5 tools for the SMB or Independent IT professional

  • 6 June 2013
  • 1 reply

Userlevel 6
Before joining Webroot, I worked as a Network Administrator in the Marine Corps. I’ve seen tools come and go – some were great and some were more trouble than they were worth – but all were designed with the hope of making my life easier. Granted, many of those tools are long gone, but after I left the military, I continued to provide IT support to small businesses in my area. During that time, I found the majority of tools were lacking, often hindering more than helping, so I set forth in search of the latest and greatest. Although I don’t do as much IT work as I once did, I recently rebuilt my support toolbox for those occasions when I need to help someone out. What follows is a list of my go-to programs that have helped me solve issues, manage my time, or better communicate with my team. I want to share these tools with you because, while they might come from smaller companies, they have a big bite and help save a lot of time.
Website: http://www.webroot.com
Spiceworks Page: http://community.spiceworks.com/pages/webroot
Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. Of course, the Webroot guy is going to evangelize for Webroot. That’s his job.
Although I do work for the company, I can honestly say that I’ve been a fan of the Webroot products for far longer than most other programs. I use Webroot on all my devices, load it on all my client and family machines, and love the simplicity it brings to antivirus protection. Installing the program could not be easier; getting it up and running takes less than 10 seconds. It gets right to work protecting the device, and doesn’t bother the end user with overly chatty notifications. Managing all your end user systems is easy too. You can log in to the online management console from any device and it shows you all registered devices and their protection statuses.
Why do I love Webroot? It’s tiny, but it packs a punch. It takes up less space on a computer than an average photo and has minimal system impact, yet it provides continuous, comprehensive, real-time protection. There are no definitions to download and no updates to worry about. In the words of the great Ron Popeil, “Set it and forget it.”
Website: https://www.speek.com
Spiceworks Page: http://community.spiceworks.com/pages/speek
Let’s be honest here; not one of us is ever excited to set up a conference call. When was the last time you remember being able to simply host or join a conference call without having to sit through an automated message or put in pins and passwords? Speek has changed all that with their service. Instead of forcing you through the customary hassles, Speek contacts the invitees. The service allows you to join a call from a phone, the web, mobile browser, VOIP, or SMS, and even has Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android (coming soon) available.
Why do I love this tool? I don’t have to worry about remembering a slew of codes to dial in to a call, and am able to quickly set up a conference call even when I’m mobile. The added bonus of Google Calendar integration makes it even more convenient.
Website: http:/www.logmein.com
Spiceworks Page: http://community.spiceworks.com/pages/LogMeIn
During my days as a Network Admin, I’d get calls at all hours of the night to fix a computer, set up e-mail, or figure out why some toolbar or other wouldn’t go away. We all have at least one of those stories. Unfortunately, taking care of these tickets usually involved me running to some remote office at zero-dark-thirty. But now, I could just stay at my desk and use LogMeIn to access those computers and fix whatever was broken. LogMeIn provides on-demand remote connectivity to SMBs, MSPs, and consumers for end-user support and computer management. What does this mean for you? Your time is utilized more effectively, without having to worry about travel expenses or unnecessary downtime. No more 30-minute drive for a 5-minute fix.
Why do I love this tool? LogMeIn’s range of products let me access my computer, or a client’s, from my tablet, my PC, or even front desk at my remote vacation spot. With free access to try it out and packages ranging from central support to rescue, they fill a need, reduce downtime, and keep your customers happy by facilitating instant support.
Website: http://ninite.com
Spiceworks Page: http://community.spiceworks.com/pages/ninite
Setting up a new computer is a chore, especially when you have to download all the add-ons and software that your users need to do their work. Even for independent pros, there’s always a standard collection of software that you install on all machines as part of the setup process. Now, instead of having to download each program or plug-in and run them individually, Ninite has developed a source for installing and updating all your programs at once. They have a slew of great programs ready to build into one installer, including plug-ins and browsers, all done with a few simple clicks. This kind of simplicity frees you up to focus on more important work, like removing all the toolbars that one end user chose to collect.
Why do I love this tool? It should be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Anything that makes setting up and maintaining the software on a client’s machine easier is going to win my approval.
Website: http://www.freshbooks.com
Once you’ve finished using all these tools, it’s time to get paid. Some people use QuickBooks, others use Excel and a notebook, but I prefer FreshBooks. While this tool might not work for a SMB, it’s perfect for an independent IT pro. FreshBooks makes billing painless, allowing me to take care of an invoice right away at a client’s location – from any device. The program even lets me bring in others for collaboration, so I can track their time and get them paid just as easily. It allows me to track my full work time, send an invoice right away, and accept numerous forms of payment. Granted, I haven’t heard anything about them getting BitCoin support, but I’m pretty sure that’s the only one missing.
Why do I love this program? It costs less than most software suites, the customer service has always been amazing, and, in the end, my clients and I love the convenience of having invoices right away. Happy customers lead to faster payments, and who doesn't enjoy that?

1 reply

Userlevel 3
Badge +8
HURA Richard! Nice list. Haven't seen Ninite, going to have to check it out. +1 on Logmein and Speek, and of course #6 - Spiceworks :D
We use freshbook for tons of stuff. We create a project for each company and assign tasks (remote support, onsite support, project, mileage, etc) and assign a $ value to each task. Then when a tech gets a support call, they log into freshbooks, hit timer, time the task, then log it as say remote support. That all gets pulled into invoicing and billed. And you know how easy billing is in Freshbooks. We also us it for inventory - items have a inventory button, so when I buy 20 patch cables I toss them in there. 
Agreed for more than 10 or so people you might run into a problem but it works a charm for us. Easy way to track time based billing.