5 online tools indispensable to small business

Entrepreneurs face a great deal of confusion when deciding which web tools to adopt to develop their business. Often lacking the deep pockets to invest in enterprise-class solutions, small businesses frequently cobble together technologies on an as-needed basis, routinely resulting in short-sighted solutions that don’t work very well. This article highlights five of the best freemium web tools that each business owner needs to consider on day one. The correct technology strategy at the onset will result in effective work habits and a scalable model as the business grows.

Google Apps ($5.00/user account/month)

Each business has communications and collaboration needs, and Google Apps offers excellent messaging and collaboration tools. Google Apps includes emails, calendars, and documents stored in the cloud, resulting in a centralized web service and reduced costs. The solution allows businesses to use their company domain name, while maintaining the familiar Google interface. Known for its simplicity and reliability, Google Apps is the premier solution that business owners need to consider when choosing a messaging and collaborative platform.

HootSuite (Free for dashboard, $5.99/month for analytics)

As businesses realize the importance of a strong social media presence to engage with clients, the need arises for a management and metrics platform. Although social media can be managed through the sites themselves, it can become a cumbersome and laborious process. Various dashboards are available, however, HootSuite offers a compelling list of features allowing business owners a precise level of control over their social media presence. From scheduling messages, to delegating tasks, to advanced analytics, HootSuite provides businesses with control over their social media presence, and allows them to easily manage multiple accounts using one interface.

Dropbox (Free for 2GB, $9.99/month and up for premium)

Every entrepreneur knows that the workday doesn’t end at 5 o’clock. Frequently, files are saved on a USB key or emailed to oneself to continue the work from home. Dropbox offers an intuitive interface for file sharing and collaboration, enabling users to drop any file into a designated folder that is synced with the Dropbox internet service. Dropbox backs up these files, syncs them across machines, and allows for multiple users to edit a single document while providing accurate versioning. Although there exist many file sharing services, the simplicity and speed of Dropbox have made it an incredibly popular solution.

MailChimp (Free for basic, $10.00/month and up for premium)

It is all too frequent that small businesses send clients email marketing with images or PDFs attached. Any business that uses email marketing needs to consider MailChimp to design, integrate, send, and track their email campaigns. MailChimp allows users to design elegant email campaigns, connect them to social media and eCommerce, ensure successful delivery, and track metrics of email campaigns. It is a robust tool that provides copious data while offering an intuitive user interface. MailChimp also manages the legal complexities of sending campaign emails, informing business owners of the legal requirements and providing recipients with an easy way to opt out of campaigns.

Google Analytics (Free)

Every business that has a website (and it’s 2011—which business doesn’t have a website?) needs to take advantage of web analytics software. Google Analytics is the premier analytics solution, which provides businesses with an incredible amount of data, including metrics such as referrers, bounce rate, and geolocation. This data allows businesses to measure performance of their sites, and determine how to build more effective pages. The Google Analytics dashboard shows users high-level key metrics, while also offering customizable reports for in-depth data analysis. Without analytics software, business owners have absolutely no indicator of the efficacy of their website, resulting in almost certain loss of business opportunities.

What online tools have proven indispensable for your business? Sound off in the comments below!