6. WatchDox: Secure Document Sharing
Many small businesses must share sensitive information with other people on a regular basis, such as marketing briefs that describe products under development, financial documents, human resource records, non-disclosure statements, and legal contracts. For documents that need an extra layer of security, there's WatchDox.
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For example, when sharing a document via WatchDox, you can prevent recipients from printing, copying or forwarding the document; set an expiration date (after which a recipient can no longer view the document); or obtain tracking information relative to a recipient's interaction with a document. You can even prevent people from taking a screen shot of a document they're viewing on a monitor.
WatchDox is primarily a software-as-a-service product, though there's a new Windows-based app for uploading multiple documents at once to your online WatchDox "virtual data room." WatchDox also offers a Microsoft Office plug-in that lets you send secure documents from Outlook and view and edit protected files in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
WatchDox plans begin at $50 per month for a one person, with 200 MB of file storage, a maximum document size of 10 MB, and up to five recipients per document.
7. Basecamp: Project Management
Basecamp is a Web-based collaboration and project management tool popular with many small businesses (and some big ones, too), for which the software serves as a kind of Intranet. Marketing guru and author Seth Godin is an avowed Basecamp advocate as well.
Basecamp makes it easy (or easier, at least) to simultaneously juggle multiple projects. The software lets you create to-do lists for each project and assign people to each task. It offers file sharing, a message board, and the capability to track milestones and time spent on tasks, among other features.
The least expensive Basecamp plan is $24 per month after a free 30-day trial. It's designed for small groups that only need to manage up to 15 projects at a time and don't need time tracking. Other plans are $49, $99 and $149 per month.
8. Yammer: Messaging Within the Company
Yammer is like Twitter and Facebook, but private. With Yammer, any company can have its own social network for instant business communications. Employees, contractors, clients and anyone else you invite can quickly share information and ask questions via status updates. Members of a Yammer network can post their own profiles, with contact info and photo. And all this information becomes a searchable archive.
You can "yammer" in a Web browser, using the Yammer Windows or Mac desktop applications, or via apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Android devices. A basic Yammer account is free, while more full-featured plans are $3 or $5 per user per month, depending on the features.
9. Google Calendar: Group Scheduling
Microsoft Outlook tied to Microsoft Exchange Server is the corporate standard for calendaring, as well for as email and contacts. But for most small businesses, Outlook/Exchange is overkill and too expensive.
Google Calendar is a more sensible -- and free -- alternative. GCal, as it's called, makes it easy to share your calendar with other people in your organization. They can see their own Google Calendar appointments as well as yours in one Web browser calendar.
Each calendar is color coded, so you can easily tell them apart. And you can hide the details of your appointments from each person with whom you share calendars. They'll simply see that, say, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Friday you're busy, without knowing that's your regularly scheduled yodeling lesson.
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You could also maintain and share a company-wide calendar, with team project deadlines and such, for all to see. You can easily hide or view other calendars. And you can sync Google Calendar easily with your smartphone's calendar app, as well as with Outlook, iCal on the Mac and other calendar software.
10. TimeBridge: Meetings, Web and Audio Conferences
Google Calendar helps you schedule appointments with co-workers because you can see, at a glance, when they're available. But often, you need to meet with people outside the company. That's where TimeBridge comes in.
TimeBridge eliminates the back and forth in email when two or more people try to find a time to meet. Using TimeBridge, you can give each meeting invitee a choice of up to five date and time choices. Invitees receive an email with a link to the TimeBridge site, where they can vote for their choices (the options are No, Yes and Best). Based on how people vote, TimeBridge determines the winner.
TimeBridge works with Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar and the iPhone, and you can use it from any Web browser. A basic plan is free, while plans with more features -- such as the capability to conduct audio and Web conferences (with video chat) -- begin at $14 per month after a 30-day free trial.James A. Martin has written about technology since the 80s and is coauthor of Getting Organized in the Google Era.
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