Small businesses don’t have the budgets or luxury to buy expensive licences for all the tools and software they need.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of eight free technology tools and software. Some are available through open source, GNU general public licence (intended to guarantee freedom to share and change all versions of software and programs) or in beta version. And others have offered a “freemium” model that offers users a free lighter version, and upgrades as their needs and budgets grow.
I have left out social media and related tools, which will be featured in a future article.
Google Alerts. This service keeps you in the loop about industry news and other information relevant to your business. Simply enter keywords or terms you want to track and Google will email you the latest relevant news about that topic. This is a great way to track media mentions about your company—or your competition.
CardMunch. Recently bought by LinkedIn, this free iPhone app automatically converts a business card into a digital contact file stored in your phone. Simply take a photo of the business card and the image is transmitted to a team of human transcribers at LinkedIn, which sends you back a detailed, accurate contact file for your phone. It will even show you the LinkedIn profile information and connections you have in common. It’s not yet available to Android or BlackBerry users.
DropBox. This service offers two gigabytes (GBs) of free storage for your small business to store documents, videos, photos and other files and share or access them easily. You can synchronize your files online and across your computers, which is perfect for those who work from multiple locations. DropBox recently doubled its storage capacity for its paid pro plans to 100 GBs and 200 GBs due to pressure from competitor Google Drive, which offers five GBs of free capacity to start.
YouSendIt. Email is used daily by most businesses, but occasionally you have large files to send. Most Internet service providers limit the size of attachments you can send through their email, so rather than having to courier large documents, you can send such files through this online service. It has a free 14-day trial.
PrimoPDF. You don’t need Adobe Acrobat software to create PDFs. PrimoPDF allows you to create PDFs from any application by “printing” to the PrimoPDF printer. Convert documents from Word, Excel, PowerPoint or virtually any other printable file type.
Foxit Reader. An alternative to Acrobat Reader, Foxit has added features that allow you to make annotations and fill out PDF forms. Some people prefer SumatraPDF for its simplicity and because the program is small and portable on a USB drive.
Sysinternals Suite. This group of Microsoft-sponsored system tools allows users to diagnose and troubleshoot PC/network issues. Non-technical people may find it a bit complicated, but it’s worth a try before paying for a technician to do the fix.
Microsoft Security Essentials. Many small businesses fail to protect themselves because they try to save money and don’t install the proper anti-virus, anti-spyware or anti-malware software. Norton Anti-Virus, Kaspersky and others can be expensive when you add up the licence cost for each computer. But MSE is free for up to 10 PCs. It’s also designed to be simple to install and easy to use. It runs quietly and efficiently in the background, so you don’t have to worry about interruptions or installing updates.
Some independent studies have shown MSE to be as effective as the paid software, although others say that it’s not as effective. If a small business is going to skimp on security, MS Security Essentials is definitely better than having no security software.
Password Safe. With the numerous passwords businesses have these days for all the websites and programs they are subscribed to, a convenient and secure place to store login information is essential. Password Safe stores all your usernames and passwords in an encrypted file you unlock with a single “master password.”
GIMP. An alternative to Adobe Photoshop, GIMP can be used for expert-quality photo retouching, image composition and image format conversion. It can also be used as a simple paint program.
This column is reposted with the permission of Business in Vancouver, which posted it originally on www.biv.com.
Cybele Negris is president and co-founder of Vancouver-based Webnames.ca Inc., Canada’s original .ca registrar and one of the country’s leading providers of web hosting and other internet solutions. She has been on the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs for the past nine years.
More columns by Cybele Negris