Get Big Business Expense-Tracking Tools For Your Small Office

ExpenseWatch helps small- and medium-sized businesses track and approve company costs through a browser-based application. If you use a paper-based or other clunky system to manage purchase requests and invoices, the service could potentially save you labor costs by automating these processes. It could also save you money with its auditing tools, giving new perspectives on where you can cut back budgets. These tools are standard at large companies, but ExpenseWatch could put your smaller outfit on equal footing.

ExpenseWatch is broken into monthly user licenses for each of its three tools: travel and entertainment, purchasing, and invoice management. You'll essentially need a license for each concurrent user, such as the number of people typically traveling at once for the first or one per department manager for purchasing. Each travel and entertainment license costs $16 while the other two types cost $31 each. (A free trial is also available.)

The travel and entertainment tool lets employees on the road directly input costs as they happen. You'll be able to set up automatic parameters for approval--such as a dinner-with-clients cost up to $35/person--or manually accept transactions. Then these items can automatically be routed to your accounting department for reimbursement and other bookkeeping. And auditing functions--such as comparing a sales associate's client income with their schmoozing expenses--can help get a bigger perspective on how you spend.

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Business-Ready Skype Tools Slash VOIP Costs

VoIP (voice over IP) calls cost less than traditional phone systems, while adding additional features. Skype says that about 35 percent of its customers are using the service at work, so the company has tailored features to help that audience manage Skype and save money. Especially with the recent iPhone and BlackBerry clients, Skype could cut your business costs.

Skype for Business mainly differs from a consumer account because IT departments can deploy the software across an office. Features can be activated or disabled by your administrators, such as file transfers or sharing peer-to-peer Skype traffic. Group policy templates let you modify these features for several people at once.

Upcoming Skype for Business tools will connect to SIP phone systems, so you can make SkypeOut calls through SIP, while incoming SIP can be routed to your Skype account. Similar support for Asterisk is also planned. Both are being tested now, with pricing to be determined.

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Save Business Expenses with Netbooks

Can you use netbooks for business? The answer depends on your specific needs, but there's a good chance you can with current hardware. And more powerful, upcoming hardware is even more likely to work. Here's how to figure out if you can save money with netbooks.

Why Do You Need New Systems?
Don't rely on netbooks beyond their light-use design. If you're replacing aging desktop PCs, netbooks will likely run at similar speeds without any perceived upgrade over the old hardware. A smaller case is nice but probably nets a result of wasted money.

Consider netbooks more if you're replacing old laptops. Speed gains will still be modest at best, but the little laptops could cost a lot less than more powerful systems.

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Save With an Online Exchange Server

Get through lean times by watching your business expenses like a dieter tracking calories. Is the cost of your ISP bandwidth and IT support worth hosting your own Exchange Server? Many businesses can save money with an offsite, hosted Exchange Server.

Self-hosting, up-front fees sting the hardest. Let's first figure you'd buy Small Business Server Standard for about $1,000 and a middle-weight server for about $1,500. That'd get you support for five users at an initial cost of about $2,500. Additional user licenses run $77 each. So for a business of about 20, you'd pay more than $3,500 to get started, and you'd likely pay more for help from an IT consultant.

A hosted Exchange Server eliminates these initial costs and ongoing IT maintenance fees. In this situation, hardware, software, and user licenses are billed monthly. Depending on the host and service, expect to pay about $10 a month per user.

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Cut Your Accounts-Receivable Costs With a Free Online Invoicing Service

Accounts payable and receivable are critical facets of any small business. Sometimes the smallest businesses focus on their product and shirk these tasks--I know I have. But a simple online invoicing system can save hassle and time.

FastDue could be a good option because of its simplicity, features, and online approach. Supported by ads, it's even free to use, although the company eventually plans some sort of premium, paid features. Small businesses with only a few employees will probably get the most out of the site, and I noticed a few growing pains in its young state. But built-in contract templates and the always-available online approach could help businesses of a dozen or more.

The online, software-as-a-service approach is my favorite FastDue feature. I can access its invoicing and other features from any computer through a Web browser, or even on a smartphone.

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Save Money On PC Hardware Upgrades

If your PC groans every time it launches Microsoft Office, it might be time for an upgrade or outright replacement. Here’s how to save money with a careful order.

Decide between an upgrade and new system; if budgets are tight, you might be able to make current PCs last with a few improvements. Bolster an old PC with the right parts: RAM, CPU, hard drive, and video card, roughly in that order.

Even if you need an off-the-shelf or online-configured system, you can still save money by shopping around for extras. Scrutinize the cost of parts. Computer companies often gouge on RAM and disk space, charging significantly more for those than you’d pay for parts. Budget about $.10/gigabyte of disk space, especially for drives of 500GB and more. (Drive prices generally drop with size.)

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Three Free, Easy Ways To Protect Your Network

Whether the Conficker worm booms or fizzles, take it as a reminder to keep your networks safe. You could spend money on a security consultant--which isn't such a bad investment if helpful--but here are three free tricks to increase your network's security.

Use OpenDNS

Use OpenDNS Internet traffic gets routed through IP addresses; the text you type as a URL only sits on top of those numbers. Normally, when you type "pcworld.com," it gets referenced in a domain name server directory, which then routes you to the actual IP address. But what happens if that structure is compromised and an attacker can send your request to a different IP address?

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