The post yesterday on Marketing Metrics brought up and issue I’ve been meaning to write about for a month or so. That’s the issue of enterprise software for the small business.
In a corporation, you’ve generally got software standards for computers, which generally state that a new computer will be loaded with something like:
- Anti-virus software, such as Norton or Symantec, set up to auto update and run every day.
- Email application – either Outlook or Lotus Notes, to handle email and calendar stuff.
- Presentation software – Powerpoint, bane of long meetings and patron saint of the clueless.
- Word processing – MS Word
- Spreadsheets – MS Excel
- Long distance calling/conference calling – not software, but the usual players.
The for specific users, there are other bits such as:
- Analytics package – like Omniture, Webside Story or Hitbox.
- Code editor – Dreamweaver, MS Visual Developer, etc.
All told, there’s a substantial investment in software, which is fairly onerous to the small business. The good news is that Google has worked steadily over the past couple years to present us with a fairly competent suite of products, which for the most part are free, that let the small businessperson provide employees with this enterprise level functionality.
Here’s the software load I’d use for a small business which would approach that functionality. Note that there are only two spots Google doesn’t have covered (and they’re working on a presentation software package as we speak).
- Anti-virus – AVG Free Advisor – this one Leo Laporte has recommended over the enterprise stuff for sometime. It’s free and it works.
- Email – Google’s Gmail is an excellent product, to the point that I’ve had my Outlook accounts forwarded to it for some time. Even with the horrendous volume of spam I get, it does a great job sorting the stuff, with a very limited number of false positives. It’s also got a great calendar function, which I’ve been using to keep myself on track of nearly a year. They’ve recently moved to providing email for domains (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a small fee, making it one of the few pay for service options they offer.
- Presentation Software – this is the big failing. Right now, Powerpoint is the go to software. You can get presentation software using Open Office, but I suspect your users will revolt.
- Word Processor – Google Documents will both open MS Word Documents, which are the standard in business, and save them. It doesn’t have half the features of MS Word, but it’s got all the features I use in Word. A big thumbs up! Or you could use Open Office as cited above.
- Spreadsheet – Again, Google Documents has you covered. I suspect that hard core users will miss some of the Excel functionality, but for most of us who are just munging lists, etc., we’ll get by just fine. Similarly there Open Office has this covered as well.
- Analytics – Google Analytics is challenging the enterprise vendors big time right now. Their most recent release is almost there. For the small business, it’s pretty much all you will need to find those core metrics.
- Code Editor – Dreamweaver is in a class of it’s own. If I have to load a computer somewhere, or am working for someone too cheap to buy a license, I use either HTML Kit or TextPad. For .NET, you’ve got MS Visual Web Developer, which is free and allows you to take advantage of the MS .NET 2.0 Framework, which is pretty cool stuff
- Conference Calls/Long Distance – Skype – you can handle up to 10 people on a concall, and skype to skype is free around the world. Otherwise, they’ve got long distance at a rate that beats the big guys every time. Plus you use a headset, so your hands are free.
I use most of this stuff myself now, and the side benefit is that with the Google apps particularly, everything is ubiquitously accessible. I can walk up to any internet enabled computer and I’ve got access to my stuff. Give these a try, and you’ll be able to slash your software budget across the board.
Anyone have anything to add to this list? Add them in comments…