We all know that running a small business is hard. But thankfully, the cloud makes it a lot easier. Small businesses can choose from hundreds (if not thousands) of outstanding web apps that help them do more faster and with fewer resources than the big guys.
At Help Scout we're a small business just like you, with our current team spread among three different states. Communicating with each other, reaching out to customers and keeping our product up and running requires a bunch of applications, all working together.
Now (happy new year!) is a great time to try new web apps. It's an opportunity to get organized, become more productive and optimize tired processes in your business. In that spirit, here's a list of the web apps and companies that help us work better. We appreciate ALL of them for doing such a great job.
Amazon Web Services + Voxel.net
Our two web hosting partners provide us with a great cloud and physical hosting infrastructure.
This is a magical way to do browser testing and debugging. It fires up a virtual instance right in your browser. Brilliant.
Google Analytics + KISSmetrics
We all know Google Analytics, but KISSmetrics is a SaaS company's secret weapon. It enables us to see how specific companies are engaging with the app over time.
We moved all our domains during the recent SOPA scandal with GoDaddy and have found these guys to be a very suitable replacement.
New Relic's software monitors performance across the entire application, helps us find bottlenecks and keeps everything in tip-top shape.
We have a lot of internal alarms set to alert us when something goes wrong, but Pingdom is an off-site monitoring system that will ping us if all else fails.
We're friends with the smart team that created this new application, which will let you know when people abandon your signup form. That way we can follow up if we think there was a problem.
Our favorite apps solve really hard problems and make it look painfully easy, which is exactly what Wistia does. They host all our videos and provide analytics about them so we can get better over time.
Bit.ly is an awesome way to shorten URLs and track clicks over time. We use them to shorten links for our hlp.sc domain.
Buffer + Hootsuite
We love Buffer, and not just because they are a customer. Their app allows you to queue up one or more tweets, which Buffer posts at the time when your followers are most likely to see it. Most of our Tweets originate from Buffer, then we use Hootsuite to monitor conversations and mentions.
This is clearly one of the most beautifully designed and well-executed web apps around. We actually enjoy sending newsletters thanks to Campaign Monitor. As companies go, they are one of our idols.
We simply LOVE this Mac app, which makes it easy to create, publish and share a tutorial, complete with screenshots, in just a few minutes.
We've tried other virtual phone systems and feel Grasshopper is far and away the best around. Since they are a Boston company, it's been great making friends with some people there, as well.
Shameless plug, sorry! Of course we use our own product every day.
What won us over with Join.me was not only the affordable price, but the ease of use for customers to join a meeting. They are the only ones that don't require people to install stuff on their computer.
We support our TechStars brothers and sisters whenever possible, and absolutely love using SnapEngage for live chat. It also integrates with Help Scout, so it's a win-win.
Security is of the utmost importance when you do business online, so our whole team encrypts passwords with this fantastic app for Mac and iOS.
We're proud, card-carrying members of the 37signals fan club and aren't ashamed to admit it. Backpack is a great place to store documents, policies, research and processes for the company.
Developing relationships with journalists and bloggers takes time, and BuzzStream helps us keep track of them all.
Campfire + Propane
Campfire keeps our remote team on the same page, as though we're sitting in the same room. We also use the API to insert automated messages from Help Scout into Campfire, which is really great.
We love using Cloud to quickly iterate on a design, post it for everyone to see, comment, then rinse and repeat until it's perfect. It's a much quicker flow than anything else we've seen.
If we could only have one app on a deserted island, it would be Dropbox. It's another extraordinarily complex app made brilliantly simple and we love using it.
Feed My Inbox + Reeder
Our team also built Feed My Inbox, so we all use it in conjunction with Reeder to keep up with our favorite feeds. We won't toot our own horn, but Reeder is one of the most enjoyable Mac apps these days.
Another one of our company idols is MetaLab, makers of Flow. It's a fantastic way to manage to-do lists and share them with others.
FollowUp is bar none the easiest way to set a follow-up reminder via email. We use it like crazy and are big fans of local Boston founder Chris Keller.
This probably comes as no surprise. Google Apps is a great way to host our email and a few other services with minimal drama.
It took a while, but someone finally nailed online faxing and document signing; it's HelloFax. For a very affordable fee you can get a unique fax number and sign documents without having to print them. It's a very well-executed product.
Joel Spolsky and company did a great thing with Trello. It took awhile to find the right flow for managing our product roadmap, and Trello has been a perfect fit.
Our Favorite Offline Products
What's missing from our list? We'd love to see a list of the apps your business considers indispensable.