Software gems for small and medium sized businesses

Good software can have a positive impact on any business however the perception that is often held amongst business people is that software can be an expensive overhead. However, many companies may be unaware that professional software exists in the marketplace that is very low cost or even free to use. Mark Griffiths, managing director of software solutions company Codify, unveils a few such 'software gems' that small to medium sized businesses can utilise to improve their business processes.

Mark says, "Good software doesn't necessarily have to cost a fortune. Recently we have seen the availability of incredibly powerful software from Microsoft at little or no cost which is particularly suitable for small to medium businesses. Three examples come to mind; one solution for establishing an online presence, another for managing your company finances and finally a system that provides sophisticated collaboration and document management features."

Mark details the three Microsoft software gems below:

Microsoft Office Live Small Business
Microsoft Office Live Small Business offers a free software service which enables a company to build a website and create up to 100 email addresses. For those who are not internet savvy, this system is simple and extremely easy to use as the website can be edited much like you would edit a Word document.

Office Live can also be used as an 'extranet', allowing businesses to securely collaborate and exchange electronic files with customers or suppliers through a password protected online workspace. Microsoft is also offering a number of low cost add-on features such as email marketing and an online store.

More information can be found on Microsoft Office Live Small Business at: http://smallbusiness.officelive.com/LearnMore

Microsoft Office Accounting 2008
This fully functional accounting system is available in two editions; a free version that handles core accounting and a £150 per user edition that provides advanced features such as job costing and cash flow forecasting.

As indicated by the name, Office Accounting 2008 integrates very well with other Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and Outlook. The integration with Word enables customisation of documents such as quotes and invoices and the integration with Outlook allows businesses to quickly and easily send invoices and statements to customers in PDF format.

Office Accounting 2008 also has very cost-effective options for managing payroll and making BACS payments. The payroll service works across the internet meaning that businesses don't have to worry about keeping the software updated with tax rule changes. The BACS option allows payments to be made to suppliers or employees directly from the application, resulting in less re-keying of data and improved accuracy.

Also noteworthy is the PayPal option which enables the business to add a PayPal link to electronic invoices and then easily import the payment details into the accounts.

More information can be found on Microsoft Office Accounting 2008 at: http://www.msofficeaccounting.co.uk

Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services (WSS)
Good internal communications are essential when running a business, regardless of the number of employees. WSS is a 'cut-down' yet feature rich version of Microsoft's flagship collaboration solution known as SharePoint which gives companies the ability to collaborate by providing a shared workplace or 'intranet'.

Many businesses may not realise that they are already entitled to benefit from such a powerful product - a license to use WSS is included as part of the Windows Server 2003 license.

The document management capability feature in WSS allows documents to be shared and version controlled via check-in/check-out functionality. In addition to this, a sophisticated search engine allows the documents and other information contained within your intranet to be indexed and fully searchable via keywords.

More information can be found on WSS at: http://office.microsoft.com/sharepointtechnology

Mark concludes, "Small to medium sized businesses can use Microsoft software as outlined above without impacting their bottom line. These 'software gems' can provide great benefits to many areas of a business from communication through to managing finances. Furthermore, all three have deep customisation capabilities - meaning that they can be tailored to your unique business requirements or integrated with your existing systems."

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