The holidays can be hard for small business owners who need to keep things up and running back at headquarters, but also want to spend time away from work with friends and family.
To assist with this need-to-be-in-two-places-at-once quandary, we’ve pulled together a list of tools that can help you manage your business remotely. This hopefully means you’ll be able to enjoy the break you need (and no doubt deserve) all while staying connected.
Have a read through the nine tools below that can help you keep your business running during the holidays, and let us know in the comments which tools you’ll be using. Fingers crossed that if you do need to use any of them, youâ€šÃ„Ã´ll be doing it from a comfy chair with a glass of eggnog in hand.
Box.net enables you to access all of your digital content online via a file and folder system. After all, you never know when you’re going to need a file while out of the office. Having it saved on your office computer isn’t going to do you any good when you’re halfway across the country. Box.net also offers free iOS and Android apps that provide a limited version of the service.
If you need to organize an impromptu meeting from afar, doing it online may be your only option. There are a host of companies offering web conferencing facilities, but DimDim’s solution is all-platform-friendly, 100% browser based (no software downloads necessary), and very easy to use. Best of all, it’s affordable — a basic meeting with up to 10 attendees is free.
Salesforce’s cloud-based customer relationship manager “SaaS” solutions are pretty well known and used by some heavyweight organizations. In addition to letting you log in from anywhere, Salesforce offers subscribers comprehensive free apps for iPods, iPhones and iPads, making staying connected on the go seriously doable.
Many Skype users value the service for its free user-to-user calls. However, there are lots of ways to utilize Skype for business. If you need to help a colleague or employee out with a software or IT issue, for example, Skype’s screen-sharing capabilities are very useful. It’s obviously not as advanced as enterprise-aimed solutions, but if it’s just a matter of sorting a simple issue to prevent a hiccup from turning into a drama, then it’s useful to know that Skype offers this ability.
You can’t monitor your site every hour of every day — especially when you’re trying to take some time out of the office — but you do need to know if your site is down, so you can quickly get it up and working.
There are a wealth of uptime monitoring services to suit all budgets, so it’s an area worth researching if you’re looking at this long term. However, if you haven’t put any monitoring into place and just want cover for a few holiday weekends, Pingdom offers a free account and iPhone app to monitor one domain.
Similar to Box.net, this remote access and desktop control software is ideal for very small businesses, or even one-man bands. With a personal LogMeIn account you can securely access your computer (files and applications) remotely. A companion product — LogMeIn Ignition — enables you to do the same from a mobile device, too.
Flowdock is a team communication and collaboration tool. Unlike similar solutions, it offers some nifty features that enable you to keep track of what’s been talked about, shared and decided even if you weren’t online at the time. Within Flowdock, you can use @mentions and hashtags to monitor conversations, making it possible to know at a glance what the team has chatted about. History is saved forever and is easily searchable, and you can set Flowdock up to email you a daily digest of mentions.
If you don’t want to drop off the social media radar or miss mentions, then getting set up with a tool like SocialOomph will mean you can schedule tweets. If you go for the paid “Pro” options you can also schedule Facebook statuses and wall updates, as well as blog posts, to go live while you’re away. In addition, the service will alert you to any @mentions so you can respond quickly to customers and commentators if the situation requires it.
Delivery Status touch (available for the iPhone and iPad) helps you keep track of all your packages, so you know when they will arrive. It supports more than 25 services (including UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, TNT, Canada Post, City Link, Royal Mail, DPD and more). You can also manually set up tracking from services not supported, so if anyone asks you when something is due to arrive, you’ll have a darn good idea — even if you’re away from the office.