Computers have become an essential tool for practically every small business to succeed with very few businesses capable of operating without one these days. They are used for communication, marketing, other essential daily operations that make your business more productive. Although computer manufacturers provide an array of applications that cover basic needs, none come complete with all the tools needed to run a successful small business. Therefore, here is a list of essential software that every business should have, even if you are just starting out.

image source Freedigitalphotos.net
image source Freedigitalphotos.net

Safety & Security

Security software is a suite of applications that ensure the safety and reliability of your computers and data. These programs allow you to maintain a presence on the internet without fear of intrusion, infection, or theft. A basic security suite should consist of a firewall, antivirus software for small businesses, anti-malware software, and backup/recovery software.

The firewall will prevent unwanted intrusion while the antivirus and anti-malware will protect against data theft, damage, and corruption. Backup and recovery applications provide you with the opportunity to continue without data loss in the event of infections or hardware failures. These applications are available individually or as a package, depending on your preference and your budget.

Productivity & Creativity

These applications help you perform the functions necessary to carry out your core business. Every business needs a basic set of tools that include word processing, spreadsheet, database, and presentation capabilities.

Word processors allow you to create everything from calendars to text documents, email messages, and marketing materials such as flyers and brochures. Spreadsheet and database programs allow you to record, maintain and track various types of data. Presentation applications help you to develop sales presentations, training materials, and investor or public relations information.

Microsoft Office is a common suite that is often an available upgrade when you purchase your computer, but there are other alternatives available as well, including the Open Office suite, Libre Office and Softmaker Office.

Communication

Communication tools are essential to keeping in touch with staff, customers, and suppliers. These include tools for email and video conferencing as well as voice and text chat capabilities. There are a number of options available, which can meet your needs and fit within your budget.

Email options range from free web based choices like Yahoo and Google mail to personalized in-house mail servers, which can be utilized with Microsoft Outlook. For voice communication you can use a standard telephone, a voice over IP provider such as Vonage that functions similar to a telephone, or a range of applications that offer voice chat including Yahoo Messenger or Skype. Yahoo Messenger, Skype, and AOL Instant Messenger are also some of the most common text chat providers.

Accounting

Accounting software will help ensure that your business stays in the black by helping you track every penny into and out of your business. While you can opt to perform basic accounting functions using your spreadsheet program if you are just starting out, you should examine the possibility of using specialized accounting software.

Accounting software has more functionality, is more user-friendly, and increases efficiency while reducing errors. Accounting software can help you track and process inventory, sales, purchases, payroll, taxes, and fees through a wide range of features. Common accounting software to consider includes Quickbooks, Peachtree, and Bookkeeper.

Project & Customer Management

Project management software helps improve communication, productivity and efficiency by ensuring that all staff members are collaborating with each other and aware of what each other are doing to move your projects along. Project management software helps manage estimation and planning, scheduling, cost control and budget management, resource allocation, decision-making, quality management and documentation. Common project management applications are Basecamp, Genius Project and Microsoft Project.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps manage interactions with customers and allows you to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support. Some common CRM options include Salesforce.com, Microsoft CRM, and Goldmine.

Although your business may require additional specialized software depending on your niche and core functions, these basic applications are essentials that every business should have. Take some time to evaluate your options and your needs, then select the ones that are most suited to your individual situation and budget. You’ll be glad you did.

(This is a guest post by Sara Stringer)

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