There are literally thousands of incredible web-based tools that have flooded the online marketplace over the past few years. Most of the hype tends to surround the most popular forms of social media, such as Facebook/Twitter/Youtube/Etc. You might be surprised to learn what lies 'beneath' these giants - and how many of these free online tools can play a role in your business.
To list every free online tool would be impossible. Many online tools repeat the services of existing products - or replace them outright. Some tools are popular for awhile, then fade away into obscurity. Here instead is a list of 10 tools that can save money for your small business, and comparisons to the 'pricier' alternatives that you may not need to spend the money on after all.
Splashup (FREE) vs. Adobe Photoshop $699.00 US
Photoshop is an excellent piece of software - well worth the $700.....if you're an advanced graphic designer or experienced photo editor. If you're looking, however, for a free web-based alternative - I highly recommend trying Splashup.com. All of the basic functions of Photoshop are there - and much more. Totally free - nothing to download or register for. The artist in you (or your office) will love it.
Open Office (FREE) vs. Microsoft Office 2010 $349.00
Using MS Office products might seem the obvious choice for your business. You may have used it throughout school, at home or even in past jobs. If you need to purchase/license several copies of MS Office for your office, however, you might want to look at the alternatives. Open Office is a great solution. It's extremely similar to the Microsoft products (in many ways easier to use than the newer versions of Office), and you'll never have to worry about expiring software licenses, improper use or sharing - or any other headaches that 'business usage' of software creates.
Webs (FREE) vs. Dreamweaver $399.00
Creating a website for your business is a great idea - but if you can't afford to hire a web developer, and lack experience, you're likely to end up burning a lot of time and money trying to create a great site on your own. A program such as Dreamweaver enables you to make advanced websites, but comes with a steep learning curve (and price tag). Instead, try one of the many free online website creation tools such as Webs. Most will also host your website for free (killing two birds with one stone), although you will have to pay a small fee if you want to have a custom web address (go ahead....it's worth the $20/year).
Imagination Cubed (FREE) vs. 25"x30" Flip-Charts @ Staples $38.99 for 30 pages.
I've been to meetings where 'brainstorming' requires a dozen large 25x30 pages - at nearly a dollar each. Yes - sometimes it just feels good to write something important in big blue marker, but if you began to equate each page with pouring a cup of coffee down the drain, would you reconsider? Imagination Cubed by GE is a wonderful online alternative. It's a large interactive white board - perfect if you have an overhead projector or a television screen to connect to your computer. Even better, you can save and name all of your 'on the fly' creations for future usage, unlike bulky paper pages that usually enjoy a 3 hour life span before heading to the recycling bin.
Skype vs. Land line or cellular service providers
Think of Skype as a hybrid phone / instant messaging service. While not a free service (unless you're calling another Skype user - and you might be surprised to learn how many people you are calling are in fact already using Skype), this internet 'telephone' service offers extremely low rates. Not necessarily the lowest (you'll have to do some digging on your own to compare what's best for you) - BUT, if you're still using a land line or cell phone for long distance calling (and paying $0.35+/minute), there is absolutely no good reason not to try Skype.
These are just a few of the most simple and cost-effective ways that your business can take advantage of the countless free web tools available on the net.Check out our more comprehensive list of effective free web tools. Or, feel free to check out go2web20.com for more tools of interest.