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Technology is becoming more and more important for small businesses. I therefore decided to do a little technology roundup. Before I launch into apps or cloud services, I’ll start with bit about security. It’s still not given enough importance by small businesses.

Security – I saw this very interesting post this week – 43% of All Cyber Attacks Targeted at Small Businesses. What really hit home with me is that apparently cyber criminals view small businesses a way of getting into larger companies and that 44% of small businesses didn’t think they were at risk for cyber crime. Wow. The truth is that if you have a device connected to the Internet you’re at risk. You need to take security seriously.

One thing you can do to improve security is use longer passwords. For example, I have a 26 character password on my router. It will take a long time to crack. According to https://howsecureismypassword.net/ it will take 1 octillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) years to crack. Please note that calculators like the one referenced above only take into account the characters used. I tested a “password” made up of the names of 3 family members strung together. It said it would take 2 sextillion years to crack that one. In the real world it would take a few minutes of online research and a few attempts at putting them in the right order. Don’t things that people can easily learn about you online in your passwords. Birth dates, anniversary dates, high school, etc. are all bad passwords. Anyone can create a long password that would be hard for others to guess but easy for you to remember. Unfortunately too many people go with easy to remember and that also adds up to easy to crack. Security is a big subject and has filled several books. So I’ll just leave you with the passwords tip. And that brings me to my first app…

LastPass – LastPass is a password manager. It is all about security. Imagine you have 100 sites or apps which you need to log into for one reason or another. These include your email, social media, banking, etc, etc. Another best practice when it comes to passwords is that you never reuse the same password for multiple sites. How the hell are you going to create and remember 100 different long passwords? You’re not. I don’t think anyone can. That’s why I use LastPass. With this app I only need to remember a couple of passwords: The one I use to log into my computer and the LastPass master password. That’s it. LastPass will generate long, random passwords for me and save the login information for every site I use. What I like about their approach is that the list of passwords you use is encrypted on your device before it is stored on the LastPass servers. They never see your password or your encryption key. This allows you to use the app on multiple devices seamlessly. Unlike many other password managers LastPass also supports two-factor authentication.

Office 365 – Office is the standard when it comes to word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. I tried a few open source and cloud-based alternatives such as Libre Office and Google Docs. While they were OK, the compatibility with Office wasn’t perfect. So though I could create and save documents with them, formatting would often look wrong when opened with an actual Office application. With web based versions of Office included in your subscription, and apps available for both IOS and Android, Office can be used any time, any where. It’s worth the price of the subscription.

QuickBooks Online – There are several online accounting programs available for small business. I chose QuickBooks for a few reasons. The first was that though the most basic subscription is a bit higher than it’s competition, the levels above it are a bit less. This means in the long run it will save me money. The second reason was that I’d used the desktop version of QuickBooks before (for years) and was very familiar with it and like the fact that it’s been around a lot longer than its competitors. I have to admit though that the online version has a very different user experience compared to the desktop so there was more of a learning curve than I expected. The third reason is that QuickBooks is well supported by Bookkeeping services and accountants. That was a big factor in my choice.

Hootsuite – Hootsuite is my social media management app of choice. I can schedule social media posts as far into the future as I want. If there are limits on how many posts I can schedule, I haven’t hit them yet. It supports every social media platform I need, including Istagram and Google+. In addition to the scheduling features it provide analytics and a very useful browser extension. The browser extension, called Hootlet, is indispensable. If I’m reading an article or watching a video and want to share it, I click the icon for the extension, it grabs the web address of the article/video and an excerpt from it and opens a little pop up window. I add whatever comments I want to make, select the social networks I want to share it on and when I want to share it and I’m done, all without ever leaving the article or video page I was looking at. I’ve tried some of the other social media management tools out there, but just didn’t like them as much as Hootsuite.

Google Apps for Business – I use Google Apps for Business for just about everything, except word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. What I use most are email, calendar, Google Analytics, Drive, Maps, Google My Business, and I’m probably forgetting a few things. The subscription price is super reasonable, and you get a lot of bang for the buck.

What apps do you consider indispensable in your small business? Let me know.