from any of the major email platforms including: Gmail, yahoo!, Hotmail/Windows Live, Merak, Exchange, iMail and MailEnable.
SmarterMail Enterprise edition is free for up to 10 mailboxes. Pricing ranges from $299-$1400, depending on version and number of mailboxes.
Platform: Mobile: iOS
Air Sharing is an Editor’s choice winning app downloadable from iTunes that allows customers to use the iPad or iPhone as an external drive. With it, iOS usrs can view and move files and share documents on the go.
Mobile workers have the ability to mount remote file servers on an iOS device, including Google Docs, Dropbox, MobileMe iDisk, FilesAnywhere and more. Documents are viewed using the scrollbar for fast access—handy for large documents, perform PDF searches, view high-resolution images and slideshows and bookmark.
SOS Online Backup
$25 per month
Platform: PC, Mac, mobile
With SOS Online Backup businesses can backup their online data for less than $32 a month. SOS offers encryption technologies available in the online backup arena, and its platform also offers full scalability depending on the customers’ needs. Accessible from any web browser on any device, SOS backs up content in real-time with instant management and reloading of data in the event of a crash or hack.
SOS is compatible across all versions of PC operating systems, with expanded platforms for Mac, mobile devices and social networks to offer the first true all-in-one solution for permanently securing all data. SOS works continuously, backing up files as they are changed and triple-encrypting data when being backed-up, offering military grade encryption to SMB’s. Traditional data backup tools do not use any encryption, meaning anyone who picks up a business’s storage device can read the files as they please.
Category: Web services
BestVendor is a free website that allows business users to see the preferred apps and technology of their peers and other businesses. It’s designed to help you make the best tech choices for your business. Think of it as a sort of Yelp directory for business technology.
To sign up, users share three of their favorite work apps at www.bestvendor.com and sign in using their LinkedIn account information. In turn, they get immediate app recommendations personalized for their job function and tastes. They can see what products other BestVendor users, and their companies, use and recommend. And they can find the most popular work apps for specific needs, from accounting to wireframing. They can even filter results to see what’s working for other people in their industry.
Pricing starts at $400 per month
Intacct provides small-business focused accounting and cloud financial management, tools that any business, no matter what size, needs.
Several financial components are available such as General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Cash Management, Revenue Management and more.
Additional features include contract management, revenue management, inventory, purchasing, vendor management, financial consolidation and financial reporting applications, all delivered over the Internet via cloud computing. The service also specializes in migrating customers from QuickBooks.
CrashPlanPRO provides an enterprise-grade, cross-platform backup solution for both desktops and laptops.
According to Code 42, CrashPlan Pro is specifically designed to address the unique backup needs of SMBs. The software works in the background, delivering automatic continuous backup. Backed-up data can be sent to the cloud or physical external drives. CrashPlan Pro also features a simplified, Web-based management dashboard that lets managers monitor all user backups, conduct real-time management, and control company-wide backup settings.
SysAid IT Help Desk
Less than $5 per user, per month
Category: IT Management
SysAid IT Help Desk Software provides a web-based help desk and asset management for any IT department. Automate your service desk, control your hardware and software management, and implement effective systems monitoring.
The web-based service has some pretty high-end functionality. This includes routing rules which allows IT to specify the individual, queue or support groups a service request should be routed to, based on category, severity level or other customer-defined parameters. Automated escalation and automatic notifications can lessen problem resolution time.
Pricing is based on an organization’s needs and a free trial is available.
CMS BounceBack Server Instant Server Recovery
BounceBack Server Instant Server Recovery is software-based backup that allows backup and restoration of a Windows server to and from an external eSATA or USB drive.
BounceBack Server works with Windows 7, Vista and XP machines. It will also back up and restore Windows Server 2008 R2; Windows Server 2003; as well as Microsoft SQL Server 2003, 2005 and 2008. It uses AES 256 encryption for a secure backup.
Users can opt to restore an entire system, or just files and folders. All data is backed up in its original file format which facilitates the backup and restore process. BounceBack also supports open file backup which means it will back up databases that are in use.
Platform: Mobile: Android
Category: Document Management
PocketCloud Explore allows users to create a personal cloud by providing a unified view of all your remote computers from a mobile device—a veritable cloud in your pants!
Other tasks business users can perform with PocketCloud include unlimited video, phone, and audio transfers; opening remote files with local third party apps; creating folders on either a mobile device or remote computers; and deleting local or remote folder and files.
PocketCloud works on Android 2.1 or later. It requires the Windows or Mac Companion client on remote computers.
Anti-Android Network Toolkit (ANTI)
Free and up
Platform: Mobile: Android
Category: Network Management
Anti-Android Network Toolkit is an Editor’s Choice winning app that uses WiFi scanning tools to scan networks. You can scan a network you have the phone connected to or you can scan any other nearby open networks. Security admins can use Anti to test network host vulnerabilities to DoS attacks and other threats.
There’s a free version that provides scanning, OS detection, traceroute, port connect, Wi-Fi monitor, and HTTP server. You can also perform advanced threat assessments with paid accounts. The Silver account include all aforementioned features plus the ability to check for man-in-the-middle threats, remote exploits, and plugins, and it comes with 20 credits (any advanced task such as searching for remote exploits or creating reports costs one credit)—all for $10. Gold and Platinum accounts for small business and corporate users and come with support and more credits and features, such as Password Cracker and DoS attack assessments for $50 and $250, respectively.
Pricing starts at $115 per endpoint
Category: Network, User Management
SPECTOR 360 is software that gives deep insight into all of the digital activity in an organization. User-based activity monitoring allows IT professionals, HR, legal counsel and general managers to capture, analyze and act upon all user, department and division electronic activity.
SPECTOR 360′s focused monitoring replays and analyzes activity from the user perspective, across time and within context. This enables organizations to address a broad set of security, compliance and process-oriented issues in an automated, cost-effective manner.
A great tool for risk management and compliancy; Spector 360 monitors activity such as email sent and received, chat/IM, websites visited, applications/programs accessed, web searches, file transfers, and data printed or saved to removable devices.
Pricing begins at $49.95 per month.
MyLeadResponder is a new application that helps businesses solve the gap in lead response. The application instantly finds and connects a sales person with a sales lead. It works in conjunction with Ifbyphone, a voice-based marketing automation solution.
MyLeadResponder leverages Ifbyphone’s advanced voice-based marketing automation platform to instantly find and connect a sales person with the lead. When a web form is submitted or an email sent, the system is designed to immediately call and alert a specified sales team member. Ifbyphone’s Find Me application can also be enabled to better route phone calls across a sales team and ensure that a live contact is reached.
Platform: iOS (iPad)
MagicalPad is a robust note-taking, business-centric app for the iPad. The app can structure any notes you’ve taken quickly and anywhere on one workspace by dragging and dropping individual notes/sections into larger sections.
You can create dropdown/checkbox lists, outlines, and indent sections for better organization. All of the sections can be color-coded so users can easily identify sections. The only negative I see is this is all done on one workspace.
By Samara Lynn, PCMag