1. Web 2.0 Tools for Running your Business

    Here is a list of great “web 2.0” tools that can help you run your web design or development company smoothly and hopefully help you reduce your current overhead.

    This list is focused more on the operational side of business, not necessarily on the design or development aspects of the business. I’ll update the site with applications and services specific to those aspects at a later date.

    Payroll & Billing

    harvest-logo-800-300x119Harvest – Harvest is a fantastic billing tool for small to medium design / development companies as it scales to your needs and allows you to track the billing aspects of your projects from anywhere in the world.

    It integrates nicely with 3rd party apps and tools through their powerful API, and also integrates with 37signals products like Highrise and Basecamp allowing for a fairly seamless suite of tools.

    Features include: elegant invoicing, time tracking, expenses, and other features that you’d expect from a billing system. One thing that is extremely useful for many businesses is the Quickbooks integration which allows you to export your data in a Quickbooks friendly format for more advanced reports and taxes.

    Website: www.getharvest.com | Twitter: @Harvest | Cost: $40/mo (Popular Plan)

    Runner Up: www.freshbooks.com

    Customer Support

    Zendesk – I’ve been a Zendesk customer for most of 2009, and I have to say, it’s easily one of the most powerful and stress-free support / ticket systems we’ve ever used. The company itself offers amazing support for their product and have created a great community of fans from their customer base, as I’ve written about before!

    The application itself is fairly simple, with a easy to navigate UI. However, don’t let the simplicity fool you, it packs a wide array of helpful features, widgets, and tools to help your company provide great technical support and responsiveness to your customers.

    The tool features web and email ticket creation and after 5-6 months of use, I really don’t have anything to complain about it.

    Website: www.zendesk.com | Twitter: @Zendesk | Cost: $39/mo (Popular Plan)

    Runner Up: www.lighthouseapp.com

    Phone Systems

    logoRing Central – Why businesses are still paying for phone lines from the traditional telecom companies is beyond me. VIOP and other services have been offering amazing services coupled with phone service for far too long for people to be ignorant of their benefits.

    I’ve been Ring Central in ’09 to manage all inbound calls to our company and have found Ring Central to be a great tool with enterprise level capabilities that work great for small businesses.

    You’re able to control how and when people are able to connect with you over the phone — a valuable asset for those customers who like to call at 8 pm at night to check up on their project after ignoring your calls all day.

    Features include digital voicemail, digital lines and extensions and the ability to setup powerful, detailed calling rules that can ensure that no calls go unanswered.

    Website: www.ringcentral.com | Twitter: @RingCentral | Cost: $50/mo (Base plan)

    Runner Up: www.google.com/voice Note: It’s a great service just not as a central phone service for a business at this time.

    Project Management

    basecamp_logoBasecamp – We’ve been using this tool since it launched. Hands down, it’s focus on simplicity and useability makes Basecamp my favorite project management tool.

    With Basecamp’s API, you’ll find a multitude of iPhone apps and 3rd party tools that can extend the features of Basecamp to meet just about anyones needs.

    Features include milestones, todos, messages, file sharing, chat, writeboards, and team management.

    Website: www.basecamphq.com | Twitter: @basecampnews | Price: $50/mo (Popular)

    Runner Up: www.subernova.com

    CRM

    logo_highrise-fullHighrise HQ – This sister product to Basecamp has a great tool for handling your leads and sales management.

    Import and manage your contacts and share as needed through your business via their API, tools, and apps that help you stay connected.

    Website: www.highrisehq.com | Price: $24/mo (Basic plan)

    Runner Up: www.sugarcrm.com

    File Sharing

    dropbox-transparentDropbox – We use dropbox internally to share documents, files and project information, it has proven to be a great choice for us as it is fast, integrates seamlessly with your OS and is unobtrusive.

    Dropbox only send the changed parts of a file so syncing is a matter of seconds and doesn’t hog your bandwidth and you can almost do collaborative editing with it.

    Website: www.dropbox.com | Twitter: @dropbox | Price: $10/mo

    Runner Up: www.sugarsync.com

    Newsletter / Customer Communication

    campaignmonitor_logoCampaign Monitor – A major part of client retention is keeping them up-to-date with the services and opportunities that are available to them in your industry.

    Campaign monitor is a great resource for sending out recurring emails to your customers that offers amazing reports and great compatibility for different email readers and email services.

    Website: www.campaignmonitor.com | Price: $5 per campaign

    Runner Up: www.mailchimp.com

    Email, Documents, Calendars

    Google_Apps_LogoGoogle Apps – This is a great service that Google offers businesses and individuals, which gives you the benefits of their amazing Docs, Email, and Calendar services.

    You can forward your domain and subdomains to Google and they will handle your email which gives you the added benefit of their amazing spam features. In addition to this, you can share your calendar, docs and contacts to everyone else in your company.

    Website: www.google.com/apps/ | Price: Free or $50/user per year

    Conclusions

    This is what I consider a starter list. I plan to update this list as I refine my business application and services in the coming year. I’d also like to connect with other people and see what tools and services they use.