The best free and low-cost apps for your startup
Cloud-based apps offer a range of useful functions for startups – from helping you to connect with colleagues and monitoring productivity to keeping track of expenses.
Cloud computing technology has opened up access to leading software packages, making them affordable for even the smallest businesses. And, as an added bonus, many apps also have basic versions available for free.
The major benefit of cloud-based services is that you can access apps from any device, anywhere with an internet connection. There’s no need to download software to each device and you’ll see the same information, whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet or desktop.
The flexibility offered by these low or no cost apps makes them ideal for startups. You pay only for what you need and can add more users as and when you need them.
We’ve rounded up some of the most useful cloud based apps for small businesses:
Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Office 365 gives you access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook with no physical installation needed. The app allows you to sync email, calendar and contact information with all your devices and hold video and audio meetings. You can collaborate on documents, share reports, create plans and assign project tasks using Microsoft Planner.
Microsoft Office 365 costs from £7 per user/per month with an annual commitment.
Receipt Bank allows you to keep track and input receipts on the go. Speed up the traditional method of physically keeping receipts until the end of the month, then manually entering details into a spreadsheet. Instead, just send photograph receipts as you go from your smartphone and they’re stored securely in the cloud. Expense details can be published to a cloud accounting package such as Xero.
Receipt Bank starts at £20 a month for small businesses or £9.99 a month for sole traders and individuals.
Skype gives you free sound and video calls. You can use these to arrange quick meetings or conferences with colleagues or suppliers in the UK or overseas. Skype can be used on your phone, computer or TV – you’ll just need a microphone and webcam for video calls. You can also use Skype to call mobile or landline numbers for a fee.
Skype is free but also offers professional meetings and collaboration integrated with Microsoft Office 365 from £1.30 per user/per month.
Google Analytics gives business owners using web marketing vital insights into the behaviour of their site visitors. This free service collects site data so you can find out how popular your new content is, how much traffic your latest promotion is driving and which tweets and blog posts are most popular with customers.
Google Analytics is free. A range of free courses are also available to help you learn how to make the most out of the app’s features, visit the Google Analytics Academy.
Hootsuite helps you manage your social media activity on one dashboard. You can schedule messages for future publishing, use analytics to see how your tweets, blogs and posts are being received and monitor what’s being said about your brand.
Hootsuite offers a basic feature service for free. Pro and Business packages are available for a fee.
Slack is a real-time messaging app that helps you to organise team communications. You can use Slack to bring together team members working on a specific project or as a single communication channel for a group of remote workers. As well as secure and private messaging, you can also drop images, text files and spreadsheets into Slack and share them with colleagues.
Slack gives you unlimited free usage for one team. Versions with additional features are also available for a monthly fee.
Dropbox can help you organise and store documents in one place. It’s useful for sharing documents, images or presentations with other users. There’s no need to send, detach and file attachments – simply file them in Dropbox then share the link with permitted users.
The free version of Dropbox includes 2GB of space, 30 days of file recovery and integration with Microsoft Office 365.
RescueTime helps you manage your time and monitor productivity so you can identify and remedy bad habits. RescueTime builds a detailed report of how you spend your time on a daily basis. It runs in the background of your desktop or mobile device and tracks the amount of time you spend on applications and websites.
There’s a free version, RescueTime Lite, and a subscription-based Premium version, which helps you track offline time, receive alerts and block websites.
Start your business with 50% off Xero accounting tools alongside discounts on essential business tools, including Microsoft Office 365 and Receipt Bank. Learn more about Xero for Startups.