Summary: Go to the portable applications website and download their free portable apps suite plus any other programs that you may need to run your business. Stick them on a 4 or 8 gigabyte thumb-drive and run your entire business from any computer anywhere, any time. Save a ton of money and feel secure that no lost or stolen computer, computer crash or disaster will bring your simple small business to a halt.
I am a big fan of portable applications. If you are not aware of what that is, portable applications are small programs that reside entirely on your USB thumb-drive. These are the programs that you use every day on your computer like word documents, spreadsheets, graphic programs, etc. They take up no space on your hard drive, they don’t fill your computer with a bunch of garbage that slows your computer down and the icing on the cake is that most of these are open source and completely free.
To become familiar with what is available I highly recommend that you take a jump over to portable apps to see what they offer. There are other portable apps available from different sources, but this is a great place to get started.
Imagine being able to run your whole simple small business using the thumb-drive on your key chain or in your pocket. If your computer crashes, quickly buy or borrow another computer and in minutes you are up and running. Someone breaks in and steals your equipment or a fire destroys your office, no problem, you have got it covered. You are on vacation and there is an unexpected business emergency, use the hotel computer and jump in and get your company back on track.
Here is an example of how several of our simple small businesses run almost completely on portable applications and an 8gb thumb-drive. Currently, we are using less than 3 gigs for applications and documents (and we have a lot of documents), leaving 5 GB still free:
We use Open Office almost exclusively anymore. Open Office just so happens to come in a portable apps format. In my mind Open Office is far superior to Microsoft Word and many large businesses are seeing the benefits of switching. All of our forms and correspondences are written in Open Office and saved directly to the thumb-drive. We do have the full version of Open Office on our computers because it seems to be a tiny bit faster than the USB version, but it is good to know that it is on the thumb-drive should we need it.
For those of you who are afraid of compatibility issues, Open Office will both read and write in Word format and even export your documents as a PDF file. Open Office also includes a spreadsheet comparable and compatible to Excel, as well as a drawing program, power point type program and a few other useful programs.
Our log-ins and passwords (and we have a lot for various websites) are all kept in one spreadsheet and password protected with one password. This ability to password protect any documents is part of the Open Office spreadsheet and document programs. We also use spreadsheets to automatically calculate cost and quotes, track blog and website postings, keep customer contacts and information and we use it for about a dozen other operations. We love spreadsheets.
Along with Open Office, we use all of the following programs which can be obtained at the Portable Apps website.
We use SamantraPDFportable to read all Adobe PDF documents.
We use PeaZip to compress and unzip, zipped files.
Several of our small businesses have a big demand for graphics, so we use Gimp Portable for all photo and graphic operations (once in a great moon we still have to resort to our expensive Photoshop). Gimp works great to create fliers, and to re-size pictures for web pages.
We use Inkscape Portable for most of our vector graphic creations like logos and such.
We use Kompozer to build our HTML websites and is a great, free alternative to DreamWeaver.
We use LightScreen Portable to grab and store screen shots off of our monitor.
We use inFraRecorder Portable to burn disc (although I will admit we also sometimes use free CDBurnerXP and ImageBurn, which is on most of our computers).
We use VLCportable to view any sort of video.
We use FireFox Portable for our web browsing and for FTP of all or our HTML website pages.
Although we use Gmail for email we also sync and back up our Gmail accounts with Thunderbird Portable edition, which is an open source, free email client similar to Microsoft Outlook.
One of our small businesses uses a lot of audio development so we use Audacity Portable to adjust the volume, clean up the sound and even to mix various recordings.
Finally and probably most importantly is Toucan Portable. Toucan is a program that we use to sync up every single thing that is done between computers and our thumb-drive. As I mentioned all of our files are kept on one tiny USB, but we back everything up by syncing it with the other computers that are all using the same files. So should ever a computer crash or the thumb-drive is lost or stolen, we can immediately go back to work and within minutes create an identical copy of our portable apps and all of our files.
There are many other portable apps available for a simple small business besides the ones that I mentioned. There are apps for chat and DVD menu creation. There are many games, 3d graphic builders, various program development apps, Skype, task managers, etc.
There are less than six programs that we use on almost a daily basis that do not come in portable applications. Of these six, three are paid applications and three are open source. They are just not portable yet.
You owe it to yourself and your simple small business to check out these portable apps and open source programs. Keeping cost down is a major concern of any business and this really can have a huge impact on your bottom line. I would recommend however, if you find yourself using an open source program, please reward the creator or creators by donating a little to their cause. It helps them to continue their work and besides, it is just the right thing to do.