As a business owner, you likely spend more time away from your desk than at it—and just a few years ago that was a real hardship. Sure, you had your cell phone, but life on the go meant late nights spent doing all the tasks that required your computer and the software that lived on it.
Welcome to the "post-PC" era. Today's powerful smartphones and tablets have a universe of apps that let you get real work done on the go, and many of them interface with online cloud services that take handle much of the heavy lifting once performed only by desktop software.
So from accounting to word processing and a bunch of letters in between, we list our favorite business-oriented mobile apps and cloud services to help you keep your enterprise humming—when you can't be there to run it.
Essential Mobile Business Apps and Cloud Services
Granted, balancing the books is a tad more mission-critical than reaching the next level in Flow Free, so it's a task you don't want to relegate solely to your phone. But combine a mobile app with a secure online service, and you can set yourself free. That's the thinking behind one of our favorite cloud services and its associated apps.
Figure 1: FreshBooks puts the full power of this online accounting service in the palm of your hand.
FreshBooks is a simple-to-use online accounting service designed specifically for small businesses. It lets you create and send invoices, accept online payments, track expenses and receipts, track and bill for time spent on a given project, generate P&L reports and much more. The smartly designed mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices, lets you check on your business data and enter transactions from anywhere.
If you typically leave the heavy lifting to your accountant but still need to check on sales and expenses in a timely manner, then a bookkeeping app is the perfect solution. Outright.com (which is in the midst of morphing into a service called Online Bookkeeping under new owner, GoDaddy) lets you quickly and easily enter expenditures and revenue and categorize each. Come tax time, each transaction is flagged in an IRS-friendly way.
You can even have Outright watch your business bank account and import transactions automatically. The iOS mobile app lets you check on your financials when you're away from your PC by giving you an overview of you profit and loss picture, alerting you of new deposits, and letting you track your expenses.
Yes, your Android or iOS operating system already has a calendar tool, and both Google and Apple have done a pretty good job on those apps. But you can do better. For Android device owners, Business Calendar (by Appgenix Software) is a slick, graphical app that lets you set a multi-day view (from 1 to 14 days) that suits you, or set the view by month, day, agenda or event. You can set up recurring events and use drag-and-drop mode to move and copy events. You can enter events manually, of course, or have the app automatically sync with your Google calendars.
Figure 2: Cal is a beautifully designed calendar app for the iPhone that makes it easy to stay on top of appointments and tasks.
For iPhone and iPad fans, Cal (by Any.do) is perhaps the most elegantly designed of the umpteen calendar apps you'll find on the App Store. A swipe of your finger lets you scroll though the upcoming days. Land on one and you can see in words (and pictures, where appropriate) where you have to be and, when synced with Any.do's equally visual task list, what you have to do.
One problem with a mobile workforce is that, well, no one is ever at the same place at the same time. That's why many small business owners have discovered Campfire. A team-collaboration service featuring real-time chat, Campfire is like instant messaging for groups. You can share text files for others to see and annotate, and the transcripts of the chat are automatically saved so nobody has to madly jot notes as the meeting unfolds.
The iOS app for iPhone and iPad users features a streamlined user interface, in-line viewing of popular file formats (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), in-line YouTube viewing, access to all your Campfire rooms and more.
VIPorbit, an end-to-end contact management platform for Apple's Mac and iOS platforms, lets you manage contacts, calendars and communications in one place. The cloud service and associated mobile apps can manage contact details, including names, multiple addresses (physical and email) and social media accounts, plus 14 customizable fields to track whatever else you need.
It can import contacts from your device's address book, Google accounts, LinkedIn, Facebook and even Twitter. The built-in calendar displays day, week, month and list views, and works with Apple and Google calendars. You can then link related events and tasks to each contact, and store a chronological log of all completed and upcoming activities related to each contact.