By the end of 2020, 67% of enterprise infrastructure will be cloud-based. The use of online tools for day-to-day business operations, sales, and marketing have sky rocketed over the past decade. Over the past year as the pandemic required an unprecedented number of people to work from home, businesses that were long overdue for an overhaul of their technology stack started to adopt online tools. Cloud-based and SaaS (software as a service) tools have become very popular among small and medium-sized businesses. They reduce operating time, effort, and cost, increase efficiency and make life easier. Below are some of the top small and medium-size business tools by functions:
- Freshbooks: Accounting. Freshbooks is accounting software that automates tasks like invoicing, organizing and tracking expenses, and following up with clients regarding pending payments.
- Zoom: Meetings & Collaboration. Zoom was the biggest winner of 2020. The meeting and conferencing tools usage has increased exponentially. The tool can be used for video conferencing, web conferencing, webinars, and screen sharing. It can also be used from mobile devices.
- Google Trends: Market Research. This free service from Google has been around for a long time. Recently the use of Google trends by content creators and casual internet users has increased. The site displays how often specific keywords, subjects, and phrases have been searched for on Google and how interest in them has changed over time.
With so many tools available, it can be difficult for businesses to evaluate which is the right fit. This is where online reviews and tool comparisons play a crucial role. The importance of online reviews has long been recognized for B2C transactions. However, reviews of tools meant for B2B applications are just as important. 73% of millennials are now involved in decisions regarding what products and services to buy for their companies. Millennials rely heavily on the internet to inform their purchase decisions. Millenial B2B buyers have cited online searches and vendor websites as top sources for researching products, tools, and services. A tool comparison website is a great way to look at the features and limitations of different tools and make a choice that best suits your requirements.
4 Things to consider when comparing online tools
The first and most obvious point of comparison is price. Sometimes there can be a significant difference between the price of two tools that perform similar functions but have vastly different features. In such a case, if you have a limited budget, then the decision might already be made for you. You will need to figure out a way to get the most out of the tool you can afford. If you have a higher budget and can afford both tools, this does not mean you need to pick the more expensive one. Think about what features are actually needed in your businesses and then make a choice accordingly.
What came first, the chicken or the egg? What should you decide first, the tool or the process? The answer is, first you design an ideal process so that you can understand what functions you would like a tool to perform. Then you refine that process to understand what features you require from the tool. For example, I need a tool that can convert word documents into PDFs, that is the core function. I also know, that I often need to edit the converted files. So the tool should have PDF editing features, this would be nice to have not a must-have. Once I have the list of functionalities and features in place, then I can start looking for tools that perform these functions and find one that has all or as many of the features that I need. This is where tool comparison websites are extremely useful because they list down features and you can see the different tools you are considering in a single table and quickly understand what features are included in each.
You will already have tools and software that you are currently using in your business. You need to think about whether or not the tool you are considering is compatible with your existing architecture. For example, your current data aggregation tool gives data output in the form of MySQL but the tool you are considering for data processing only accepts input in XML, then you have a problem. You now need to find another tool that can convert MySQL data into XML, or add that as a step in your business process or find another tool that accepts input in MySQL. Compatability is important, it influences how much time and effort a tool will be able to save for your business in practice.
4. Terms and Conditions
When evaluating an online tool it is important to understand the terms and conditions before you make a commitment. If possible always look for a free trial, so that you can try out the tool and work out any kinks and identify challenges. Find out if there is a minimum lock-in period, what is the cancellation and renewal policy? Can you scale the tool if your requirements increase? For example, you need the tool to be used by more people at the same time, does the tool allow for multiple simultaneous logins? What is the cost of additional logins? These are all important conditions you need to understand before making a choice. Some online tools can be quite expensive, you do not want to be caught in a situation where you are committed to spending on a tool that does not provide commensurate value or cannot accommodate your growth over time.
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