5 Tech Tools to Watch in 2014

Written By Alerus Small Business Connect, December 4, 2013


It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year, 2014 is going to be a virtual gift to small business success.

Next year will mark a more robust technological landscape than we’ve ever seen before. From print-free, scan-free contract software solutions to freelance solutions, many new offerings are simple to use, affordable, and save time.

Of course, nothing’s ever perfect, so here is our short list of products and platforms to watch in 2014, including a few pros and cons:

Part Angie’s List, part LinkedIn, Odesk is a freelance solution for businesses that rely on outsourcing work. Odesk allows users to post a job, find a professional, make a payment and track a project’s progress in one easy-to-use online dashboard.
The pros: You have access to thousands of experienced professionals in many fields, including web developers, content writers, SEO specialists and more.
The cons: You may spend more time searching for a good candidate when you could have spent that time calling up a trusted colleague and asking for a good, local referral.

PowerPoint is so 1999 now that there’s Slideshare. With it, businesses can share and swap presentations to anyone or any organization across the globe. Much like your Facebook newsfeed, the Slideshare homepage streams a host of trending topics from popular social media sites.
The pros: Analytics, ad removal and file uploads are free.
The cons: If you want to add services and more than one file, you have to sign up for a plan, which can get pricy at $41 a month ($490/year) for standard service.

Ideal for new or very small businesses, Square allows entrepreneurs to make a sale virtually anywhere using a small credit card scanner that attaches to most mobile devices.
The pros: Aside from the fact that you can make a profit anywhere you go, similar to Etsy, Square also hosts an online marketplace where consumers can browse and purchase from other small businesses.
The cons: Square takes 2.75% of each sale you make, meaning if you sell $100 worth of product or service, you’ll get $97.25 in return – funds that are available one to two business days after the transaction.

Ever wish Skype would allow drag-and-drop functionality and easier group chats? Well, Atlassian recently unleashed a new kind of instant messaging – HipChat. With mobile and online apps and platforms, HipChat goes with employees anywhere they need to be.
The pros: No server needed, and companies can sign up temporary users for freelancers, interns and other contract associates. Plus, it’s free for teams of five or less.
The cons: While you can switch from a virtual conference room to a private chat, users who like to gossip need to be careful that their message about Greg’s garlic breath doesn’t get posted to an entire team instead of one trusted coworker.

LastPass Enterprise
Between business accounts, accounting software, user profiles, website usernames, you likely have dozens of passwords stored in that noggin’ of yours (or at least you try your best). LastPass Enterprise vaults all of your passwords in one spot. Touted as “the last password you’ll need to remember,” LastPass Enterprise allows businesses to save and store passwords for you and employees, all while instantly adding and deleting profiles and accounts as needed.
The pros: For those of you who are wary of storing passwords in one place, (and for those who actually know what this means) LastPass uses AES 256-bit encryption with routinely-increased PBKDF2 iterations.
The cons: At $24 per user, and depending on the size of your small business, it could be an added expense that just isn’t worth it.

Although lots of these programs and platforms have been around awhile, we’ll likely see most of them gain in popularity among small businesses as the year progresses. It will be interesting to see which ones succeed in enticing – and helping – entrepreneurs gain business without losing money or time.

REBLOGGED:  This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 2:45 pm and is filed under Technology