Right strategy combined with the right tools leads to business success. Small business owners don’t always need expensive enterprise software.  Evaluate your needs and wants and match them with the right mix of freely available or low-cost software tools.

1. SkyDrive is part of Microsoft’s Windows Live suite, offering users 25 GB of free space to store and share documents, photos and other files. It is an excellent choice for professionals who are used to working in the Windows environment with Microsoft Office suite. It offers a very simple file system and users can determine who can access them. You need to create a free Windows Live account to access SkyDrive, it’s allowable to use an existing email address. Social features [Hotmail,Messenger] are included and can definitely be useful to mobile workers.

When you are connected to the Internet and logged in to SkyDrive, iPad2 or iPhone 4S displays PowerPoint presentations and Word documents very well. The Digital AV or VGA adapter lets your iPhone 4S or iPad2 mirror everything from its internal screen onto the external projector display during presentations at meetings.

2. Dropbox offers 2 GB of space for free subscriptions and up to 100 GB per paid account is available. If you use Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, you can now upload files by dragging them from your desktop onto the Dropbox website. For every friend you invite that installs Dropbox, both you and your friend get 500 MB of free space. Users with a free account can invite up to 32 people for a total of 16 GB of extra space. Pro accounts now earn 1 GB per referral, for a total of 32 GB of extra space.  Dropbox works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.  It is very convenient to edit files in your Dropbox from your phone. As an added useful feature, Dropbox keeps a one-month history of your work. One of my clients stores separate folders for each of his customers in Dropbox. He can easily access these files wherever he is and whenever he chooses to collaborate on projects.

3. Google Docs provide a free alternative to the Microsoft Office suite, great for real-time collaboration, very intuitive and easy to use. Everyone working with Google Docs needs a Gmail account. Users can invite other users by email to either view or edit their documents. Therefore, you can share a spreadsheet with coworkers in your office or virtual team to get their input on a budget or any other project.  Users can view and edit Google Docs across multiple computers.  Small business owners can create and use Google forms and spreadsheets to collect data that can be easily organized, stored and shared.  I personally use Google Spreadsheets the most as it is easier to use than Excel.

4. If you need to keep track of your documents, milestones and more extensive projects, you may want to take a look at Central Desktop.  It has several collaboration options so you can communicate with everyone who is involved.  It is possible to monitor anything from the smallest task to the biggest milestone. Pricing depends on the size of your team and the file storage capacity.

5. My Skype calls are more efficient now than couple of years ago as I can send documents, photos or presentations to people I work with and talk to via Skype.

Now you can also video call your friends on Facebook direct from Skype and instant message with your Facebook friends.  Skype’s iPhone app lets users make video calls and voice calls as well as text chats for free, but the app isn’t always quick to load.  I prefer Skype app for Android that I mostly use for my international calls.

People have different working habits and the introduction and implementation of these tools can rise a set of different issues.  Happy collaborating!

Varju Luceno

About Varju Luceno

Varju is a marketing consultant, writer, and a digital technology enthusiast. Varju also speaks on technology and digital marketing related topics and strongly believes in promoting innovative ideas and accessible technologies. Her content is practical and based on real world experience.