If you own a business, especially one that's entirely online, it is likely that you've got a distributed workforce. That means your employees (and contractors and partners) are located in different countries around the world.
Running an online business efficiently--and productively--requires the use of various tools and apps that can help you properly communicate with your employees, collaborate easily on multiple projects and hence compensate for the lack of everyday face-to-face interaction that happens in a real world office.
Following are ten tools that every web based business owner should consider for greater efficiency and productivity. All of these general tools that can come in handy irrespective of the type of business you run.
Basecamp is without a doubt the most popular web-based project management tool. Its interface is simple and easy to use, lets you create multiple projects with various customizations, share files, create to-do lists and milestones, and do much more.
Zoho Projects is usually considered ahead of Basecamp for online project management in terms of features. However, it's viewed as slightly more difficult to use. Zoho Projects has been surging in popularity since it was launched, and you should take a look at it too.
Google Apps is a package of popular Google tools like Gmail, Google Docs and all, allotted specifically for your domain. Needless to say, it is must-have for any online small business owner, at least for Gmail on your domain if nothing else.
Zoho Suite also offers an impressive suite of online tools for businesses (Zoho projects, discussed above, being a part of it). Ranging from docs to wiki, reports to CRM and planner to invoice, there's a huge number of applications to choose from.
Hipchat is a cool group messaging service that is multi-platform, helps you share files, create chatrooms and lets you collaborate quickly with multiple people in real-time. It replaces the back and forth emails and hence saves time.
Yammer is another tool that aims to foster better communication among a group of people. It is a private social network for your business, and has an interface similar to popular social sites (like Twitter).
Any list that talks about tools for collaboration and conducting business can't be complete without Skype. Skype remains the defacto method for making audio and video calls online, helping people save tons in phone bills and communicate with friends and colleagues around the world.
Dropbox is a brilliant online backup and synchronization tool that has a host of features to suit individuals as well as small online business owners. It's easy to setup and has a decent free plan too.
Most of the online businesses require some form of invoicing and there's no better tool than Freshbooks. It helps you manage invoices, track time and even manage your accounts. If you are a freelancer or a service provider who manages a team of freelancers, this is an invoicing tool you should consider using.
Unless you are freelancer and don't own a site or a blog, chances are that your web business is centered around a website (or websites). Pingdom is a monitoring tool that alerts you via emails and SMS when your site goes down. This ensures that you know immediately about downtimes and can take swift action.
Last but not the least, we've got Nowdothis. This is the simplest of the tools mentioned so far, and yet extremely effective. It helps you get rid of the myriad to-do lists and lets you focus on one thing at a time. And that's the best way to actually get things done. :)
Written on 1/29/2011 by Abhijeet Mukherjee. Abhijeet is a blogger and web publisher from India. He loves all things tech as long as it aids in productivity. He edits Guiding Tech, a blog that publishes useful guides, tutorials and tools. Check it out and subscribe to its feed if you like the site. You can also find him on Twitter.