Dozens of new apps, gadgets, and online services are vying for your attention. Fewer are those that offer true innovations—or even just good solutions to common small business problems.
Of the many start-ups and services I've recently checked out, the following five stand out as worthy of keeping on your radar:
Data storage has become less of a concern for entrepreneurs in the age of cloud computing and online backup. But while rivals like Dropbox, Box, YouSendIt, and Amazon Cloud Drive provide Internet file sharing and archival services, Space Monkey provides several times more storage space for less, plus a novel backup method. A little white hardware box with a 1TB hard drive inside whose contents can be accessed from a computer or mobile app. Its peer-to-peer network quietly shares little pieces of files on other users’ systems. Highly encrypted for your security, once requested, these bits are then transferred and reassembled from closely-located systems on-demand so users save significantly on bandwidth costs. The service is only $10/month—cheaper than competitors.
This service promises to help you keep your finger on the pulse of your company by getting your employees to spend no more than 15 minutes weekly writing short reports readable in under five minutes. Managers then digest these snippets, which range from new business ideas to feedback on existing programs and project updates, and spark conversation by adding their own feedback and insights. Featured commentary can also be incorporated into executives’ status reports, eventually bubbling up to senior management and C-level leadership.
A white-label, off-the-shelf solution for building mobile Web apps, Appstack uses themed templates to let companies quickly craft solutions featuring custom products, pricing, portfolios, and services. No programming or design knowledge is needed to create apps, and full back-end analytics are provided, letting you gauge the effectiveness of solutions and supporting advertising campaigns. Over 50 themes are available, including options compatible with the Apple App Store and (shortly) Android and Windows Marketplace. Plans start at $39.95/month. Individuals or content creation-focused organizations might also check out TheAppBuilder, which lets anyone publish apps to iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows Phone devices as well.
Captricity is a Web-based service that warehouses documents in digital form and allows for the easy retrieval of information contained within. Able to archive thousands of written forms as readily searchable and shareable virtual copies, Captricity not only lets you upload scans or photos, it also dumps their data sets into quickly-digestible CSV files. It's an easy way to back-up and archive anything from feedback forms and customer surveys to employee evaluations.
Need website testers? YouEye lets you conduct comprehensive user testing—even eye-tracking—through its online platform. You can view recordings from each tester’s screen, webcam, and microphone, giving a sense of overall usability, potential ad placement effectiveness, or revealing where user drop-off may be occurring. And because no software is installed, invitations can be sent via social media or instant messenger, with respondents screened and video results made available in 72 hours. Costs scale based on the number of tapings required, with individual test video results and overall campaign performance simply shared amongst colleagues. Reviewers can even segment results by gender, operating system, Web browser, and other metrics.