Online Business Application Roundup

Modern buildingWe’ve added (and dropped) a few applications since our last online application roundup. Here are the 5 main reasons we use online applications in our work and to run our business:

1. Platform neutrality. We use both Macs and Windows machines, so platform neutral applications are a must.

2. Ease of information sharing. Online applications allow us to keep everything in one place so that the information can be shared easily among several users without having to maintain a company server.

3. Access from anywhere. When an application is on the Internet, accessing it from different computers or devices is a breeze.

4. Backup and security. Online business applications that come with file storage take care of daily backups and secure your information. One less thing to worry about!

5. Frequent improvements. Because the applications are housed on the provider’s servers, there’s no software for you to upgrade. Poof! Improvements just appear.

Our Core Online Business Applications & Services

1. 37Signals has 4 main offerings: Highrise (contact management), Basecamp (project management), Backpack (information management & calendar), and Campfire (secured chat). We use everything but Campfire and appreciate that 37 signals offers a variety of packages and price points, as well as 30-day trials. Products are feature-rich and the quality is always top-notch.

2. Quickbooks Online. We made the switch from a desktop version of Quickbooks to the online version because it integrates with our merchant account and allows off-site access without any need for us to worry about emailing data files. The ability to automatically generate and email monthly reports is an added bonus that keeps us on track to meet our goals.

3. Toggl. We use Toggl for time tracking and although Basecamp and Quickbooks have time tracking abilities, Toggl fits our needs better for now. There are both free and paid account options.

4. Crashplan is an easy-to-use, automated online backup service. Even though we store many project files on Basecamp, we still keep lots of files on our computers and back them up to Crashplan’s servers. We switched from Mozy to Crashplan because Mozy dropped their unlimited storage plan. Crashplan offers a 30-day trial.

5. Hootsuite is a social networking dashboard that brings your updates from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare (and a few other networks), into one place and makes it easy to post or schedule posts to your different accounts. A paid subscription will also allow you to coordinate social networking efforts among your team or employees.

6. Google Reader is a free RSS feed reader that helps us keep track of the latest news from our favorite websites and blogs. We subscribe to RSS feeds from blogs and news sites so that new posts are easily accessible in one place–Google Reader. Keeping up with the latest trends and techniques is a must for a web company and not having to make the rounds of many sites saves our sanity. Here’s a quick video on Using RSS Feeds to Keep Up with Information.

7. Gmail is Google’s free and fabulous email service. We often choose to have social networking notifications, listserves, and newsletters sent to our Gmail addresses to minimize clutter in our individual email inboxes. Having an account for informational emails that don’t require responses is important because it frees up our business emails for active work with clients, partners, and projects. Gmail’s highly accurate spam filter is an added bonus.

8. Delicious is a free social bookmarking site that allows us to keep and organize our professional bookmarks online and then easily share them with others. Individual bookmarks can be public or private, and you can use the Delicious site to send bookmarks directly to other users. Since it’s a web-based service you can access your bookmarks from any computer or web device.

9. Scribe is an SEO tool that integrates beautifully into WordPress (our website/blogging platform), making it easy to write search engine friendly text for sites or blog posts. After writing your text, just run an evaluation to see how it will appear to search engines. You get instant feedback on your writing and SEO efforts, as well as helpful explanations on how to make improvements. After reviewing feedback you can make text changes, run the evaluation again, and see how your efforts score. Scribe subscriptions have different price points based on the number of evaluations run per month. Expect to run 4-5 evaluations per blog post at first, then as your skills improve you’ll probably need fewer evaluations to achieve search engine friendly results.

10. MailChimp is a very easy-to-use email blast service that can be integrated into your social networking efforts. MailChimp provides a number of email templates or, if you know html, you can create your own. Choose from free or paid levels of service.

11. GoToMeeting is an online meeting service that we use for internal meetings and to work with clients. Not only do online meetings cut down on local travel, which in the Washington metro area is a must, they also improve our quality and ease of work with clients across the country. Explore the many ways online meetings can support your business goals with a free 30-day trial.

12. Jing lets us create 5 minute videos and selectively share them with clients on the Web. For example, using a headset microphone and a browser we can give clients a visual tour of their website during design and development. Jing comes in free and low-cost flavors.

What online business applications do you depend on?

Full disclosure: We participate in MailChimp’s monkey rewards program and Scribe’s affiliate program because we use, know, love, and recommend their products.