10 superb free tools for all of your basic business needs

If your small business has a comparably small software budget, these 10 free software tools can get your company up and running

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Project management: Freedcamp

Freedcamp sounds a lot like Basecamp, doesnt it? There's a reason for that. This free project-tracking tools feature set has a lotin common with its costlier project tracking-counterpart.

If youve ever seen the Basecamp interface, you know what were talking about. If not, heres a crash course: Freedcamp allows you to create projects, within which you can create and assign tasks to various users within your organization. (Due dates appear on a separate calendar.) When users log into their accounts, theyre presented with an easy-to-digest dashboard featuring all the activity thats going on within a particular project, as well as to-do items and larger Where are we on the overall timeline? milestone elements that define what youre working on. Users can even track their time on a particular task, which comes in handy if your business bills by the hour.

Human resource management: OrangeHRM

Managing your human resources is critical in all but the smallest of one-person businesses, and keeping track of your employees' information in a thrown-together spreadsheet just won't cut it. That doesn't mean you need to spend an arm and a leg on premium human resource management software, however. OrangeHRMa completely free and open-source HR systemspins a number of common HR modules around a single, centralized controller system.

In other words, functions such as the suites central employee database, employee leave tracker, timekeeping module, job applicant tracking system, and performance review systemto name but a few of the available optionsall tie into a single administration module that allows a universal admin to assign out different rights and permissions for the aforementioned features at will.

Sounds complicated? Its not. The easy learning curve of OrangeHRM is as big of a selling point as its comprehensiveness. If you need more advanced features or don't want the hassle of maintaining HRM software on your own hardware, however, a paid software as a service (Saas) version is available. You can also pay for training or customized software.

Website design: Weebly

If you know absolutely nothing about Web design but still want some kind of Web presence thats better than an about.me page or a default parked domain page, Weeblys your ticket.

The free version of this Web app allows you to create a simple sitehosted by Weebly itselfthat you build by dragging and dropping various page elements over a variety of preset templates. While certain parts of the templates are locked, you can grace editable sections with paragraphs, pictures, contact forms, or even a little bit of custom HTML if youre so inclined. Fancier elements like embedding videos require a premium Weebly account.

Not only can you have multiple pages on your site, but you can also assign other users to act as editors for collaborative Web-building.

Customer relations management: ZohoCRM

If your SMB really stresses the S bitas in, youd only need three or fewer users for your customer relationship management softwarethen ZohoCRM is the SaaS app for you. At its core, ZohoCRM helps businesses keep track of customers (and potential customers), conduct email marketing campaigns, capture opt-in lead generation, keep a finger on the pulse of sales pipelines, manage sales opportunities, and moreall through a single, easy-to-use Web interface.

ZohoCRMs free version supports 100 megabytes of total storage and up to 100,000 records.

If youre looking for more flexibility (or users) than the free version of ZohoCRM provides, you can upgrade to a premium tier for a reasonable price, or you might want to check out SugarCRM Community Edition. Its more powerful than the free version of ZohoCRM, but it also requires hosting and setting up the software on your own server. Youll need a bit more technical expertiseand the willingness to take to the robust SugarCRM help forumsto get this full-fledged tool up and running smoothly.

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