25 must-have technologies for small businesses

Running a small business can be extremely stressful, but these 25 must-have technologies will help your SMB succeed

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Moreover, like every other business, small businesses expose themselves to data breaches when employees are out of the office. One tool to help prevent this is 19) Pocket Desktop, an encrypted USB drive that stores all of your important information (files, banking info, emails, etc.) and lets you take your desktop with you and keep it secure in the process.

Remove the USB drive from, say a home PC, and you leave no trace that you were ever there, and there is nothing left over for someone to steal. A 4GB drive costs $20, while a 16GB one is $60.

Have you ever done something at a hotspot you shouldn't have? Maybe you checked your credit card account to make sure you paid your bill on time, or you logged into your bank to check your account status. On public hotspots, this is risky business.

20) Hotspot Shield combines the malware protection of an antivirus program with the privacy capabilities of a VPN. Hotspot shield encrypts your connection to a WiFi network, and you can even use it with mobile devices. The service is free if you don't mind seeing ads, or you can remove the ads and get faster service for $30 per year.

Most small business owners grant app permissions to all sorts of things. It's impossible not to these days. The problem is that this exposes tons of your personal information and could set you up for identity theft. With the cloud-based service 21) MyPermissions, small businesses can track the permissions they grant to apps and sites and remove or control those permissions. MyPermissions will notify you when new apps have been unknowingly granted access.

You can run it as a browser plug-in for your desktop and also download an app for your smartphone. The service will even email you monthly reminders to check your privacy settings. I ran it on Chrome and found that four apps that I no longer use still have access to my information. With two simple clicks, I was able to close them down.

Boosting online performance

Since pretty much every business has an online presence, it's important to make sure the online component of your business is a sail, not an anchor. Yet most small businesses lack the resources and expertise to properly maintain and secure their sites. Enter 22) CloudFlare. This service protects sites from spambots and malicious distributed DoS attacks and helps boost site performance.

CloudFlare features a "learning network," which means that new attacks on any website are automatically detected and blocked for both the website under attack and the entire community. Thus, as more and more sites sign up for CloudFlare, the network grows smarter and protection gets better. You can get started with CloudFlare for free.

23) SiteApps is a service that taps into Google Analytics to make recommendations for how you can improve your website. For instance, I launched a new site, Startup50, at the end of January. I ran SiteApps and learned that a significant number of readers access my site from tablets. SiteApps recommended a tool that would create a mobile optimized version of my site which I had actually already done through the WordPress plugin Jetpack. It also found that users were spending less time on my site than in they were a few weeks ago. SiteApps pointed out that it was probably a faulty Google Analytics measurement and showed me how to correct it.Other apps that may be recommended to you include lead-capture forms, social media widgets, user segmentation surveys, etc. You can get started with SiteApps for free.


Small businesses looking to boost their mobile presence can use 24) Bizness Apps to develop, edit and manage mobile apps without having to learn any coding. Business owners start the process with a mobile template, customize it to match their business needs and then Bizness Apps turns them into native apps and distributes them to the iOS and Android markets.

Pricing starts at $29 per month for an optimized mobile website and runs $59 per month for mobile app creation, analysis and management.

If you are a small business with fleet vehicles (caterers, taxi companies, landscapers, etc.), you should look into the service from 25) Fleetmatics. Using GPS, business owners can track fleet vehicles in real-time and help them avoid congested routes, prevent unauthorized trips and even eliminate time sheet fraud.

San Francisco-based customer Atlas Towing says that it is on track to save $16,000 in fuel costs this year through improved routing and the elimination of excessive idling.

Jeff Vance is a Santa Monica-based writer. He's the founder of Startup50, a site devoted to emerging tech startups, and he also founded the content marketing firm, Sandstorm Media. Follow him on Twitter @JWVance.

Read more about PC in Network World's PC section.

This story, "25 must-have technologies for small businesses" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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