Right Software for the Job

I am a computer programmer. I have been designing software that businesses have required for 25 years. A short time ago I got interested in affiliate marketing. Although I have been reselling services and marketing my software through more traditional means, I found affiliate marketing to be a nice addition to our marketing campaigns. I added several related services to our web sites for our customers, and they appreciate the links, and I appreciate the bonus money.

Affiliate marketing is a whole new world, and lots of fun as well.

However, I started getting bogged down when I found myself looking through my email to find the links to that forum I liked. Or I couldn’t remember what page I put on certain java scripts for affiliate links. Then there were the different passwords and user names for different membership or affiliate web sites.

It became mind boggling in a hurry!

So what was I to do?

The first thing I did was start searching for a program that could track all my data easily. I did find a program but it was harder to use than searching my Email.

Now there was no choice. I couldn’t find a good program to track my information. I had a good contact program I’ve been working on for 16 years, but it still didn’t have a place to track affiliate information. So, I wrote my own program.

Even though it took me several weeks to write the software, I know from past experience that having the wrong software for a job will cost me plenty. Been there, done that!

Many people think they can get by with generic software. And they can, for a while. But in order to track all the information you need to, efficiently, you need to get software that does a particular job.

For instance, you could track your checkbook with a spreadsheet, or you could purchase one of several programs that are designed particularly to allow you to enter your checks and balance your checkbook. Sure it will work on your spreadsheet, but wouldn’t you rather have a programmer or group of programmers constantly working on your checkbook program to make it better and easier for you, thereby saving you time and money?

How about affiliate marketing. Isn’t it much better to purchase software that is meant to do a job, like an autoresponder for instance, rather than use your email program to try and track who wrote you and categorize your responses by date, etc, etc.

You could write your website with pure html and a word processor, or you could get a program that is specifically made to create a website.

Have you ever watched a person use a butter knife to unscrew something, or pop a lid off of something?

I’m not saying you can’t use an email to respond or a spreadsheet to track your checkbook. I’m just saying in this day and age with all the software available, you are probably wasting your time (therefore your money) by not purchasing a software program that does the specific task you need it to do, rather than fuddle around with something generic.

The other advantage to getting a piece of software that is specific is the updates. Programmers love input and love to update their products. It is their lifestyle. Programs can be works of art. As programmers get input from their customers, you get the benefit of what other customers are doing with the software with every update.

For instance, I have been writing a contact program for years. Unless I happen to think of a new option or need on my own, it is usually a customer that contacts me and suggests I track this, or make a scheduler to do that. But with customers input, the program has grown from barely tracking customers information, to tracking all sorts of schedules, support issues, and a ton of other things I don’t have time to list here.

And that is the way it is with all good software.

When purchasing software, be sure you get to download a live demo. Don’t purchase software based on some pictures or even slide shows on a web site. Those things are important to look at, but get a demo if at all possible. And if you can’t download a demo, make sure there’s a money back guarantee.

Browsing For Business – How to Run a Business With Web-Based Software

I stayed plenty busy on Saturday, December 19, 2009. Not only was I shuttling my five-year-old around town to his Christmas pageant rehearsal and his birthday party, I also wrote several blog posts and articles (including this one), reviewed my current bank account information, entered receipts into my checkbook register and my budget software, updated my business plan, created a survey form, and responded to about 10 e-mails. I never opened a single application besides my Firefox browser. I accessed all of my software through the Internet. My first all-day experience with web-based computing, also called “cloud” computing was a great success!

Web-based computing simply means that instead of using software programs downloaded to your hard drive, you open your software applications through the Internet. You open your web browser, access the software’s location on the Internet, open the program, and start using your program. Like many computer users over the last 25 years, Microsoft defined my software user experience. If I needed to update a spreadsheet, I opened Microsoft Excel. I created my word processing documents in Word, and I would open Outlook to check my e-mail or calendar. I only used the Internet to look at news sites, shop online, or check my social profiles at LinkedIn or Facebook. Over the last several months, I have completely shifted my focus to use Microsoft products as little as I possibly can. I should have seen this advancement coming. We have watched much of our commerce move inside a web browser. Whether we have purchased books from Amazon.com or downloaded software directly from a website, we entrust an increasing amount of our commerce to web-based activity. Using web-based software for all computing is a very logical next step.

I am by no means anti-Microsoft. For many high-powered spreadsheet activities like I use at work, nothing works better than an Excel spreadsheet. I also need to use Excel in many cases, because Excel’s add-on programs allow greater data analysis and productivity. However, many people are not like me and do not work with 30 megabyte spreadsheets every day. Many people need little more than the basic features of the traditional Microsoft Office package. For these purposes, web-based software like Google Docs is more than enough to fulfill users’ needs.

Major software companies are quickly catching on. Google’s web-based application program is arguably the most popular web-based software, but other companies like Adobe (check out Adobe Buzzword) offer competing products. Even Microsoft is creating a web-based version of its Office software, which is a clear admission that computing is more about the Internet and less about shipping software CDs. Other companies, such as 37 Signals, offer a number of software solutions to handle a wide range of business problems.

In the last two months, I have learned that you can do the following business activities using web-based software.

  • Maintain your accounting books
  • Prepare business plan information
  • Share documents in a common team location
  • Prepare presentation graphics
  • Maintain your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software
  • Pay your bills by scanning invoices

Here are five reasons why web-based software is quickly becoming a key part of business computing.

  • Mobile computing – When we look back at this period, Apple will be best known for creating a truly mobile computing environment. While BlackBerries were important as communication tools, the iPhone made a leap of several levels to a true handheld computer. Since smartphones have limited memory, any usable software needs to be based on a web-based platform.
  • Increased collaboration – the rise of the free agent workforce, the never-ending expansion of global commerce, and increasing numbers of virtual teams are creating demand for easier collaboration. In the past, we would have to e-mail documents or upload documents to the Internet using complicated procedures. We would never know if the version we were editing was the “live” or the “official” copy. Web-based software allows people around the world to access the same document at the same time. Editing and collaboration is becoming much simpler and more productive for a connected workforce.
  • Data security – Your first response may be, “How can using a web-based program be safer than accessing my hard drive?” What would happen if a technology company like Intuit (QuickBooks’ parent) or 37 Signals lost a significant customer data? The answer is the equivalent of Enron. These companies would collapse because the market would lose trust in their ability to secure confidential data. These companies maintain security levels far above what we can maintain on our home computers or small business networks.
  • Mac vs. PC switching – Darren Root, executive editor of the CPA Technology Advisor magazine, wrote a September 2009 blog post about how he lives a “double life” using Macs at home and PCs in his office. If your only need a web browser to access your programs, then the physical computer may not be as important in the future. You may not need an expensive computer if you only need to access a browser. The sudden popularity of netbook computers is somewhat related to the increased popularity of web-based software. If you can access your business software through the web, then a $300 netbook could support your business as well as a laptop that is two or three times as expensive.
  • Less need for IT support – Instead of hiring a full-time IT support staff for your unique hardware and software needs, you can rely on the software providers to monitor upgrades, solicit user feedback, and handle any software issues. Your reduced need for support personnel gives you more resources to improve your business.

So what software did I use on December 19? I used a variety of software that substitutes for much of the software we have downloaded to our computers for many years.

  • Gmail – E-mail, calendar, task, and contacts (free), which replaced Microsoft Outlook.
  • Google Apps – Anything MS Office can do (also called Google Docs, free).
  • PlanHQ – Business planning software. The version I use costs $9/month, but larger business will spend closer to $30/month. Palo Alto Software, the maker of Business Plan Pro, told me last week that they are planning web-based introductions of their very popular Business Plan Pro software. I use Business Plan Pro for my clients’ formal business plans, but I maintain my own business plan on PlanHQ.
  • Highrise – 37 Signals product for customer relationship management (about $30/month). o QuickBooks Online – Online version of the accounting software leader ($9.95/month).
  • Dave Ramsey’s My Total Money Makeover personal finance site – For about $6/month, my wife and I use Dave Ramsey’s on-line personal budgeting software instead of a program like Quicken or an Excel spreadsheet.

I pay approximately $25 per month for my firm’s information technology costs. Not only can I save the cost of a full-time IT support person, but I also access my work from my laptop, netbook, smartphone, or a computer halfway around the world and have the exact same data and format in front of me. I am convinced that we will only see increased activity in this type of technology to reduce costs and increase flexibility. As demands for employee flexibility and employer mobility become more prevalent, operating our businesses inside of a browser will become more natural and more necessary.

Flexibility and value are key success factors in today’s business environment By utilizing web-based software to run your business, you are able to run your business from any location and on any computer. Instead of working in the technology maze of traditional business, you will have more time and resources to work on your business and achieve your goals.

A Guide to Choosing Bill Payment Software

Using bill payment software can help when you are calculating expenses and various financial obligations or investments. These programs can be quite complex, so you’ll need to set down the proper criteria to make the selection process easier.

Basic vs. Advanced Payment Programs

If you just need something to balance your checkbook or do online banking, the simplest financial programs can help. There are also several programs that can assist you in monitoring your investments, and even preparing your tax documents.

On the other hand, you will need more advanced applications if you require double entry bookkeeping, creating invoices and following receivable and payable accounts. There are also advanced bill payment software that offer tax strategies and tips (note: countries have different tax systems so make sure the program you use is designed for it).

Whether you choose a simple or advanced program, the software should be able to make and print checks. Use this feature to keep track of your bills.

Consult Online Reviews

For first time financial software buyers, this is a must. By checking out online reviews, you’ll learn several things. First you get to see which programs people like you prefer to use.

Second, you’ll have an idea which manufacturers produce the most reliable and easy to use apps. Third, you’ll also get a chance to see which bill payment software must be avoided.

Check the Program Specifications

When you see a program you like, visit the company website. Go over the product specs carefully. Does it have the features you need? Don’t let the extra accessories affect your judgment. Always think first of what you will be using it for. Also ensure your system can handle the program.

If you’re going to buy the software, register (if there’s an option for it). This way you can get information as to when it will be upgraded. The upgrade feature is mandatory if it’s tax software. Tax rules and codes can change so your software needs to be updated.

Other Bill Payment Software Options

Some banks have built-in bill payment programs in their websites. This is something worth considering. If your bank has this feature, use it. Being a client, setting up an account will be easier. The other benefit to using your bank payment program is it’s usually free. There’s no need to pay up compared with other programs.

If you decide to use other online payment systems, choose one that is easy to learn. You’re using computer software to make payments easier, so it makes no sense to use a complex system.

Before signing on, try the demo. Don’t bother with the service if they don’t offer one. Read the license agreement so you know exactly what you are getting into.

To know the best bill payment software for you, you’ve got to be aware of the program’s features and if they match your requirements. By checking out all the available options, you’ll be able to get a program that can assist in your financial dealings.