The great thing about including cloud-based apps into your business management plan is the ability to have everyone onboard with what’s going on, in real time!
No delays, miscommunications, or excuses for why things didn’t get done – reports not filed, expenses not noted, deadlines not met, emails that weren’t read, etc.
The following 10 business management and productivity apps are all available right now on the Google Apps Marketplace. Some are free to use for a limited amount of users, others include affordable upgrade options (when compared to the money and time they save). All are worth their (figurative) weight in gold!
1. Wrike (Project Management)
Wrike brings all the details of your projects together into a single, easy-to-read workspace. Managers can assign tasks to all their employees from anywhere there’s Internet access, employees can leave comments and questions related to various tasks or brainstorming sessions, files can be shared back and forth between assigned users. Vendors, contractors and other collaborators can be given access too, and allowed to leave comments by their assigned tasks for later review. There isn’t much you’d expect from a project management app that Wrike can’t do!
The app is free for small businesses with 5 or fewer employees, with varying degrees of upgraded services for larger and corporate businesses. Perhaps the biggest time-savings offered by an app like this is its ability to eliminate the inevitable and needless questioning/confirming emails, texts and phone calls that happen day-to-day among employees and various team members.
2. Expensify (Accounting & Finance)
This app is best known for its ability to seamlessly integrate with Quickbooks. Expense tracking in the cloud will take your business to a whole new level. It’ll also make your accounting department’s job a lot easier! Expensify is really easy to use and tracks all yours and your employee’s expenses, pulling credit card and banking data into the and stored in the cloud to be added to your expense reports.
The coolest feature is that users can scan and upload their paper receipts to the cloud from wherever they are and have it approved or denied on the spot. This service only costs $0.05 per receipt uploaded. The software can read the price paid, vendor name, and date without any further keystrokes or input from the uploader. If you’re just a one-man or one-woman show, everything but the receipt scanning feature is free to use. Businesses pay $5 a month per user.
3. Insightly (CRM)
Insightly is constantly ranked as the best CRM in the Google Apps Store, for good reason too. This app gives you all the tools you need to track customers from the very first contract they sign with your company. All employees registered with your Insightly account can add or edit customer details on the central contact list which includes all the customer’s information and every interaction the company’s had with them along the way.
The app also includes basic project and task management tools if you don’t need all the robust features offered by a dedicated project management app like Wrike. The free version is absolutely perfect for a small business with 3 or fewer employees. It offers tracking of up to 2,500 customers, 200 MB cloud storage (yeah, not so impressive), and the ability to add up to 40 custom fields into your database. They also offer affordable upgraded solutions for medium and large sized businesses.
4. CloudLock DLP (Cloud-Based Threat Security)
CloudLock is a world-renowned cyberthreat detection and elimination firm. This SaaS app runs silently in the background to monitor and protect all of your data stored in the Google cloud. This includes Drive, Docs, Google+ and all third party apps connected to your account. They have an industry leading pattern-matching monitoring system that provides by-the-second protection. Alerts are sent to you and your registered contacts as soon as a threat is identified, along with suggested steps you need to take in order to protect your data from being compromised.
Aside from the protection it offers from outside intruders, the nice thing about CloudLock is the app’s reporting features. Audit reports are available on-demand showing administrators who accessed your Google cloud data and when. Administrators can also receive alerts whenever the contents of their Drive account are accessed. Their prices start at $7 a year for small personal accounts, after a 7-day free trial.
5. Lucidchart (Diagram and Chart Creation)
Lucidchart is the most popular chart and diagram creation tool to be found anywhere. The main call to use this app over others is in its simplicity. The UI is made for putting together flow charts, graphs, product prototypes, design mockups, wireframes, and just about anything else required to add a strong visual to your meetings and brainstorming sessions.
The one drawback to this powerful tool is that they don’t offer much of anything for free with this one. You can try any of their packages for free for one month without giving your credit card info. But after that you’ll need to sign up for one of their plans in order to get any of the useful functionality they offer.
6. Hello Sign (“Legally Binding” Digital Signatures)
Hello Sign is about as basic and lightweight of a cloud-based digital signature as you can get. Unlike the other cloud apps reviewed on the page, there isn’t much to talk about here. It does what it says it does, allowing you to send and receive digital documents that require a legally binding signature (or “e-signature” in this case) such as service agreements, payment receipts, loan agreements, etc.
You can send up to 3 digitally signed documents per month for free or go unlimited for $13 a year (starting with a 30-day free trial). For $40 a month, you can get two-factor signer authentication and team management that allows you to add and remove members of your staff (with signing permissions) as needed and other bonus features.
7. Boomerang for Gmail (Online Email Tracking and Scheduling)
Boomerang is a sweet and simple email tracker and scheduler. You can schedule emails to be sent at a later date and/or time, perfect if you’re the type who sets aside a specific block of time every day to deal with your email and don’t read or send any after that set time period. You can track when recipients read and respond to your queries, if they clicked any links you sent, and how long they spent reading it.
The app can also notify you when you haven’t received replies to emails you’ve sent within a set time period. This is great for outsourcing and all-round project management, when you’re sending multiple emails all over; reducing the worry of costly delays if you forget to follow up with someone. You can use it to track 10 emails per month free, or upgrade to unlimited for $5 a month. The premium, $50 a month package offers integration with your Salesforce account.
8. Zoho Campaigns (Email and Social)
Zoho Campaigns is much more feature-rich when it comes to setting up email marketing campaigns than Boomerang described above. They offer fully integrated list building and list management. You can customize your opt-in and email pages using the templates they offer, set up A/B split tests for your mass-mailing campaigns, and then sit back and wait for the results to start pouring in. Their free plan allows for 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails per month. The paid plans are really flexible, offering affordable per-use and monthly pricing plans.
The API for this app is really slick and informative. You don’t have to be an email marketing expert to understand what’s going on with your emails. Total recipients, opened, unopened, clicked, unsubscribed, marked spam, forwarded – all this information comes up as soon as you open the app, along with detailed information about each recipient. You can also schedule delivery for whatever time you want and set up timed social posts on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn too.
9. Gqueues (Google Apps Task Manager)
Gqueues can integrate with your Google Apps calendar to help you schedule and track all your important tasks. It offers drag and drop functionality so you can add tasks from your office or personal computer. The free version includes limited but important features like recurring items, public task sharing (viewing only), the ability to add subtasks and dependencies, and “Smart Queues” which allows you to filter by date, priority, etc. The app also doesn’t integrate with Drive in the free version, nor is it available for your mobile devices without upping to the yearly paid plan.
Some of the other more attractive features offered by this task management app aren’t offered in their free plan, which is a bit of a bummer. However, their paid version is only $25 a year and includes Google Apps Calendar integration, email reminders, total task sharing collaboration (i.e., unlimited predefined users can edit as well as view tasks from anywhere), and you can add their app extension to use in Chrome from your desktop or laptop.
10. Spanning Backup (Enterprise Backup and Restore Solution)
If you’ve done any research into enterprise-level cloud backup solutions, you already know that most start at around $5 per month, per computer or device. That pricing is on the low end of the spectrum and bandwidth on the cheap plans is almost always below most teenager’s needs, much less those of a business.
For $40 a year, Spanning Backup gives you unlimited bandwidth, automated and on-demand daily backups, and best of all: a 100% guarantee that you’ll always be able to restore lost files, exactly as they were before the screw-up occurred! It’s insane to imagine a cloud backup provider offering such a guarantee. For an extra $8 a year, you can integrate the service with your Salesforce account. They’re also beta-testing integration with Office 365 as of this writing.
Now over to you…
Which ones of the above have you been using for your business? What do you think of them? Please share your thoughts.