Advice

7 Essential Apps For Business

It’s no secret that mobile apps are an essential way for small businesses to operate more efficiently and profitably. Apps can help you collaborate, plan, and organize your workflow for max productivity – not to mention ease of mind. But with so many apps on the market, it’s hard to know where to start. With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of the absolute essentials for doing business in the internet age.

(Note that some apps, like the Office suite and Google Drive, are already so integrated into other software that you might even be using them without knowing it. This list covers the greatest hits you may not have heard of – or been brave enough to download yet. Read on!)

Basecamp

Basecamp logo for Bellingham Business News

Basecamp, which posits itself as the ultimate project management app, has been around longer than you might think. The application was created in 2004 by 37signals, originally a web design firm. The service has been going strong for the past ten years, and thousands of new companies start using the app every week.

Once you get a feel for using the software, it’s not hard to understand why Basecamp rules the project management space. The software includes features for handling just about everything a business owner might need to keep track of a project, including:

  • Creating to-do lists
  • Managing multiple calendars
  • Communicating with your team (with or without the client’s knowledge!)
  • Sharing essential files

Moreover, Basecamp’s integration with countless third party apps makes it an incredibly easy fit with practically any organization, regardless of which tools you already use. Time tracking, Google Docs, CRM, you name it – Basecamp has the functionality built in, greatly expanding the usefulness of the original platform.

About the Company

37signals, the company behind Basecamp – who have since changed their business name to match their product – have been around since 1999. Staff from the company have written several New York Times bestsellers on topics ranging from how to work remotely with employees in different locations, to designing better web applications. The company has proven itself time and again as one of the forerunners on efficient use of the internet and new tech for business purposes.

If This Then That (IFTTT)

If This Then That Logo for Bellingham Business News

IFTTT is a deceptively simple and efficient way to automate interactions between your different applications. Using a system of triggers and actions, called ‘Recipes’, IFTTT allows you to create Facebook posts, add files to Dropbox, and perform a host of other functions when certain conditions are met. For example: “If I get tagged in a photo on Facebook, then send me a text message”, or “If I upload a photo to Instagram, then add it to my Dropbox”

Put simply, using IFTTT takes a lot of the manual labor out of keeping your social media and file storage updated.

Here’s a few of our favorite recipes for small business:

IFTTT Recipe: Payments accepted via Square adds a row to a spreadsheet connects square to google-driveIFTTT Recipe: Read the week's popular Business Day articles in a digest on Saturday connects the-new-york-times to email-digest
IFTTT Recipe: Remind your employees to turn in monthly timesheets  connects date-time to yammerIFTTT Recipe: When it drops below 60°F outside get a text to prepare more hot coffee connects weather to sms

About the Company

The IFTTT service was launched in 2011 by three San Francisco-based entrepreneurs, and in three years has grown to have over 15 million recipes used each day. Since 2011, IFTTT has also launched an iOS and Android app, each with exclusive channels to be used in recipes.

Dropbox

Dropbox logo for Bellingham Business News

Dropbox is perhaps the most widely known and commonly used online storage app available. The app allows users to upload files (including documents, photos, and videos), from any platform, and then access them from any other platform. Dropbox is compatible with every commonly used operating system and hardware platform, an advantage over similar apps that may not, for example, offer compatibility with both Android and iOS, or Windows and OSX. The service’s versatility makes it an excellent choice for businesses to share documents between employees, allowing employees to access work assets from their own personal devices at any time.

Here’s a list of some of the features we found to be useful:

  • Mobile file access for all employees, which is constantly synced with your database
  • Remotely wipe data from devices if they are lost or stolen
  • Sharing controls to manage who has access to which files
  • Activity logs allow you to keep track of changes to your files

About the Company

Dropbox was first launched in 2008, and has since grown in value to an estimated $5 billion company. Dropbox operates on a ‘freemium’ financial model, with the base service offered at no cost to consumers, and an optional paid service that offers more functionality and perks. One of the paid services is specific for businesses, which runs $15 per user per month.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics Logo For Bellingham Business News

 

Google Analytics is one of the best ways for a business to track how their online content is reaching customers, and for finding ways to improve that reach. And best of all, the base version is free! The service tracks usage data for a company’s website, providing information on how many users visit each page on a site, how long they stay on that page, how they got to the page, and a host of other statistics. Analytics is also fully integrated with Google AdWords, allowing businesses to track the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.

A free analytics tool is something that no business owner should ignore. Here’s a list of tracking categories you can access with the base version of Google Analytics:

  • Real Time Usage Statistics
  • User Behavior
  • Acquisition Data
  • Conversion Data

Each category has several subdivisions, allowing you make the most effective use of your website. Start analyzing!

About the Service

Google’s Analytics service was first released nine years later in 2006, with the most current form launched in 2011. Google Analytics was designed as an accessible tool for consumers without expert level knowledge in analytics to view data about their websites. Google has since also released support for e-commerce within the service, and the Google Website Optimizer, a tool allowing users to experiment with different content organization strategies to improve conversion rates.

Facebook Pages Manager

Facebook news logo for Bellingham Business News

The Facebook Pages Manager app is a great way for small business owners to keep their social media presence fresh and constantly updated. The app allows a user to manage up to 50 different Facebook pages from their smartphone or tablet.

Facebook’s recently launched Places Directory has indicated the company’s growing focus on becoming a destination for users to find information and reviews of local businesses. As the Places Directory becomes more popular, and competes with websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, having a well maintained Facebook page will be increasingly important for any business. Using the Pages Manager app makes curating your businesses page much easier, and the service may soon have mobile integration with the Places Directory as well.

Here are some of the more useful actions you can perform with the Pages Manager app:

  • Post updates and photos and respond to comments as your Pages
  • View and reply to private messages sent to your Pages
  • Option to get push notifications for new activity, tips and reminders
  • View your latest Page Insights
  • Share links from other apps to Pages Manager
  • Post and promote at the same time
  • Turn an external link into a share post

About the App

The Facebook Pages Manager app was released in 2012, with the intention of providing mobile management of pages, along with new pages specific features. These features include Page insights, which allow owners track the Page’s reach, user engagement, and other key metrics for page interaction and growth.

LastPass

Last Pass Logo

LastPass is another freemium service that allows customers to create and use strong, separate passwords for every online account they have, without having to remember each password. After entering an account’s information into LastPass, the app automatically enters it for you every time you log in afterwards. The service also uses a robust encryption on all of the data that passes through it, ensuring the security of the relevant accounts. The LastPass app is a great tool for small business owners to manage the login information for the various other services they use, including those listed in this article. LastPass also offers an ‘Enterprise’ service, which allows employees tiered access to accounts without having to constantly remember passwords. Some of the Enterprise features include:

  • Multifactor authentication
  • Easy onboarding and offboarding
  • Employee security scores
  • Notifications about LastPass usage across all employees

About the Company

LastPass was founded in 2008, and has continued to gain usage and coverage over its lifetime. Several security upgrades have been made to the service since its inception, in part due to possible security breaches or exploits uncovered by security advisors. No consequences for users have been reported by these breaches, and LastPass is currently considered one of the safest ways to avoid password fatigue.

Harvest

Harvest Logo for Bellingham Business News

Harvest is one of the easiest ways for small businesses to track employee work and record timesheets. The app allows users to track working hours across projects, either by inputting hours worked or using a timer. With a robust reporting platform as well, Harvest takes a lot of the work out of HR and expense budgets for business owners.

Some of the more useful features include:

  • Sending invoices, and receiving payments through Square
  • Employee expense tracking, including uploading of receipt photos
  • Time tracking from anywhere, including mobile devices and 3rd party apps like Basecamp, Trello, or Zendesk

About the Company

Harvest was launched by Iridesco LLC in 2006. It was one of the first business apps to integrate with Twitter, allowing employees to time by tweeting their hours. By 2012, Harvest had launched in over 100 countries, and had logged over 1 billion hours of employee work.

Each of these apps helps make a traditional headache of running a business into an easy and efficient task. And not only will they help make the business owner’s job easier, your employees will thank you as well! No one likes inefficiency, and with the wealth of business apps available, it’s now even easier to keep workflow as streamlined as possible for both you and your employees.

What apps are on your list of “must-haves” for business & daily life? Share your favorites in the comments!

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias Osterhaug

Tobias is a full-time contributor to Bellingham Business News, covering local business events, tech news, and advice for job seekers in the Bellingham area. He graduated from Western Washington University with a double major in History and Chinese Language & Cultural Studies, and has previously worked as a coordinator in Western’s Writing Center.

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