Huddle: 39 Online Productivity Tools to Go OfficelessFebruary 23, 2011
by Matt Ferner
The concept of the “office” is evolving quickly. With all the productivity software available online, many businesses can effectively go “officeless” and operate in the cloud. You can collaborate on projects, get payroll running, bill clients, create documents and conduct meetings on IP office phone systems all from the virtual office of your computer — wherever that computer may be.
Don’t miss a beat managing and growing your business. Whether you are at an actual physical office space, at home, on a plane or in a hotel, all you need is a laptop and an Internet connection and you are ready to go.
Virtual Offices and Remote Access
1. NetSuite. NetSuite is more than a hosted shopping cart. It’s a cloud-based, integrated business software solution for just about every aspect of your ecommerce operation, with a robust ecommerce platform, QuickBooks-caliber accounting package, order management software, self-service email, customer relationship management, customer support, and much more. Price: $799 per month, plus $79 per user per month.
2. WebOffice. A full suite of virtual office tools to help your business operate and your staff collaborate wherever they may be in the world. Solutions for document management, meeting scheduling, database creation, expense reporting, business contacts management and more. Price: $53.95 - $2,250 annually, depending on member accounts and file storage needs.
3. GoToMyPC. Access any of your computers from anywhere on the planet and work remotely. Price: $9.95 - $19.90 monthly, depending on number of computers and users.
4. TeamViewer. Download the software, activate it on all workstations and servers needed, and remotely control them all as if you were there. You can even allow your customers, vendors and clients to add a TeamViewer app and you can access their computers, as well. Price: One time licence fee of $749 - $2,690, depending on number of workstations.
5. Salesforce. A host of customer service tools, sales tracking tools, contact database, marketing campaign management, private and secure group collaboration solutions, database development, web and app development tools and other tools to help run your business effectively — all in the cloud. Price: $5 - $250 per user, per month.
Document Creation and Management
6. Writeboard. A sharable, web-based text document hub from 37signals that lets you save and track every edit, roll back to — and easily compare changes — between any version of the document. It can be used for individuals or to collaborate with others. Price: Free.
7. Acrobat.com File Creation. Easily upload, create, share and store PDF documents. You can create and edit online documents and spreadsheets with Adobe Buzzword. Price: $14.99 or $39.99 per month, depending on staff size and document load.
8. Google Docs. Create word processing documents, spreadsheets, multimedia slideshow presentations, drawings and forms with Google’s powerful online document-creation utility. You can even collaborate on a document in real-time with other members of your team, edit and view documents via your web browser or smartphone. Price: Free.
9. DocuSign. If you have documents and contracts that need signatures for approval or to move onto the next stage of development, DocuSign provides a suite of e-signature tools for the web, smartphones and tablet PCs. You can collaborate on documents online, track where they have been sent and who has viewed them, and have each party sign off when ready. DocuSign keeps a digital trail so your document is as legally enforceable as a pen signature. Price: $17.99 - $24.99 per user, per month.
Group Collaboration and Virtual Meetings
10. Campfire. Another tool from 37signals that allows for web-based group chatting in protected and private chat rooms where you can collaborate with a client, colleague or vendor to share files and make decisions. Price: $12 - $99 per month depending on storage needs and amount of users.
11. GoToWebinar. Conduct a multimedia webinar with up to 1,000 people at once from your Mac or PC. Put together a presentation with slides, text, video and more, schedule the event and invite panelists and audience members. You can even save a copy of the webinar audio for later use. Price: $99 per month.
12. Basecamp. Manage company projects online with Basecamp. Ditch the email threads and instant messengers. Instead, use the Basecamp message boards to set up a project hub and communicate with staff, clients, vendors and colleagues, in one place. Share files, assign project due dates, get emails when someone posts a new message. And you don’t even need to log in to respond; simply reply to the email and the message will post in Basecamp. Price: $49 - $149 per month, depending on amount of projects, storage and users needed.
13. CentralDestktop. Manage clients, staff, projects and documents all in one central place in the cloud. You can collaborate on various projects, create and view calendars, and set deadlines, assign teams and create documents — all with Microsoft Office compatibility. Price: $99 and up, depending on package selected.
14. Huddle. Manage all company projects in one place. Create project hubs, set up automated notifications for due dates, detailed task descriptions and assign responsibility to team members, access and share any Microsoft Office document, set viewing permissions and assignment approvals. You can store and share images, videos, documents and even host a web conference and brainstorm with your team — all accessible from your web browser, smartphone or tablet PC. Price: $15 per user, per month.
15. GoToMeeting. Host meetings with up to 15 people and collaborate with your team. Just schedule the meeting, send out the dial in codes and phone numbers, and you are all set to meet while your attendees can be anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. Price: $49 per month.
16. Comapping. A brainstorming utility that allows users to collaborate with one another visually and in real-time from anywhere around the globe. Ideas are captured and tracked in a visual on-the-fly flowchart style. Once the brainstorming is complete, assign tasks, set deadlines and keep the entire team in sync. Price: $10 - $1,225 annually, depending on user accounts needed.
17. Acrobat.com Web Conferencing. Host a meeting via Adobe’s ConnectNow conferencing solution. Share documents, make presentations, get feedback on ideas and speed up the pace of your business while traveling — or at a desk — anywhere around the world. You can also share a whiteboard to brainstorm ideas, create notes, have simultaneous public and private instant messaging and utilize the video pods so all participants can be seen and heard. Price: $14.99 or $49.99 per month, depending on business needs.
18. PlanHQ. Take group collaboration to a whole new level when planning out a new business venture with your partners. Set up a business hub, organize your team goals, invite partners, investors and consultants to participate, assign tasks, and then get feedback from PlanHQ about your business plan to make sure you can realistically achieve all your goals. Price: $9 - $49 per month, depending on size of team.
Bookkeeping, Invoicing and Payroll Services
19. Harvest. You and your entire staff can track the time spent on given projects and send invoices to clients and customers. Create custom timesheets, create visual reports to look at your company’s resources, and learn what you are spending the most money and time on at a glance. Price: $12 - $90 per month, depending on package.
20. Intuit Online Payroll. Create paychecks online, print them on your own printer or set up direct deposit payroll online. Online Payroll can handle tax deductions, retirement plans, insurance premiums and more. You can use its calculators to track employee time on the job and even calculate workers compensation. Price: Starts at $9.99 per month and up, depending on number of employees, contractors and states your staff works from.
21. LessAccounting. Do all your business bookkeeping from this handy online app. You can record business expenses and categorize where you are spending, send and track invoices to clients, track all your business trip mileage, and connect directly to any online banking account so you don’t have to manually update or enter any data. If you are QuickBooks user, you can even import your data directly. You can also create custom business proposals for launching a new product or project. Price: $30 or $100 monthly, depending on the size of your business and its needs.
22. Blinksale. A solution for freelancers or contract workers to create, send, and track invoices to clients for services or products sold, whether you are a web designer, blogger, attorney or accountant. Create and send estimates, customize the look of invoices with your own CSS, and automate invoice billing for regular jobs. Then create and send custom “thank you” notes when your clients pay. Your clients can even pay you through the Blinksale’s Blinkpay option. Price: $6 - $99 per month, depending on total invoices sent monthly; $20 per month for Blinkpay.
23. Xero. You can create invoices, import and track all bank transactions with any banking account, pay bills, and handle all business bookkeeping, all with the ability to handle multiple foreign currency accounts — the gains and losses from one currency to another are calculated automatically. You can also search a database of accountants nearest you for any expert advice you may need. Price: $19 - $39, depending on size of business.
Appointment and Calendar Solutions
24. Simplifythis. Another invoicing solution that allows creation and sending of custom bills to clients as well as online payments, but with the added benefit of a 24 hours a day online appointment book. You can allow clients, staff, customers and more to easily make appointments with you via the web and get email reminders for upcoming meetings. Price: $9-$29, depending on staff size and monthly invoices sent.
25. Genbook. An easy way for clients, staff and customers to schedule appointments for the services of your company 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can embed a Genbook button into a Facebook page, craigslist ad, a newsletter, or your webpage, and turn that traffic directly into appointments. Price: $19.95 or $39.95 per month, depending on size of staff.
26. Google Calendar. Share your schedule with your staff and co-workers so everyone is on the same page. You can access the calendar on your mobile phone or computer so you’ll always have access and can make changes on the go. You can even get reminders via email or text so you’ll never miss an appointment. Price: Free.
27. Yahoo! Calendar. Create a public calendar so your entire company can stay connected and in the loop. Quickly add events, make to-do lists and recurring appointments — everything you would expect from calendar software — all online and also accessible from any smartphone. Price: Free.
28. Clockspot. Allow your employees to clock in and clock out from anywhere in the world using authorized laptops or smartphones. Track sick days, holidays, vacation time, and set up automatic accrual of paid time off as well as calculating payroll, overtime and more. Price: $9 - $49 per month, depending on size of company.
29. WhosOff. Centralized management of staff sick days and vacation requests. Your staff can login and request days off, see how many days off they have left, who else is gone during a given time period, and fill the calendar with important company events so staff can be sure to schedule accordingly. Price: $15 - $800 monthly, depending on size of staff.
Customer Relationship and Contact Management
30. Highrise. Store every conversation, email, call, meeting, document and deal you’ve ever had with a contact — you can track every interaction and what was said. Because it’s on the web you can access it anywhere with an Internet connection, or from your smartphone. From 37signals. Price: $24 - $99 per month, depending on the number of users, contacts, and storage needs.
31. Plaxo. An online address book that contains all your contacts across the various sites, services and devices that you use, gathered into a single, centralized source. Your address book is accessible from anywhere via web browser or mobile device. Price: Free; additional sync and backup tools for $5 per month.
32. Zoho CRM. A full suite of customer relationship management (CRM) tools including customer email tracking, inventory management, sales lead generation and sales analysis, and customer support. Price: $3 - $25 per user, per month.
33. Dropbox. Share and store files on any computer that Dropbox is installed on. You can even access the same files from your smartphone or mobile device. Price: Free - $20 per month, depending on storage needs.
34. YouSendIt. Send large files to anyone by uploading the file through your web browser. YouSendIt securely stores the file and when the upload is complete the recipient will receive an email link to that file and can download it to their computer from anywhere. Price: $9.99 - $14.99 per user per month, depending on file size, sending and downloading needs.
Virtual Phone Systems
35. Skype. Set Skype up on any phone, mobile device or computer and you’ve got a virtual phone that can call anyone anywhere in the world for a very low cost. Make face-to-face video calls or group video calls for conference meetings, set up call forwarding to any device, create a single phone number that will ring all devices and track you down wherever you are, as well as texting, file sharing, instant messaging and more. Price: Free - $8.99 per month, depending on package.
36. Fonality. A voice-over IP (VoIP) solution provider that turns your Internet connection into a telephone line. Simply plug in the VoIP-compatible phone into your network and call clients, customers or colleagues in your office like they were next door, even if they are on the other side of the globe. You can receive voice mails over email and software phones for any mobile device so you won’t miss calls. Price: $30 and up per user, per month, depending on number of users.
37. FreedomVoice. Set up a custom, toll free 800 number or local number with this voice-over IP solution, so your customers can contact your company no matter where you are located. Calls can be forwarded and software phones can be used to turn you laptop or desktop computers into a phone. Get all voice mail transcribed into text or forwarded to you via email. Price: $9.95 - $79.95 per month.
38. Google Voice. Regardless of the phone make or carrier service you use, you can set up a Google Voice number and have a single number that rings you on any device, anywhere. You can get voice mail transcribed and delivered to you via email, and make free calls and send free text messages to anyone in the U.S. or Canada, with low rates to the rest of the world. Price: Free.
39. 8x8. Bundle your digital office together with 8x8s voice-over IP phones, managed hosting solutions, private and dedicated cloud server storage. Host virtual meetings, hold trainings, deliver presentations, send and receive faxes online, record and save calls and meetings, and access it all from your web browser or mobile device. Price: $29.99 - $49.99 and up per user, per month, depending on number of users and package.