11 Must-Have Tools for Small Businesses

Surviving as a small business these days is tough. Thriving in the face of competition is even tougher. Large, well-established organizations often have more resources, more manpower, and better tools, all of which position them for success.

But that doesn’t mean small businesses should give up. Just the opposite, in fact. Small businesses have a number of benefits over enterprises, not the least of which is agility. And, thanks to the wealth of tools for small businesses available today, a small company can compete and perform the same functions served by departments at their larger counterparts.

Today, we thought we’d give a shoutout to a handful of tools that help us run an efficient, lean organization. We may not have thousands of employees, but we do have a lot of tools at our disposal that position us for success—even as a small business. Take a look for a few of our favorite tools for small businesses:

  1. Quickbooks online: The one-stop-shop for accounting, vendor payment, invoicing, and payroll.
  2. Nutshell.com: We came from Salesforce, which is a great tool, but tougher to track small details with. Nutshell is a tremendous (and economical) tool for tracking leads, managing leads, and all the things you’d want sales software to do. Easily our favorite on the list.
  3. Zendesk: A great support issue management software for looking at open issues, tracking support tickets, resolving tickets, and general support management.
  4. Scout: Scout monitors production systems and keeps track of everything from diskspace to databases all in one fairly-priced portal.
  5. Hootsuite: Social media management software. A must-have for businesses like ours without a dedicated social media department.
  6. Lingohub: Trying to reach multiple languages at once? Lingohub is pay-as-you-go translation that works really well. This is ideal for small companies trying to have an international impact.
  7. PivotalTracker: A tool for requirements management. We’ve been using this since day one and have been pleased the whole time.
  8. GitHub: GitHub is our home for source code. Even if you’re only slightly involved in open source, GitHub is a must-use tool.
  9. Basecamp: Basecamp is our tool for managing projects—essentially, anything that doesn’t fit into any of our other tools. Basecamp is very easy to use and has helped us navigate an endless number of projects.
  10. Google: We all know and love the tech giant Google. App47 uses Google to host our email server. (We use the calendar sometimes, too.)
  11. Mailchimp: Finally, Mailchimp is a tool for email marketing. Whether you’re sending a webinar or testing a newsletter, it’s great to have one interface with tracking all the way through.

Tools like the ones listed here used to be limited to big corporations with lots of resources. Now, for a small fraction of the cost, small businesses can operate like large enterprises. No need for multiple departments and lots of red tape—just sign up and go!

These 11 tools have made our lives here at App47 a heck of a lot easier. We may be a small team, but thanks to Zendesk, Hootsuite, Basecamp, and company, we can remain competitive in an industry jam-packed with heavy hitters.

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How to Transition to a Paperless Office

Our world is increasingly going paperless, but the transition hasn’t come quickly or easily. A Loyola University report noted that the average office worker still utilizes 10,000 sheets of paper per year, or the equivalent of about two pounds of paper per day. Whether your company has one employee or one thousand employees, the conversion to paperless processes can save lots of money, time, and above all, increase the security threshold of your operations.

Here’s how to make the transition:

Find the Best Cloud Provider

When all the data for your personal or professional needs is located on one server, you want to be certain that that server is the absolute best money can buy. A cloud hosting service will allow you to store documents in a digital format and retrieve them from anywhere on the planet, but not all cloud hosting services are created equally. More than half of all respondents to a SiliconAngle survey reported moving sensitive data onto their cloud platforms, making them potential targets for hackers and identity thieves. Invest in your security by selecting the best, and safest, cloud provider that your budget allows. Ensure that your cloud provider offers firewall protection against Trojans and viruses, in addition to the ability to reset the security protocol remotely in case a computer or tablet is stolen.

Backup Data Frequently

The risks that a small company faces with regard to hacking are far too great to ignore. In fact, one in five small businesses will be hacked within a year of their start-up, reports OneTechSys, since they lack the resources needed to keep up with the digital arms race of information security.

By backing up your data regularly, you’ll be ensuring your small business the best defense possible against phishing attacks that could corrupt or delete information ranging from consumer credit cards to employee Social Security numbers. A daily backup at the completion of the work cycle remains the most efficient and practical way to ward off digital attacks.

Use Digital Currency

The title of a paperless office doesn’t just apply to the paper in your fax machines and printers. Digital payments allow you to eliminate cash and gain much greater security for each transaction. Mobile wallet platforms allow users to pay via tablet or smartphone, and are the newest form of exchange, eliminating security concerns with password and identity protection.

LifeLock reminds consumers that using a mobile wallet requires special care, ensuring that transactions aren’t made over unsecured Internet connections or using malware apps that can steal data. Never use a mobile wallet app from a company without a strong reputation for security.

Scan and Shred

The last steps of the paperless office transition requires transferring all existing paper onto a digital platform and then eliminating the physical copy. This is the most work-intensive step, since it requires scanning and shredding each individual document. Branch Banking & Trust Company offers a handy list of what and when to shred. Though it’s nice to have hard copies of certain documents, for most documents you only need digital versions.

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Wrapping Up Our Series On Mobility Use Cases

This post concludes our series on mobility use cases. For previous parts in the series, see: IntroductionPart I (B2C)Part II (eCommerce); Part III (Enterprise).

Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered three big mobility use cases for the App47 platform.

From Gannett/USA Today using App47 to test apps amongst its affiliates and end users, to ProPack and others using App47 to bundle apps in an alternative to Google Play, to AmerisourceBergen using App47 to manage thousands of associates and dozens of apps, it’s clear that there are a lot of different ways to use our platform.

While these mobility use cases seem like they’re all very different—and in some ways, they are—they’re all united by one common technology: App47.

Our platform offers many feature sets and covers a wide variety of uses. Though B2C, eCommerce, and enterprise users all have different needs, many of the features they use are the same. They all want to develop apps in a secure environment, distribute apps safely, monitor and manage apps, view use cases, keep apps secure, and have a deep understanding of how apps are being used. And all of those are features offered by our platform.

Despite these very different users, very different businesses, and very different needs, this same set of technology is able to solve many different challenges at once. That’s the beauty of the App47 platform: it uses a core set of features to cover a variety of uses across many different businesses.

No matter what type of business you run or what your main app challenges are, chances are, you’re united around the fact that you need to test apps, monitor them, and keep them secure.

And that’s the point of this series. We cover nearly all of your mobile app management use cases at once.

Posted in EMM, Enterprise App Store, Enterprise Applications, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM, MDM, Mobile App Development, Mobile Application Deployment, Mobile Application Management, Mobile Device Management | Leave a comment

App47 Mobility Use Cases, Part III (Enterprise): AmerisourceBergen

This post is part III of III in the App47 series on mobility use cases. Today, we’re covering an enterprise use case with AmerisourceBergen. For previous parts in the series, see: Introduction; Part I (B2C); Part II (eCommerce). 

When most people think mobility use cases, they think enterprise. And for good reason: platforms like App47 (enterprise mobility management, or EMM) are built around the needs of enterprises who want to use mobile applications.

Long-time App47 client AmerisourceBergen is a textbook example of an enterprise mobility use case. All told, AmerisourceBergen employs approximately 16,000 associates with a diverse set of mobility needs. To take full advantage of the opportunities presented by mobile apps in the enterprise, the company needs a platform to continually develop, test, distribute, and monitor apps.

Although a small company with only a few apps could get by without an EMM platform, when thousands of employees and dozens of apps are put into the picture, such a platform becomes a necessity. AmerisourceBergen utilizes a wide variety of apps. Some are built internally, some are native, some are hybrid, some are web apps, and some are public apps.

This presents the first challenge: the need for a curated app store. AmerisourceBergen needs full control over which users get which apps, which users can use which devices, how apps are deployed, and how users are onboarded—all in an easy-to-use platform. If the app store isn’t easy for users to navigate, they won’t come back. What’s more, the platform needs to be secure not only at the time of app download, but also through the entire period of continued usage. 

A commonly requested feature for in-house developed native apps is version control—something AmerisourceBergen uses frequently. Users aren’t going through a public app store, but it’s still essential to make sure users are staying on the correct version of the app. Most commonly, apps are updated with security patches. Our enterprise app store ensures that versions stay current, and defines security boundaries and enforces them.

Which brings us to the bread and butter: analytics. How are apps being used? How often are they being used? Which users are using which apps? Which features are most frequently used, and what impact might those use cases have on the business? Are apps current? App47 gives you full visibility of your mobile apps within the platform, which enables that ever-important ROI tracking that should be part of every enterprise’s mobility program.

Whether they’re deploying to employees, partners, vendors, or anyone else within your enterprise’s ecosystem, you need that full control and those comprehensive analytics. While traditional MDM solutions can typically only be used for direct employees, a solution like App47’s allows companies to serve their entire base of end users at once.

All of these features used by AmerisourceBergen for their enterprise mobility program build off of the features we outlined in our B2C mobility use case a couple of weeks ago. AmerisourceBergen uses App47 to build, develop, and test apps, with full version control along the way. As a large enterprise, AmerisourceBergen uses the full suite of App47’s features, from development to deployment to monitoring and version control once an app is deployed.

Unsurprisingly, most enterprises have an incredibly diverse set of needs—that’s an almost guaranteed byproduct of having so many employees across so many different businesses. App47 covers those needs and then some, and AmerisourceBergen is a great example of the wide variety of features available to companies who use App47 as their EMM platform.

Check back next week! Then, we’ll wrap up and close out this series on mobility use cases. In the mean time, let us know your thoughts by contacting us directly through the comments, or via our Twitter feed @App47. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM, MDM, Mobile Application Deployment, Mobile Application Management, Mobile Device Management, Volume Purchase Program | Leave a comment

App47 Mobility Use Cases, Part II (eCommerce): ProPack

This post is part II of III in the App47 series on mobility use cases. For previous posts in the series, see: Introduction; Part I (B2C): Gannett/USA Today.

If we were to ask you what came to mind when you thought about use cases for an enterprise mobility management platform, chances are, ecommerce probably wouldn’t top the list. And we’ll be the first to admit—our ecommerce clients are quite a bit different than the other clients in our portfolio.

App47’s ecommerce story begins a few years ago when we were just getting started. Right around that time, a company called CloudLink had the idea to build an ecommerce-based app store for Android tablets built by manufacturers that weren’t allowed by Google Play. CloudLink wanted to be integrated as part of the shipping operating systems on those tablets. What that would mean in practice is an interface that would allow in-app purchases, subscriptions, and more.

While we assumed at the time that our deal with CloudLink—now called ProPack—would be a one-off, fast forward to today, and we have three large ecommerce clients, soon to be four. Though they all use slightly different UIs and features, all of our ecommerce clients are built around the same set of technology with one goal: to be able to curate app stores out to customers, and conduct ecommerce. While you can’t do this on iOS, the Android market for such a solution is large—large enough that the App47 team now considers ecommerce to be the third branch of our business behind enterprise and B2C.

ProPack’s App47 mobility use case is a great representation of our entire suite of ecommerce clients. ProPack has its own development team working on apps full-time through app distribution. Instead of the app’s users being unknown when it gets released into the wild, though, ProPack knows who its users are because they’ve signed up for ProPack’s branded store, and potentially purchased apps.

ProPack has access to App47’s full suite of features, including the analytics, crash logs, and build management we’ve already talked about in this series. In addition to those features, they also have the ability to enable purchase, download, and in-app purchase ecommerce capability. This allows them to have their own branded app store on devices without Google Play, opening up an audience of users they wouldn’t otherwise have.

With ProPack as well as our other clients, the goal isn’t necessarily to make a Google Play competitor. Rather, the goal is to take a suite of products that you want to build an ecosystem around, and then create a targeted platform for those markets. In ProPack’s case, that market happens to be productivity. No matter what the space happens to be, the platform is what’s important.

Is ecommerce the most popular mobility use case for App47? Certainly not. But it’s growing in popularity and complex enough to warrant its own set of features. If you’re looking for an app management platform and want to throw in in-app purchases, downloads, and app purchases through a branded app store, App47 has just what you need. 

Check in next week, when we’ll go into part III of our series. In the mean time, let us know your thoughts by contacting us directly through the comments, or via our Twitter feed @App47. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in EMM, Enterprise App Store, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM, MDM, Mobile Application Management, Mobile Device Management | Leave a comment

App47 Mobility Use Cases, Part I (B2C): Gannett/USA Today

This post is part I of III in the App47 series on mobility use cases we introduced last week. Today, we’re covering a B2C/consumer use case with Gannett/USA Today.

We know what you’re thinking: Gannet/USA Today sells newspapers and news to consumers—so what could they possibly need an enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform for?

While on the surface it may seem like Gannett would only be interested in our analytics, in reality, they use the full breadth of all our features.

Gannett not only produces the USA Today app; it also has a number of affiliates, all of which have their own brands and apps. They all share a common infrastructure: App47. Though they do eventually use App47 for analytics, App47 also gives them a platform for distributing builds, managing security, testing and vetting apps, onboarding users, and ultimately, centralized management.

When building an app for either USA Today or any of their affiliates, Gannett uses our API to connect their build systems to automatically distribute builds. With such a large ecosystem, Gannett needs full control over which affiliates can test which apps. The end user may be a consumer, but through the development process, these affiliates operate almost exactly like users in an enterprise.

Only users within Gannett or its affiliated brands can access test versions. Those apps are fully secure through download and execution, and only specific users are allowed to use them. New versions automatically download, and it’s possible to remotely shut down versions or apps—much like you would with enterprise users. What’s more, the App47 platform ties specific users to their own unique crash logs, meaning that Gannett can trace crash logs to users and resolve problems, whether or not they’re widespread.

All through testing, Gannett remains in full control of the app, allowing them to build their apps in a controlled, managed way. And once they’re finally ready to go into production, the release it into iTunes or Google Play just like anyone else. The only difference is, once their app is released, they use App47 for analytics to improve user experience, track usage, and more.

After release, interest shifts from managing which testers have which versions and which apps are being used where, to how users are using their app. What’s the makeup of Gannett’s audience for their new app? What features in the app are they using? How often? How long are they staying engaged? All of that information is offered in our portal, which allows Gannett to continually improve their app, making a more positive experience for everyone.

Once an app is released into the wild, analytics are a key element in continuous improvement. Long before the app is released, however, Gannett uses the App47 platform to fully manage development and testing across what would otherwise be a difficult environment in which to develop an app.

Even if your business is primarily consumer-facing, during your app testing and developing phase, you’re effectively an enterprise customer and thus can benefit from an EMM platform. App47 presents you with one platform for developing, testing, and production, so there’s no need to sync up multiple software solutions—it’s plug and play.

As it turns out, enterprise mobility management solutions aren’t just for the enterprise mobile app. Gannett is a great example of a mobility use case for an application that isn’t technically an enterprise mobile app, but which mimics one in a lot of ways.

Check in next week, when we’ll continue our series on mobility use cases. In the mean time, let us know your thoughts by contacting us directly through the comments, or via our Twitter feed @App47. We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in EMM, Enterprise App Store, Enterprise Applications, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Forum, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM, MDM, Mobile Application Management, Mobile Device Management | Leave a comment

Kicking Off Our Series On Mobility Use Cases

Context is king.

We’ve talked before here on our blog about how different customers of ours are using App47 to help meet their business goals. But, admittedly, many of those mentions have been in passing.

Given this idea that context is king—that understanding how real businesses use a product or service is a significant benefit—we’ve decided to kick off a series on mobility use cases. We may have talked about customers before, but in this series we’re going to do a deeper dive into how some of App47’s clients use our platform to achieve their end result.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll look at three main mobility use cases that should help give you that ever-important context: enterprise, consumer/B2C, and eCommerce. Using real client experiences, we’ll take a closer look at what App47 is capable of, what clients’ needs are with mobility in their businesses, and how those clients use App47.

We’ll kick off next week with consumer/B2C.

Check back next week for the first post in the series on mobility use cases. See you then!

Posted in EMM, Enterprise Mobility, MAM, MDM, Mobile Application Deployment, Mobile Application Management, Mobile Device Management | Leave a comment

Press Release: App47 Releases AFSOS, a Cutting-Edge Mobile Operating System

Today, App47, a leading provider of mobile application management (MAM) services for the enterprise, announced that it has released a cutting-edge mobile operating system called App Forty-Seven Operating System, or AFSOS.

Recognizing the challenges that having multiple operating systems brings to CIOs, CISOs, and other key players in data security in the enterprise, App47 has, over the past two years, invested significant resources into developing a one-size-fits all mobile operating system solution. While multiple user-brought devices, all on different operating systems, fragment IT’s ability to fully control what employees can and cannot do, an umbrella solution mitigates those problems in an easy-to-use, secure package.

Featuring SHA-512 and 8192 bit key length—with zero impact on decryption times—AFSOS runs on existing hardware. It provides a seamless user experience by emulating devices’ native OS environments while also locking down copy and paste between apps, protecting users’ photos and data, and allowing them to share what they want—but only if it fits the security parameters established by the operating enterprise. Installed through the App47 enterprise mobility management platform, AFSOS is easy to implement and even easier to use.

“AFSOS is the most innovative approach to enterprise mobility since the advent of the iOS platform,” said Chris Schroeder, Founder and CEO of App47. “While there seems to be an ongoing tug-of-war between enterprises and users over control of data, with AFSOS, everybody can have their cake and eat it too. End users get a native experience, the enterprise gets security, and everyone’s happy. We couldn’t be more pleased about the launch of this revolutionary new mobile operating system.”

AFSOS is set to launch on May 1st and will be immediately available to all App47 customers at that time. New App47 customers will be second in line and should expect full access to AFSOS for all devices by the 18th of May.

For questions, please don’t email or call us because we’re just giving you all a hard time and there’s no such thing as AFSOS. Happy April Fool’s Day!

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Rapid Mobile App Development Works—But Not Without Management

Gone are the days of mobile app development being a long, expensive process—at least in the enterprise.

Although the developers of Angry Birds probably didn’t know at the time how much their app would take off, one thing’s for certain: they didn’t set out to create an app with a terrible user experience. They wanted a mobile app with depth that would cater to as wide an audience as possible, with all the right features and nothing cut-and-paste.

One of the biggest differences between the consumer and enterprise mobile app worlds is that a feature-rich, native platform, extensive mobile app doesn’t really add more users. If an enterprise has 5,000 employees, that’s the top limit. No amount of new features or rich user experience add-ons will increase the number of employees using that app past 5,000.

That challenge is a big part of the reason many enterprises have grown unwilling to commit to pairing up with a developer and a mobile application development platform (MADP) to develop rich, immersive mobile apps in a native environment. These sorts of apps are expensive, take a long time to produce, and don’t necessarily increase adoption. Why spend a quarter of a million dollars to produce an app when theoretically, an app developed at a fraction of the cost because it’s simpler would work just fine?

Enter what Gartner calls Rapid Mobile App Development (RMAD). Companies like Snappii, Globo, and Out Systems have turned the MADP principle on its head. Instead of devoting months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to building an app, rapid mobile app development presents a codeless (in most cases) environment so simple that nearly anyone in the enterprise can throw an app together in just a few minutes. This lets business owners or decision makers get things done quickly and simply.

The RMAD approach is excellent for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is how it allows players in the enterprise to quickly manage apps and bring critical business elements mobile. But it also introduces a new problem: enterprise mobile app management.

When an enterprise is only developing, say, 2 apps with the traditional MADP approach, investing time, money, and a lot of labor into helping the workforce go mobile, it’s not imperative that they have a solution in place to manage the apps. 2 mobile apps in the enterprise is essentially a one-off, and it doesn’t take a lot of brain damage to manage those apps.

When you’re quickly churning out apps to meet a variety of different needs, however, perhaps even creating seasonal apps that may only be relevant for a few months at a time, you’ve taken a non-issue and put it at the forefront. You have all these apps—and that’s great—but how are you going to manage them? You need to get on an enterprise mobile application management platform if you want to have a positive user experience, high adoption rates, and perhaps most importantly, a true ROI.

For many of the clients we work with, rapid mobile app development just works. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s efficient, and it gives employees everything they need and nothing they don’t. If your enterprise switches over to an RMAD model, though, don’t leave management out of the equation. With lots of balls up in the air, MAM is the key to a successful rapid mobile app development approach.

RMAD may take less investment up-front, but that doesn’t mean you get to ignore management over the long run. Go ahead and rapidly develop your mobile apps for the enterprise—just make sure that doesn’t come at the expense of a sustainable mobility program.

Posted in EMM, Enterprise App Store, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM, Mobile Application Management | Leave a comment

The One Key Enterprise Takeaway from Mobile World Congress

This week marks two weeks passed since Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona. As one of the (if not the) world’s biggest mobile-focused shows, every year, MWC is the place to be for cutting-edge mobile tech, trends, news, and more.

We’ve had some time to digest all the news coming out of the show over the last few weeks. What did we find? Well… a lot.

Some of the biggest themes seem to be mobile security and management—both of which are good for us. BlackBerry is bringing cloud-based enterprise mobility management to the masses, a host of companies released new mobile apps, Android for Work is getting bigger (and so is security), and hundreds of other companies are all hopping on the enterprise mobility train. Which is great.

There’s one trend we don’t quite get, though: wearables. After seeing the slow adoption rate of mobile apps and BYOD—nearly the pace of a snail—why does everyone suddenly think that wearables in the enterprise are going to take off at the speed of light?

We’re still working on building enterprise apps for devices built two to three or more years ago, not to mention addressing ongoing security concerns with BYOD and enterprise mobility. For us, then, the thought that a new, unknown technology like wearables will enter the enterprise, see quick adoption, and suddenly have tons of features behind it seems a little silly.

What’s going to be the business driver for this tech? Don’t get us wrong—wearables are cool. We’ll probably be getting our hands on Apple Watches this year. But let’s not forget the pace of enterprise. Almost nothing happens quickly.

Although we do like the idea of this new technology, our key takeaway is that wearables probably aren’t the next big thing in the enterprise—at least not yet. Let’s get our current tech sorted out before we jump on the bandwagon and hope for the next big thing to take off.

Posted in EMM, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Mobility Management, MAM | Leave a comment

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