Meet the Best Small Business Products of the Year - Page 2

By SmallBusinessComputing.com Staff
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Intro     Hardware     Software/Services     E-Commerce

When it comes to what small businesses prefer in software and services, voters tended to lean towards the tried and true. This year's Excellence in Technology Awards winners are an established — you might even say venerable — bunch.

WordPerfect has been a favorite of small businesses since DOS ruled the desktop. The brand hasn't been center stage for a long time, but its latest application suite may be poised to regain a share of the spotlight.

When we reviewed WordPerfect Office 12, we said that the greatest challenge its publisher, Corel, faced was to get people to consider WordPerfect, Quattro Pro and Presentations in a market ruled by Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It's clear that Corel met that challenge, as it was an easy winner in the Productivity Software category (comfortably beating runners-up FileMaker Pro 7 and OpenOffice.org 1.3 Office Suite). We can't be certain why you voted for it, but we know why we liked it. It's an affordably priced word processing, spreadsheet and presentation combo that mixes in friendly formatting help and built-in Adobe Acrobat PDF output (something Microsoft stubbornly refuses to add). (Read our review.)

Software & Services
WordPerfect Office 12
      OpenOffice.org 1.3 Office Suite
      FileMaker Pro 7
      SAP Business One
QuickBooks 2005
      Peachtree Premium Accounting 2005
      QuickBooks SimpleStart
      Business Plan Pro 2005
Norton Internet Security
      Ad-Aware SE Professional Edition
      Cloudmark Exchange Edition
      Trend Micro's NeatSuite for SMB
      Eset NOD32
Paint Shop Pro 9
      Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0
      CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12
      Adobe InDesign CS
      PageMaker Edition

Sales/Customer Management
ACT! 2005
      SAP Business One
Wi-Fi Service Provider
Macromedia Breeze
      Groove Virtual Office 3.0
      Convoq ASAP Pro
Internet Tool
Firefox 1.0
      Microsoft Small Business Center
      EVault Small Business Edition
      Verio Remote Backup

QuickBooks 2005 was again the runaway winner in the Accounting/Finance category. It's not that there aren't other good accounting packages out there (just look at runner-up Peachtree Premium Accounting 2005), but they just can't seem to make a move on Intuit's QuickBooks. The latest iteration of the small business package features QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll, an optional, fee-based payroll service. The service supports state payroll tax forms and deposit slips for dozens of states and can fill in forms for payroll data, which you can print and mail to state tax agencies. The other new features simply make the perennial bestseller just a little bit better. (Read our review.)

We wish we could report that it wasn't a big year for security software and services, but spam, viruses, adware and other creatures of the Net continue to haunt small businesses. The good news is that with vigilance and the right tools you can keep the hounds at bay. It was not a big surprise to see Norton Internet Security takes top honors as SMBs continue to show faith in the integrated suite of anti-virus, personal firewall, intrusion detection, privacy control, parental control and anti-spam components. Readers also told us that fending off spyware and adware is a priority, picking Lavasoft's Ad-Aware SE Professional Edition as runner-up. (Read more about computer security.)

If there was a poster child for the try-before-you-buy shareware model, you could make a case for Paint Shop Pro 9. Small business owners seem to agree as they voted it the best Graphics/Multimedia application. It boasts almost everything Adobe Photoshop offers (and a few things it doesn't), and it does it for a fraction of the cost: For $100 you can download and use it for free for the first 30 days. (Read WinPlanet.com's review of Paint Shop Pro 9) Tying for the runners-up spot are CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0

Among a crowd of new-millennium, hosted CRM applications, readers stuck with an old favorite. The latest version of ACT! took the award for Best Sales/Customer Management product. ACT! 2005 represents the latest incarnation of an application that is virtually synonymous with the phrase "contact management." ACT! 2005 is available in two versions, one for single users and small teams of up to ten users and ACT! 2005 Premium for Workgroups that offers collaboration for workgroups of up to 50 users. As small businesses start to seek more CRM features (though they may not call it that), ACT! appears to be right in line.

While it takes a lot for an SMB to venture into new territory, Salesforce.com's (one of those new-millenium hosted CRM applications) is winning software-as-a-service converts. The Web-based CRM product had strong showing as a runner-up.

When it came to picking their favorite wireless service provider, small businesses were loud clear about their favorite. T-Mobile racked up more than twice as many votes as Boingo and Wayport combined.

No longer the biggest wireless service provider in the U.S. (Wayport just passed it in terms of number of hotspots), T-Mobile is the most secure as it's the first vendor to offer 802.1X authentication to all users. To use the new authentication, you need only get the new T-Mobile Connection Manager software (version 1.5). Using a subscriber's username and password, it authenticates the user using the 802.1X specification. This security goes the extra mile by encrypting data between the wireless client and the access point hardware in the hotspot once you're logged in.

T-Mobile HotSpot boasts more than 5,300 locations in Starbucks coffee shops, Borders bookstores, FedEx Kinko's Office and Print Centers and many airports and hotels.

While large enterprises have tapped collaboration software and services for years, the idea of Web conferencing is only starting to draw the attention of small businesses that are reluctant to get locked into high monthly fees. Macromedia took a step toward helping Web conferencing adoption with the release of Pay-Per-Use Macromedia Breeze Live. In addition to the 32-cents-per-user-per-minute, pay-as-you-go pricing model, small businesses apparently appreciate that Breeze Live, being a Flash-based application, doesn't require participants to download any additional software. (Macromedia claims that 90 percent of PCs in use today have Flash installed.) One of the attractions of Macromedia's new pricing policy is that once you establish an account, you can maintain meeting rooms, a feature designed to ensure that recurring sales and client meetings can take place without requiring setup and configuration each time. (Additional coverage.)

In keeping with the affordable and accessible Web conferencing theme, the choice for runner-up was GoToMeeting.com. The $49 per month service (for one meeting organizer plus up to 10 attendees) allows you to have as many meetings as you want to hold for as long as you want to hold them. (Additional coverage.)

It's no secret that Firefox 1.0 is picking up steam as an alternative to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. So it should be no surprise that small businesses made the open-source browser their overwhelming choice for best Internet tool. At a time when the Internet seems more threatening than ever, there's no denying the sense of security that you'll find using Mozilla's FireFox. Claiming runner-up honors is Microsoft Small Business Center — formerly bCentral, the portal site that offers advice, information and a suite of online tools designed to make running a Web-based business easy and cost effective.

Page 1: Hardware Winners | Page 2: Software/Services Winners | Page 3: E-Commerce Winners

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This article was originally published on January 28, 2005
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