5 tools to simplify your work environment

Managing a SOHO on your own can be quite taxing so here are a few software that can lessen the burden and optimise your work environment

Published Date
02 - Mar - 2014
| Last Updated
27 - Nov - 2014
 
5 tools to simplify your work environment

When it comes to a SOHO you are pretty much on your own. One does not have the luxury of hiring someone to take note of each and every aspect down to the smallest details. This is where software like the ones we’ve mentioned below come into the picture and make your work process a lot simpler and streamlined. So much that you can pretty much run a one man show with the efficiency of a multinational (Maybe that was a tad too exaggerated but you get the picture). These tools may not be better than your “system” but for those who don’t have a system in place, this sure is a great place to start. Instead of focusing on separate tools we’ll be looking at categories of software for simplifying your work environment.

Project Management Tool
A project management tool helps you organise your resources together and allocate them in an efficient manner. After completing a few projects one can estimate the cost and time parameters of each task and thus figure out a pattern of completing tasks simultaneously rather than in a linear fashion. With the usual set of features like remote access and collaboration access the complexity of planning a project is greatly reduced and becomes more streamlined. Another aspect introduced is that of accountability since each and every action to be performed is recorded, it becomes easier to accurately pinpoint where delay/loss tend to occur and thus, allocate more resources to better handle that particular task.


The functionality of a CRM overlaps with that of a project management software because a CRM is basically a project management software where the “projects” are your customers. Ideally you should make do with just one software as it adds familiarity and subsequently your employees don’t spend all their time fiddling around with 10-15 software instead of getting some actual work done. 

 

ActivTrak’s report web interface.

A popular project management tool is Basecamp (https://basecamp.com/) is one such software that follows a monthly subscription approach with the cheapest plan costing $20/month. One can opt for Canonical’s Launchpad or Edgewall’s Trac which are open source and quite popular. Although most of these software are geared towards managing software projects, you can easily find one which caters to a much general approach.

An enterprise solution like Vtiger CRM actually has both project management and CRM modules which are interlinked. Inter operability is one more facet which justifies the use of one software for getting everything done.

Accounting software
Face it, you can’t code, manage all your employees and take care of the finances all by yourself without some help. Also, there are an incessant number of things you need to keep in mind when dealing with anything money related. One little goof-up and you’ll have the taxman at your door for an audit. So you can either hire a team of five-six accountants or you could simply get one or two accountants and use an accounting software. The folks behind these software keep an eye out for changes in taxation and other rules. So instead of having to go through years of account books for any reason whatsoever, you can simply opt for the latest update for your accounting software and all your accounting standards (tax rules and all) will be updated according to the new standards. You don’t have to send your accountants out for an expensive training session every year that has a new set of taxes being introduced. 
GnuCash (http://www.gnucash.org/), is one such open source accounting tool which allows for double-entry accounting, management of stock / bonds and other investment accounts, generation of reports and graphs and even schedule transactions.
 

GnuCash – For all your accounting needs.

Now if you were under the impression that accounting bank transactions need to be done manually then you’d be surprised that if you bank supports QIF/OFX/HBCI imports then you can download your transaction history and sync Gnucash to do it according to a schedule. While actually getting a transfer done requires multiple levels of verification, the records of the same will be reflected in your account books instantly.

Monitoring software
Monitoring software is where you get to put the squeeze on delinquents (harsh word for slackers!). This however, is not the primary usage scenario for such software, instead it is used to ensure that your sensitive company secrets don’t make it outside your control zone. Leaks may happen due to carelessness or because someone takes an initiative to do so, these software monitor each company computer for regular updates, malware checks, activity logs and other attempts to plug data loss. Whether it could be a temporary move or a permanent one is your decision but we’re just putting it here since it is one of the most commonly used software in companies. 

Backlog – streamline and keep track of all your projects.

It’s difficult to get an open source alternative for this category since a complete solution involves multiple software. Which is why, opting for individual open source software for each aspect makes more sense. For installing web filters you can use Squid Proxy and SquidGuard which is a URL redirector. Or you can set all your company computers to use OpenDNS and then manually set filters, however, this gives the employee control over what you get to monitor. For activity monitoring you can use ActivTrak which gives you a web based dashboard to look at reports and employee screenshots. 

Storage management
From contacts, leads, accounting details, tax history to every other thing under the sun, it’s the data that gives your company the advantage over your competitors and losing the same would be disastrous. Which is why you should invest in a high end NAS or at least setup a NAS on your own using FreeNAS. We’ve covered this before so you can check our back issues for the same. 

Data synchronisation with a NAS storage is not a constant affair unless you don’t store files locally at all. So making use of Dropbox or Google Drive on your computer to save your work is a prudent move. However, these services make use of deduplication which does offer some privacy concerns. This is why sensitive documents are better off in NAS storage which in turn can be synchronised with an online storage service that you’ve purchased. 

Office suite
We don’t know of any work environments that can do without a word processor, a spreadsheet software and other tools which make up an office suite. This segment has developed quite well and you have a host of options. You can use OpenOffice which supports all the popular file formats but moving files between two different software has often led to a skewed presentation of the document visually. So making use of an alternative is helpful, there are plenty of free alternatives like Apache Office, LibreOffice or even better – Google Drive which allows collaborative editing.

LibreOffice is an incredible open source office suite.

The software we’ve mentioned are needed for most offices out there, though your core service might need more that what we’ve listed out here. Obviously you’ve tested out some which are even better than the ones we’ve mentioned here. Do write in to let us know. 

Mithun MohandasMithun Mohandas

While not dishing out lethal doses of sarcasm, this curious creature can often be found tinkering with tech, playing vidya' games or exploring the darkest corners of the Internets. #PCMasterRace