Top Ten Mobile Tools for Small Business

By Gerry Blackwell | Posted December 16, 2009
Motorola Droid
The Motorola Droid
(Click for larger image)
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Do you remember what it was like to run a business before the Internet, before mobile phones and before you could carry your business in your pocket?  In this mobile era, those days seem positively quaint.

Of course it helps to have the right tool for the right job when you’re on the road, and in this case we’ve got 10. You can debate our picks if you like — go ahead — but we think you’ll have a tough time beating this line-up of essential products and services for on-the-go pros.

Motorola Droid  

A smartphone is arguably the essential mobile business tool. If you don’t want to follow the i-crowd, consider the Droid ($200). It has everything you need to connect and communicate: blazing 3G speed on Verizon’s EVDO Rev A network, Wi-Fi (b/g), GPS, Bluetooth and a 5-megapixel camera. You can input data using the Droid’s touchscreen, or type on the slide-out QWERTY keyboard (the world’s thinnest, according to Motorola).

This smartphone runs on Google’s Android 2.0 mobile operating system and integrates popular Google apps out of the box — including online synchronization with Gmail and Calendar, and GPS-powered turn-by-turn directions with Google Maps. (For the corporate minded, Droid also supports Microsoft Exchange.)

The processor (a 550 mHz Arm Cortex A8) is powerful enough to run multiple applications simultaneously. Droid comes with 16GB on a microSD card but supports up to 32GB, and its multimedia is state of the art — video capture and playback up to 720x480 pixels. International roaming? Oops, for that you’ll need a GSM-based carrier. Dare we mention the i-word?  

Plantronics Discovery 975  

For safe, hands-free, on-the-go communication a Bluetooth headset is another essential piece of gear. The Discovery 975 ($130), from market leader Plantronics, is new and top notch. It’s also the most elegantly minimalist we’ve seen, with a gel earbud speaker, invisible clip and a thin, straight mic boom.

Discovery 975 uses patented noise cancellation and wind noise reduction technologies for great sound, and it gets up to five hours of talk time on one battery charge (or a week on standby).  

HP Envy 13  

If you need even more computing power in your mobile arsenal, add a thin-and-light notebook. Hewlett-Packard’s hot new Envy 13 (pricing starts at $1,700) is built tough – with aluminum and magnesium alloys – and looks great. It’s less than an inch thick, with nicely molded corners and a frameless, edge-to-edge look. It weighs in at a scant 3.68 pounds.

Envy also packs desktop-grade power: Intel Core2 Duo processors from 1.6GHz (3MB L2 Cache) to 2.13GHz (6MB L2 Cache), 3 or 5 GB of DDR3 RAM and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 Graphics. It can run any application, however compute intensive — including producing HD-quality video using the included Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 software.

Envy also comes with Wi-Fi 11n wireless connectivity built in. And the 250GB hard drive has HP’s ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection — drop your Envy and the drive automatically locks to protect data.

Motorola Droid
The Motorola Droid
(Click for larger image)
.

Google Apps

Working in the cloud (i.e. Web-based software) while mobile — with services such as Google Apps ($50 per person per year) — adds flexibility and security. Data resides on secure servers, it’s accessible from any Internet-connected device, and that makes it easier to share and collaborate with clients and co-workers.

Gmail gives you 25GB of mail storage and guarantees 99.9 percent uptime. Google Calendar lets you share agendas and set up group calendars. Google Docs offers Microsoft Office-compatible online word processing, spreadsheet and presentation apps. Subscribers can create (or upload) and store 5,000 documents and/or presentations, with up to 5,000 attached images, plus 1,000 spreadsheets.

If you just need lots of online storage for backup, try Mozy: you can buy unlimited backup for $5/month.

PrinterOn

If you occasionally need to print a file from your laptop or smartphone while mobile, consider PrinterOn, a Web-based service. It lets you search for a nearby printer — they’re all over the world, many in Hilton hotel business centers — upload a file to be printed and then go to the location and pick it up.

In some cases, the local business won’t print your file until you arrive and give them your PrinterOn passcode. In others, they may print immediately (not so good for sensitive data). Prices range from $0.10 to $0.15/page for black and from $0.30 to $0.40/page for color.



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