I've recently incorporated a business, paying a local attorney what I thought was a reasonable rate to provide assistance. But compelling web services can perform the same process, minus the value of a personal contact. How much is a local attorney worth to you? In my case, the difference was about $1,000, and I wish I'd considered the web alternative.
MyCorporation submits your basic filing, registering your corporation and generating its tax ID number. The service frequently mentions that it's owned by Intuit, trying to ease fears that a website can substitute for an attorney. If you trust Intuit's financial applications, there's not much difference trusting the company for this service.
You choose from several levels of service, including an absolute-basic free tier; at no legal cost, MyCorporation will check to see if your company name is available and prepare articles of incorporation. You'll pay state and other fees when filing. In my example, MyCorporation charges about $145 for state fees and "shipping & handling" in California.
You could spend a lot of time creating email newsletters and promotions, only to take even longer trying to manage lists and send everything out. Forget trying to send to Outlook groups; spend a little extra, and go with an email campaign service. You'll make up the difference in your labor costs and valuable tracking results that can hone your next mailing.
Emma email marketing service handles almost everything except your specific message content. The company designs an email template based on your preferences, website, and logo. So for future mailings, you can just change the text for a new message.
Emma imports your contact list as an Excel spreadsheet file. Even better, the service cleans up bounced addresses and duplicates automatically, saving you time from culling the database. Additional features can target recipients based on their geographical location or alert you if your message seems likely to trigger spam filters.
Invoice management is crucial for any business. But especially if you're just starting out, you might be tempted to save a few dollars on an invoicing application by submitting bills as Word docs or other text files. Don't waste your time trying to invent your own payment system. A free, server-based tool could be all you need.
Bamboo Invoice is young; its developer hasn't yet christened it with a "1.0" name. But it could save you money versus a paid tool; it's not just free to download, it's an open-source application, so other developers are free to make improvements and add features.
You'll install Bamboo Invoice on your PHP-and-MySQL compatible server, instead of trusting another company to hold your data. Since it's an online tool, you can log in from any PC to make updates, even if you're working offsite.
If you can lovingly call your small- or medium-sized business IT department "scrappy"--maybe you're both company president and network administrator--the right tools can make the most of your resources. Inventory auditing software can keep track of company hardware and software without taking your time from other tasks. You'll be able to keep track of assets, plus you'll gain valuable troubleshooting clues, such as an always-current list of software version numbers.
Network Inventory Advisor from ClearApps seeks out these details across your company PCs. The tool runs from a Windows system, but it can also audit Mac and Linux clients. You'll install the software, and it'll return a list of systems attached to the network.
More than just a list of each PC's software, the tool notes the date applications were installed and includes version numbers for both applications and operating systems. You can use it to make sure that clients have current antivirus software and other patches. It'll even track licenses for certain applications, helping you manage allocations. And if you don't have the resources--or mentality--to prevent employees from installing software on their systems, you'll appreciate a running list of their applications.
If you route incoming calls to a voice prompt, that recording gives customers their first impression of your business. Keep them interested with a professional voicemail system.
Think that you're saving a lot by using the intern for a greeting? Online services let you get great results without overspending; you could pay about $100, or even less.
Snap Recordings lets you listen to samples from its stable of 60 actors. Some voices get annoying, sounding like Disney forest animals on a sugar high. But with that wide selection, you'll likely find a great option, including accents and Spanish-speakers. (If you still don't like the choices, you can browse a bigger catalog for an extra $150.)
Medium-sized business IT support can be critical. When your website, network, or employee PCs are down, you're wasting money. If your IT staff is away at these tense moments--especially off-hours--it might take extra time for them to get in front of a PC to fix the issues. Instead, mobile administration software lets your IT staff manage infrastructure anywhere from a smartphone.
Your IT workers likely have VNC tools in-place to remotely control a PC, even from a smartphone. And different servers have their own management tools that work with smartphones. But Rove offers a remote-management tool that centralizes everything, letting your IT staff control more than 500 tasks across dozens of different server types.
Rove Mobile Admin works as a client/server combination. On the client side, IT workers access tools through BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian S60 smartphones, or a generic web interface for iPhones and other devices. They'll also install Mobile Admin on a Windows Server to communicate with those clients.
You probably run Office and other software directly from a PC hard drive. But server-side tools can put any Windows application into the cloud, keeping virtual instances of your applications ready at any time. This nimble system lets you log into your software from any PC--and even smartphones--expanding the places you can work, allowing for quicker setup, and often saving money on software costs.
Citrix makes a few of these server- and client-side tools that to virtualize any Windows application. Medium- and large-sized businesses likely have the infrastructure and IT staff to support this process, letting companies install XenApp, the cornerstone of Citrix's virtual application process.
Citrix says that the software will essentially support any Windows application, although companies might be limited by licensing issues, since you typically buy software for each desktop system. Microsoft sells monthly licenses for its applications, but you should check with other mission-critical companies if you're pondering this process.