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Top 7 free tools for small business

Starting a new business is tough! Especially when you're bootstrapping the business from your own savings or drip feeding it from income generated from small sales. You are always going to be looking at reducing costs to the point where you will try find way not to spend money unneccesarily, at the same time seeking to improve productivity and efficiency, one of the key areas to make changes is how to efficiently use Information Technology. Often the IT cost centre for alot of new businesses can be crippling.

A little over a decade ago, making use of I.T. was seen as a way of gaining a competitive edge over your competitors. Times have changed and now IT is so ingrained in most organisations, that it is only a means to remain competitive. To truly maximise the returns on any investment into your IT infrastructure you need to ensure, that the products and services you invest in provide the greatest value with a minimum investment.

In this guide we will provide you with the best of the FREE tools for small business available for you get the best out of your IT infrastructure, without losing efficiency and productivity.

Operating Systems

1. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

Probably the most fundamental of all decisions,  when deciding a base platform for your business is which operating system to choose. The modern business landscape has changed drastically, and the demand for agility, stability and productivity are at their highest. The days of Microsoft Windows being the brand you can trust have gone, there are a plethora of operating systems available each with their own strengths, weaknesses and vendor locks ins. This model worked fine for the past few decades, but not now.

The modern business needs an operating system, that is flexible, stable, innovative and at the same time predictable. With this in mind I believe, the Linux operating system is the key for business. Specifically the Ubuntu operating system with it's Long Term Support (LTS) releases is vital. The LTS service agreement means you'll always have the latest and greatest applications that the open source world has to offer with a 5 years support.

Ubuntu also enables you to get extra life out of your old laptops & desktops which maybe Windows XP compatible, but not Windows or 8.

Installing Ubuntu is super Easy, and clear human readable instructions are available on the Website.

Office Productivity Suite

2. Libre Office

One of the great benefits of using Ubuntu as your default operating system, is that it come pre-installed with Libre Office, which is an office productivity suite similar to Microsoft Office.

LibreOffice is a powerful office suite; its clean interface and powerful tools let you unleash your creativity and grow your productivity. LibreOffice embeds several applications that make it the most powerful Free & Open Source Office suite on the market: Writer, the word processor, Calc, the spreadsheet application, Impress, the presentation engine, Draw, our drawing and flowcharting application, Base, our database and database frontend, and Math for editing mathematics.

Download Libre Office Free

3. Apache Open Office

Another great free open source alternative to Microsoft Office. Essentially Libre Office and Open Office orginated from the same Code base, but they are actively maintained by two separate communities.

Download Open Office free

Cloud Storage

4. Copy

Copy helps keep your amazing things (like photos, videos and documents) handy everywhere, safe and easy to share with others. The great thing is you get 15 GB of FREE storage. Which is great when you're starting out. Your account will be able to have up to 5 people to have access .
Download Copy free

5. Dropbox

Although DropBox only offers 2GB of storage, it is still handy to create an account make use of it, primarily because it is a little more known throughout the business community. I suggest you create an account, but primarily use it as a secondary storage account, and mostly for swapping files with customers.

Download Dropbox Free


6. Evernote

Probably the most common thing every start-up entrepreneur or small business owner spends most waken hours doing is note taking. Whether it be a new idea for blog post, adjust to your business plan,  ideas for your next marketing plan, notes from a client meeting.  You'll spend a huge amount of your time taking notes!  You'll need to synchronise your notes across a multitude of devices i.e. Your Phone, tablet, laptop, dekstop at all times. You'll need the ability to just pick up a device and get too work.

Evernote makes it easy to remember things big and small from your everyday life using your computer, phone, tablet and the web.

A free suite of products and services designed to make note taking and archiving easy for the small business owner.

Sign Up for EverNote Free

7. NeverNote

Nevernote is an open source clone of the Evernote desktop application. While nevernote is designed to work with evernote, it is in no way connected.

Nevernote will enable you to connect to your evernote account on your laptop or desktop computer. It provides a very easy to use user interface to assist you in taking and managing your notes. Personally I can't live without it.

Download nevernote free

Although this is not a comprehensive toolkit, and there are many more great tools and applications out there, these tools are probably the tools you will spend the vast majority of your time. Furthermore, what is great about these tools is even though they are free, they are robust and all your data will be safe and they are scalable enough to grow with your business.

Gary Woodfine
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