SOHO Solutions

Cash-strapped small- and home-office operations needn't struggle on the software front, as there are numerous useable applications online that can help boost productivity at little or no cost. Windows Middle East highlights the best of the market's current offerings.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  January 15, 2007

|~||~||~|Setting up a small business from scratch can be a costly enterprise, what with office space to rent, licenses to pay for, staff to salary and hardware to buy. However when it comes to the software programs and applications that your team needs to get the job done, unless very specific industry titles are required (such as graphic designers needing to use Adobe Photoshop or engineers utilising CAD packages) then these day-to-day solutions needn’t cost the earth. Microsoft’s batch of Office programs for instance, paid for in full as it should be, isn’t cheap. Open Office meanwhile will give your staff full MS Office functions and compatibility for free. Similarly, there are numerous very usable - and in many cases networkable - applications available that cover virtually every small business task and process, from invoicing to stock control. You can also download programs to enforce your company printer or IT policy, by using these releases to monitor what staff print, which sites they surf, and even how much time they spend working on what, each day. To make your life that much easier, the apps you’ll find overleaf are featured on this month’s free and exclusive ‘SOHO Solutions’ CD-ROM. Let us know your thoughts, on windows@itp.com. ||**||Productivity: OpenOffice 2.0.4|~|OpenOffice---m.gif|~||~|Web: www.openoffice.org File size: 93Mbytes The first office suite to use the new Oasis 'OpenDocument' format (ISO/IEC 26300), which its open-source developers claim is the future-proof standard for office software easier to install, OpenOffice is a free comprehensive software suite. Now a viable challenger to Microsoft's paid-for Office system, this 93Mbyte download can be shared around your team at will and includes 'Base' a database manager with fully integrated database; 'Writer' - OpenOffice.org's word processor; OpenOffice's 'Calc' spreadsheet application, 'Impress', a quick-use presentation tool.||**||Productivity: SQL Desktop 3.00 (demo)|~|SQL-desktop----m.gif|~||~|www.sqldesktop.com File size: 35Mbytes Ideal for the least PC-savvy staff in your team, SQL Desktop is billed as 'a computerised manual filing system' that is arranged just like an ordinary office, with pictures of real cabinets and real folders. As such, documents that relate to the same topics are stored in the same binder side by side, regardless of their actual physical storage location or data format. Ingenious. Users can arrange documents by project, by department or whatever makes sense to them. This trial pack comprises the free desktop edition (for single PC use) and a 90-day trial version of the network edition.||**||Productivity: Real VNC Enterprise (demo)|~|VNC---m.gif|~||~|www.realvnc.com File size: 1.08Mbytes If you need to access your work or home PC from another location, VNC (which stands for Virtual Network Computing) offers a viable way of doing this that's superior to Microsoft's Windows utility. This cross-platform application allows you to remotely control different types of computer. It even includes a Java viewer, so that any PC can be controlled remotely from within your browser. The 30-day trial version of this, the enterprise version, includes both Server and Viewer programs and features stronger session security than the firm's single-user offering. ||**||Productivity: Excel Invoice Template|~|excel-templates---m.gif|~||~|www.office-kit.com/free-invoice-template/index.htm File size: 93Kbytes This is about the easiest invoice generator around. In the form of a simple Excel template, this document is simply a 'fill in the blank' style form that is capable of creating and calculating invoices and shows quantity, description, unit price, taxable status, and amount per line fields. The sub-total, tax and total amount are computed from the line items automatically. Well worth a look, particularly for home-based micro business managers.||**||Security: Secura Backup 2.3 (demo)|~|securabackup---m.gif|~||~|www.cmfperception.com File size: 3.7Mbytes This powerful professional backup release can be used to copy your crucial files, settings and company data to local drives, network paths, FTP sites, CD and DVD discs, and even e-mail addresses, in order to keep this information safe from harm. Secura's incremental backups are safely made thanks to its use of 128-bit encryption and it its 'shadow copy' feature allows it to backup files even when they are locked or in use by other programs. Its flexible scheduler means backups can be run automatically and its built-in e-mail notifier will send you logs and reports.||**||Security: Zone Alarm Free Version|~|zone-alarm---m.gif|~||~|www.zonelabs.com File size: 13Mbytes This easy-to-use free firewall is well worth installing on each of your employees' PCs and any laptops your staff use elsewhere and occasionally connect to your office LAN. Zone Alarm's system identifies hackers and blocks access attempts at every turn, making your computer almost invisible to anyone on the internet. Don't forget though - a firewall alone is not enough to consider a PC protected. Use anti-virus and adware programs - such as AdAware on this CD - too.||**||Security: AdAware Personal EditionAd-Aware SE Personal Edition 1.06|~|adaware---m.gif|~||~|www.lavasoft.de File size: 2.72Mbytes Currently still the most popular anti-spyware product with computer users around the world, with nearly one million downloads every week, AdAware personal provides you with advanced protection against spyware; in other words, programs that secretly take control of your computer, resulting in aggressive advertising pop-ups, sluggish computer activity and even, on occasion, identify theft through stolen bank details, passwords and credit card account numbers. Every PC should have this running, with no exception.||**||Security: McAfee Site Advisor|~|SiteAdvisor---m.gif|~||~|www.siteadvisor.com File size: 13MBytes Designed to help you and your staff surf the internet safely, McAfee SiteAdvisor warns you before you interact with a dangerous Web site. Traditional security products focus on trying to clean up problems after they occur. This program automatically tests the safety of websites, which is then enhanced with user feedback from our users and the McAfee team's own manual analysis. If a site appears with a green 'check' logo, then it's regarded as safe, while yellow exclamation marks mean 'questionable safety' and red stands for 'dangerous'. A useful tool.||**||Internet & Networking: Good Keywords 2.0|~|Good-keywords---m.gif|~||~|www.goodkeywords.com File size: 500Kbytes If you're in the process of creating or redesigning your company's website, or maybe you're planning a Google AdWords campaign, you'll need to identify the most relevant keywords for your site. It's all very well deciding these for yourself, but you must also tie this group of words to those that potential customers search for the most often. That's where this excellent piece of freeware comes in. Built around the Overture/GoTo search suggestion tool, this keyword research app has been designed purely to help you find the right keywords for your site. ||**||Internet & Networking: Look@LAN Network Monitor (demo)|~|Look@Lan---m.gif|~||~|www.lookatlan.com File size: 2.06MBytes The aim of this valuable release is to help businesspeople just like you to install, configure, monitor and managing their local area networks. Developed via feedback from expert network/system administrators, network engineers and designers, Look@LAN Network Monitor is an advanced network monitor, which allows you to monitor your network in few clicks. It's packed full of relevant features such as the auto-detection of your network configuration, monitoring, reporting, trapping, statistics and graphs, plus a network tree view, network log, OS detection and much more. ||**||Internet & Networking: Network Assistant 4.1|~|Network-Assistant---m.gif|~||~|www.gracebyte.com File size: 1.5MBytes Network Assistant, or 'Nassi' for short, is a real-time communication utility for office environments. Offering channel-based chat, a shared whiteboard, message board and instant messaging, it has been designed with small- and home-offices in mind and doesn't require an internet connection or a dedicated server. Use this app to talk and collaborate, track network activity, transfer files and much more. No server and only a small LAN? This is the communications program for you.||**||Internet & Networking: Activity Monitor (demo)|~|Activity-monitor---m.gif|~||~|www.softactivity.com File size: 4.4 Mb For those bosses with Big Brother leanings (or as they might put it, 'good reason'), the idea of monitoring what employees are up to when they're supposed to be working is a fine one. This is the app you need to do it. it allows you to track the activity on your local area network, giving you detailed information on what, how and when your network users performed. Activity Monitor consists of server and client parts. Activity Monitor server can be installed on any LAN-connected computer, while remote spy software (Agent) is a small client program that’s installed on each PC.||**||Internet & Networking: HP Web Jetadmin |~|HP-webjetadmin---m.gif|~||~|www.hp.com File size: 47.7 Mbytes HP's Web Jetadmin platform is a web-based print management solution that the firm has designed to help business managers optimise their device (i.e. printer) utilisation, control color costs, and streamline their consumable management process. With this app you can remotely configure, monitor, and troubleshoot network printers, helping you to work out your firm's printer usage (useful when buying hardware), find out who is printing what (useful when educating employees on how to work more cost-effectively), and make sure your printers are up and running all the time. ||**||Internet & Networking: TraxTime 3.8 (demo)|~|traxtime---m.gif|~||~|http://www.spudcity.com File size: 2.9Mbytes Billed as the perfect time tracking software for consultants, hourly employees, and any others who need to maintain time records, this release is a worthwhile download for freelance workers, lawyers, programmers, designers and more. Effectively a punch-clock metaphor, you just install this app, select a project and punch in. A detailed memo can be associated with each time entry and you can maintain an unlimited number of projects. ||**||Utilities: Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor|~|Vista-upgrade-advisor---m.gif|~||~|www.microsoft.com/windowsvista File size: 6.54Mbytes As you might have noticed from this Vista-focused issue of Windows magazine, the long-awaited new version of Microsoft's desktop OS has now arrived; so if after reading this magazine you fancy giving it a whirl, this is the application you need to use first, as it will check that your PC is Vista-capable. This tool will scan your computer and create an easy-to-understand report of all known system, device, and program compatibility issues, and also recommend ways to resolve them. Upgrade Advisor can also help you choose the edition of Windows Vista that best suits you. ||**||Utilities: Small Business Inventory Control Standard 7 (demo)|~|small-bus-invent-control---.gif|~||~|www.rytechsoftware.com File size: 4.44Mbytews Don't let dodgy record keeping put you and your team in a state of confusion. Designed specifically for small business owners, Small Business Inventory Control (SBIC) goes well beyond the stock level tracking implied by its name and helps you track merchandise from its purchase order to the supplier, all the way to invoicing and receiving payment from your customers. The app employs a familiar Explorer-like interface for navigation between vendors, items, and customers, and ships with 18 useable Quick Reports that are just a click away. ||**||Utilities: Roboform 6.8.4 (demo)|~|RoboForm---m.gif|~||~|www.roboform.com File size: 2.31Mbytews Why worry about having to remember your web passwords or writing these all down in one potentially vulnerable document when a secure little app can keep all this data in one place for you? This award-winning release is the top-rated password manager and web form filler. It completely automates the process of entering passwords and filling out online forms, turning what was a niggly five-minute job into a one-click whiz. Best of all, it keep even be used to generate random enryptable passwords that hackers will never guess. Neat.||**||Utilities: Invoicer 1.0|~|invoicer---m.gif|~||~|www.citrusware.com File size: 2.3Mbytews In business anything that can help smooth the process of invoicing and thus getting paid can only be good. This download takes care of the first part so you can concentrate on the second. Invoicer simply lets you create and prints an invoice. It can be tailored to your business as you use it, because as you add Sales Items to an invoice these items can be saved and thereafter automatically selected on future invoices. You can also add Labor, Shipping Additional Charges or Credits, and even apply discounts. Simple and effective.||**||

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