30 App Ideas for Your Small Business for 2017

obrBy Ritika Tiwari — Last Updated: 21 Apr'17 2017-03-13T07:20:38+00:00Google+
Running a business is tough. There are a lot of responsibilities and it can get overwhelming at even the best of times. Thankfully, we live in an age where we have an app for just about anything and we’ve put together a list of 30 that should make things easier to handle.

In this article, we have carefully curated and put together the very best app ideas for small businesses. The list contains everything from accounting apps to ones that facilitate collaboration and communication. We have also divided the list into different categories, so it will be easy for you to pick the right app for your business.

Why Apps For Small Businesses Come In Handy

Small businesses usually have limited budgets as well as only a handful of staff. Using the apps below should allow you to maximize productivity and so save time and money. For instance, keeping the books can often eat up a lot of time when you have to manually enter every charge or process employee payroll by hand.

Now imagine an accounting app that could automatically identify all your charges and pay all your employees on time without you even lifting a finger. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

Then there are the scheduling apps which work as your assistant to help you set up meetings according to your schedule, with no back and forth emails.

By using business apps like these, you can save time and focus on the more critical parts of your business. While there are a lot of apps available right now, selecting the right apps will depend on your requirements and budget. That is why it is better to think of all your requirements first and then go through our extensive list of business apps.

Accounting Apps

Choosing the right accounting app means that you will never have to manually enter ledger details, pay extra for employee payroll or generate invoices. There are a lot of accounting apps available right now, some better than others and we have put forth our five top picks.

QuickBooks Online

Though it hasn’t the same set of features as its desktop-based counterpart, QuickBooks Online is a great cloud-based accounting tool. Targeted at small entrepreneurs, QuickBooks Online makes it possible for you to handle the entire financial end of your business. It has built-in merchant services making it possible for clients to pay you directly, as well.

The tool also allows you to integrate your bank account, process payroll for employees, as well as create reports and invoices. The only drawback of QuickBooks Online is that you might take some time getting used to it because of the sheer amount of features it has.

Xero

When compared to other apps, Xero takes many standard features and puts them together into an easy-to-understand interface with hardly any confusing jargon. The tool supports a large number of third-party apps which makes it possible for it to provide a number of features from time tracking to credit-card payments.

Since Xero is a rather new tool, it’s a constant work in progress. Compared to QuickBooks Online, the latter obviously supports more payroll and bank feed options but at the same time Xero is also adding new features every day.

While it might not be the best tool for big companies, it is definitely a good accounting tool for freelancers and small businesses with tight budgets.

Wave

My personal favorite, Wave is one of the few free accounting apps we have reviewed, and it is just as good as the paid apps on our list (though it charges you for payroll and merchant services).

The app is user-friendly and it allows invoice customization, bank feeds, billing and reporting. Since it is a free tool, you get only basic features meaning advanced features like inventory and time tracking are not available.

Wave is a great accounting app if you are just dipping your toe into cloud-based accounting tools or if you are a freelancer like me who isn’t ready to spend $10-20 on an accounting program just yet.

FreshBooks

Freshbooks might have started as a simple invoicing program but it has transitioned into an almost complete accounting suite. The accounting tool has a very simple and clean interface but it might be because it only has basic features, including invoicing, time tracking and currency conversion.

It lacks the ability to track bills, process payroll and it only allows bank account integration in North America. Overall, Freshbooks feels like an invoicing tool with some extra features but this is what makes it attractive for laid-back business owners.

FreeAgent

Last in this section is FreeAgent, which has some good invoice templates along with some nifty customization options, allowing users to create invoices just the way they want. Inventory management is also possible with FreeAgent but it is only suitable for businesses with small stocks.

While there are many country-specific options available on the tool, some advanced features — like payroll — are only available in the UK.

FreeAgent is a great option for you if you run a small business and you don’t need the accounting app to process payroll, unless you’re based in the UK, that is.

Cloud Storage Apps

Choosing the best cloud storage service for you doesn’t just help you save on external storage, which is way more expensive, but it also provides accessibility and scalability.

Sync.com

Marketed mainly as a secure alternative to Dropbox, Sync.com provides both file storage and backup functionality, embeds well with Windows and provides 5GB of free storage for all users.

Sync.com really does take security to the next level by providing zero-knowledge encryption on file-sharing links, along with an option to set expiry date and password for the shared files. There is also a 256-bit encryption both on the local and server side

The only downside to Sync.com is that, because of the encryption, there is no way to view files online — you always have to download them first.

SugarSync

Just like Sync.com, SugarSync too is a file syncing tool which provides 5GB storage space and a separate backup folder on top of that.

The best part about SugarSync has to be the fact that users can choose their own sync folder: usually, like with Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive, a new folder is created on the local drive when you download their desktop app on the system. All the files in this new folder are automatically synced.

But moving files constantly from one folder to the other can be a big pain and most importantly, it defeats the purpose of using a cloud storage tool.

With SugarSync, you can use your existing work folder and directly sync it without interrupting your workflow. The drawbacks of SugarSync are that you have no private encryption and no way to view or edit files online.

Dropbox

One of the major players in cloud storage ever since 2005, Dropbox has been able to keep its position on the market despite its many competitors.

Dropbox provides up to 16GB free storage and a seamless interface which makes syncing and storing files extremely easy. Files and folders on Dropbox can either be directly shared by entering the recipient’s email address or via links. You can view files, post comments, view version history and thanks to Dropbox’s collaboration with Microsoft Word Online, you can also edit documents.

However, Dropbox has also launched a new service called Dropbox Paper which is a direct competitor to Google Docs, though lacks some of that service’s features and tools.

Google Drive

The holy grail of cloud storage, Google Drive is used by a large number of remote teams working online including us here at Cloudwards.net.

The service provides 15GB free storage to all users which can be easily upgraded by opting for a paid plan. You can share files via links or recipient’s email address, and give users edit, comment or view-only access.

If your employees already have a custom domain email, then you can integrate that with Google’s G Suite and get access to all the major Google tools including Gmail, Google Docs and 30GB of storage on Google Drive.

OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service and comes pre-installed in all the latest versions of Windows. It offers easy integration with Microsoft Office and SharePoint makes it a great cloud storage tool if you are a Windows user but otherwise isn’t really worth the effort.

Previously Microsoft provided unlimited OneDrive storage for Office 365 users but from March 1st, 2017, that limit was capped to 1TB of space. Also, the storage limit for free users was changed from 15GB to 5GB.

Maybe combined with Microsoft Office Online OneDrive would have been a great deal, but with Dropbox already supporting Office, it seems like even Microsoft isn’t interested in making OneDrive a success.

Online Backup Apps

Whether you are just starting out or you have an established business, backing up data is crucial. While choosing the best online backup service, you have to consider security, easy of use and restoration speed as well.

CrashPlan

At just $5 per month, you get unlimited storage, great security and a sleek interface with CrashPlan. The service also provides an annual plan which costs $149 and provides access to up to 10 users.

CrashPlan’s desktop app is superbly powerful with an array of backup options that allow you to customize every detail including what to backup, when to backup and how to backup.

Private encryption guarantees that your critical company files cannot be seen by anyone else even if they get access to the files, not even the CrashPlan employees. There is a 448-bit encryption on the local side and 256-bit encryption on the server side.

Backblaze

Backblaze is a cloud backup service meant for users who just want to set their backup and forget about it. It’s clean, simple and most importantly, quick. It provides unlimited backup, with no free storage options and the pricing is similar to Carbonite and CrashPlan.

Developed for people who don’t want to spend too much time deciding what they should or should not backup, Backblaze automatically scans your local files, sets a priority and starts uploading them.

It’s so simple that its desktop app literally has only three buttons. Users can themselves decide whether to set a limit bandwidth throttle, to use private encryption or how they want to schedule backups. While there is no way to tell Backblaze what it should backup, you can exclude specific files or folders from the total selection.

Overall, Backblaze is great for users who don’t want the backup process to take much of their time, but at the same time, it can be frustrating for people who are looking to customize the entire backup process.

Carbonite

While Crashplan gives users all the freedom to customize how they want to backup data, Backblaze takes everything under its wing and requires hardly any input from the user.

Carbonite, on the other hand,  finds a balance between CrashPlan and Backblaze by giving users some options to customize their backup settings but at the same time, it doesn’t provide so many options that it would be difficult for a novice to understand. Its desktop app could definitely use a facelift, though the interface is still very easy to use and accessible.

Overall, Carbonite is great for users who want some control over their backup and storage, like when and what to backup, but don’t want to spend too much time over other, more detailed settings.

IDrive

With 15GB free storage, IDrive is a great file storage and backup service for freelancers. It does have storage upgrades available but the highest storage plan available is 1TB only, making IDrive unsuitable for small- to medium-sized businesses.

It might not have as many advanced features as CrashPlan but IDrive is very handy, especially for users who are trying cloud backup for the first time. Apart from backing up local folders, IDrive can also backup Disk image, SQL, VMWare, Oracle and Exchange.

While the mobile apps have a much better interface, the desktop app could really use some love as right now it reminds me unfavorably of Windows XP.

Zoolz

Up until March 2015, Zoolz used to provide unlimited storage space, but that now has been capped at 4TB, with users having the option to buy extra slabs of 20GB at $14.95 each.

Zoolz uses Amazon Glacier cold storage to store all the user data, which was probably one of the main reasons why it was so affordable in the first place. But now with limited storage options and other services providing unlimited backup storage for a much lower price, Zoolz might not be such a great deal.

With Zoolz you get many features including bandwidth throttling, backup scheduling, incremental backup and NAS support. The only downside is that since files are in a cold storage, it can easily take several hours to restore them back, whether you need a single file or a bunch of files.

Productivity Apps

Cloud storage and backup might be a necessity but you also need productivity tools that can make collaboration easier for you and your team.

Google Docs

As a writer, I extensively use Google Docs for two main reasons:

  • Easy collaboration with other team members
  • Auto-save function

If you have lost your important work on Microsoft Office just because you couldn’t save your work because the computer crashed, you already know the importance of auto-saving every file.

Google Drive might have a limit of 15GB storage, but Google Docs do not count towards the storage limit. With an built-in integration from Gmail, Google Docs also allows you to quickly open attachments, edit them and then send them back for review.

The one and only complaint I have with Google Docs is that it doesn’t allow you to directly save an image attached in a document. There are some indirect ways but a simple right-click “save” option would have been much appreciated.

Asana

Asana is essentially a project management app which allows you to create different teams, projects, tasks and sub-tasks. All of these can be assigned to team members and constantly monitored by you.

For each task, you can add a description, assignee, due date, attachments, labels, comments and access level for other members. Once the task is done, it can be marked as completed.

Used by companies like Uber and Foursquare, the tool is free for teams with 15 or fewer members, proving it to be useful for both small and big companies.

Trello

Trello is also a project management app like Asana, but it takes a rather visual approach towards the whole process. Based on a Kanban board concept, there are different lists in Trello, and you can create cards/ tasks under each list. Instead of marking a task as complete, you can move that task’s card to the “done” list.

For each task, you can add a due date, attachments, comments, labels, checklists and, most importantly, you can assign it to multiple members. The biggest difference between Trello and Asana is that the former does not allow you to create subtasks nor can you set a different access level for each member. Even if you assign one card to a team member, they will be able to see the entire board.

All in all, I will only recommend Trello for small teams who have no immediate plans for scaling up.

Slack

Slack has the ability to become the communication central for your company where all the team members can come together and discuss work.

Apart from one-to-one chats, the tool also allows you to set up different channels for different purposes which mean team members will only be notified about a conversation when it’s relevant to them.

For instance, the HR and marketing teams could have different channels to discuss their specific work, and there could be a different channel for watercooler conversations.

On Slack, you can share files, refer and quote previous messages and search through archives for any previous conversations.

Wunderlist

Wunderlist is technically a list-based productivity app, but it’s so feature-packed that you can also use it for project management.

The tool lets you create different projects and add to-do tasks in them. For each task, you can add a due date, checklist, reminder, subtasks, notes, comments and assign them to a team member.

Its free version limits the file size (5MB) and the number of users you can share the tasks with (25). Even though all these limits are removed with the paid version, there is still no way to assign subtasks to a team member.

Scheduling Apps

Scheduling apps have gone beyond just keeping track of your day-to-day activities. Now they can act as your virtual assistant by scheduling and managing your meetings.

Google Calendar

The godfather of all the calendar apps, Google Calendar, is undoubtedly one of the best of its kind.

One of the major reasons why Google Calendar is a crowd favorite is because it provides third-party integration with a large number of apps. You can either upload your own calendar file (.ics) or add by an URL. The latter option allows you to add calendars made by other users, whether it’s your team calendar or your company’s holiday calendar.

I have synced my Google Calendar with my Windows desktop and iOS calendar, and I have never had an issue with it.

But truth being told, Google Calendar’s web app could be revamped considering how great its mobile app looks.

Calendly

Calendly is not exactly a standalone calendar app but you can think of it as Google Calendar extension which helps boost your meetings.

It uses your Google Calendar to scan through your schedule and find a free time where meetings can be set up. You can create a meeting invite and send it to the other members, which automatically adds the meeting to your and the other person’s calendar.

You can also just get a calendar invite link which allows people to see what time you are free on a particular day and they can set up a meeting with you without any back and forth emails from your end.

Calendly allows users to save multiple meeting types and clone previous meetings. It works with iCloud and Outlook calendar as well.

Assistant.to

Assistant.to is a Google Chrome extension which when installed adds a small widget near the attachment option of the ‘Compose New Message Window.’

Just like Calendly, Assistant.to also uses your Google Calendar to schedule meetings and find any conflicts. It is definitely quicker than Calendly since you can directly work from within Gmail, but unlike Calendly it does not provide any custom links for inviting users.

Also, Assistant.to can only schedule one-on-one meetings. You could CC others in the calendar invite email but only one person out of them will be allowed by the tool to join the meeting.

All in all, a great tool for freelancers and small remote teams, but definitely not a good option for big teams.

TimeBridge

Another meeting scheduling app, TimeBridge allows users to integrate their Outlook, Google and other calendars. If you work alone, it might seem like a “lite” version of Calendly, but the tool really proves to be useful when you have a big team.

When all team members integrate their personal calendars with TimeBridge, the tool allows them to find a common meeting time in less than a second. Thus saving you from constant emails and follow ups with your team members to negotiate a meeting time.

While TimeBridge’s meeting scheduling features are provided free of charge, you can also avail its conferencing features at a small price. The tool uses open source Dimdim software for web conferencing. It might not be GoToMeeting or WebEx; it’s still a great option for small businesses who are looking for an affordable web conferencing tool.

Doodle

No matter how much you might hate it, not all of your team members use calendar apps or maybe they do use calendar apps but never really enter their schedule properly. These little problems can render even the quickest scheduling apps like TimeBridge unusable.

With Doodle you get another way out – create a poll with all the plausible dates and send the link to all the team members. From there, everyone can vote on a time slot and that’s it! Whichever date gets the most votes at the end is set as the meeting date.

As fun it might be, voting might not work for all teams because it doesn’t always help in finding the right time. Some members might not be able to attend the meeting time selected by the majority because of prior arrangements.

Miscellaneous Apps

These bonus app might not belong to a certain category but they can definitely help you run your business better by providing easy app integration, time tracking and note-keeping.

IFTTT

IFTTT is a free business automation app which lets users connect two apps together with an IFTTT recipe. Basically, when you perform a specific function on one app, IFTTT will trigger a reaction on another app.

For instance, this IFTTT recipe automatically converts emails into Trello cards when they have been assigned a specific label.

Here is another IFTTT recipe which automatically adds your Amazon Echo shopping list to your Wunderlist account.

IFTTT is a free service which supports a large number of free apps, but it doesn’t support any business-oriented apps nor does it provide deeper integration.

Zapier

Zapier works quite similarly to IFTTT, but the difference between the two is, Zapier supports more business oriented apps like SalesForce, Zendesk, Slack and JIRA.

It calls each integration a “zap.” For instance, you can activate a zap to directly get your emails delivered to Slack or post a new message on Slack every time a Google Sheets row is updated. There are thousands of pre-built zaps available and you can also create one of your own.

There is no doubt that Zapier is much more powerful than IFTTT. But at the same time, Zapier’s free version restricts you to using only five tools which is a big downside.

Toggl

A time-tracking and employee timesheet tool, Toggl lets you track time of all your employees and view instant reports as well.

Toggl’s free version allows you to track time for different projects and clients. Its paid version allows users to add billable and nonbillable hours which can you can directly show to your clients for transparency.

Projects and clients can be color coded which is useful when you analyze weekly and monthly reports. As a seasoned Toggl user, I have noticed that it increases my efficiency and the reports make it easy for me to see where I am putting most of my time.

Overall, Toggl is a simple, powerful and a no-nonsense time-tracking tool.

Evernote

There are regular note-taking apps, and then there is Evernote which takes everything to a whole new level. It is a cloud-based tool which allows you to save notes from any platform, and it quickly syncs the notes, allowing you to access them from anywhere.

Its desktop app can save notes offline and encrypt text with a password. Evernote also has Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which basically means it can identify text in the images you upload, making it the perfect place to save your bills.

Evernote’s Clipper Google Chrome extension is probably one of my favorite tools because it lets me clip content from any web page and automatically save it to my Evernote account. I use every day to do research, which I can later refer to on Evernote’s desktop app, even when I am not connected to the internet.

Its mobile app and web app have a great interface but the desktop app definitely needs some love.

Inbox by Gmail

Inbox by Gmail is a new email tool launched by Google which was initially just a mobile app, but now the web app has been released as well.

The new app ditches the traditional email format and takes a rather evolutionary approach by treating each email as a task. All the emails are divided into your previous Gmail categories and also by their date.

You can choose to snooze an email, pin it at the top, or set a reminder to it. File attachments are available in big thumbnails and you don’t need a Google Docs app to open any attached files.

The only drawback I see here is that it might take you same time to get used to its format. I have been using it on my phone for the past two weeks and I am still not completely comfortable with it.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it: the 30 best apps for business according to Cloudwards.net. Using the right apps for your business can help automate processes, save time and, most importantly, the apps can help you run your business more smoothly.

While we have provided five apps in every category, it’s not important to pick just one from each. If you think more than one app fulfills your requirements completely, you should definitely go ahead with that.

If there are any other apps you think we missed out, let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.

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