Software tools for small businesses

Running a small business can be expensive. You may be one of the lucky few with easy access to funding, but for the vast majority of small business owners money is tight and finding and it is key to find the best and most cost-effective tools for each task. Whether you are looking to get your finances in order, better manage your customer relationships, improve your web presence, or just about anything else we have the tools for you.

Website builder

WordPress powers a third of the web, including this very site, and they have got there thanks to a robust open source platform and a great product that lets anyone get their site online for free (or very low cost if you want some extras like a custom domain).

There are a number of competitors out there, like Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly, but for its extendability and features it is difficult to go wrong with WordPress. You can get a site up and running for free within minutes, and if you do decide you want some premium features the costs remain lower than most other options.

Online surveys

Business metrics are great, but to really know how your company is doing and where it should improve then you should be asking your customers directly. Paying customers might not be happy customers, and if you really want to focus on user/customer retention then online feedback tools are fantastic.

You could just email out a general survey to all customers using any number of free survey tools, or there are other more advanced tools that offer deeper integration into your digital services and can provide feedback that gets both a better return rate and more precise information.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Everyone needs to start being more careful with their data, and an easy first step is to encrypt all traffic on work computers, tablets, and phones using a VPN.

There are hundreds of VPN options to choose from, with prices ranging from free to £10+ per month per user. It is important to make sure the company you choose to encrypt your data is trustworthy and offers strong privacy protections along with fast servers spread around the globe. And for this reason, two VPN providers consistently come top of the review tables – NordVPN and ExpressVPN, both of which look quite expensive for a monthly subscription, but can be extremely cost-effective when buying three or more years upfront.

Password manager

Whilst many of the apps we log into on our phones are now protected with a thumbprint, passwords remain the most common way to log into websites and webservices used by all companies large and small. It is near impossible to create and remember truly secure passwords for the dozens of sites and services we all use every day, and so to make sure their employees are using strong passwords and the company’s data is secure, firms should encourage everyone in the company to use a password manager like the ones offered by LastPass and 1Password.

Both of these firms offer great tools that integrate with all platforms and browsers, and which one to choose will depend on each company’s exact use case, but the important thing is to get everyone using such tools and to enforce the use of strong 16+ character passwords.

Accounting software

Some founders are numbers people, but most don’t hugely enjoy keeping on top of the company’s finances – it is a boring but important task. Luckily, whilst Excel has been the go-to tool for decades, the last few years has seen the growth of web-based accountancy apps that do a lot of the heavy lifting for you without the need for complex Excel equations.

Xero is generally regarded as leading the field in online accountancy web-apps with great integration options with a variety of other tools, but its competitors are snapping at its heels – the likes of Wave (free) and Quickbooks are also great options.

Photograph by Snapwire