Once upon a time, if you wanted to start a small business, you needed a whole bunch of stuff. You needed an office or store, office equipment, staff and a website. Even when I started my own one-person business from my home, I needed an expensive computer and software, not to mention a printer, copier, and fax machine (it was a long time ago …).
Now, it’s possible to run many small businesses entirely from the one device you probably already have in your pocket – your smartphone. You can make sales, run payroll, manage your website, send invoices, process payments, do your marketing – all from the palm of your hand.
In the last few years, there has been an explosion of cloud-based, mobile apps (or mobile versions of desktop software applications) that make it easy to stay on top of most of your business operations right from your mobile phone. And that’s great for today’s small-business owner, because you’re more likely than ever to be on the go: meeting customers, traveling to trade shows, balancing work life with family needs.
If you’re going to put sensitive data up in the cloud, take a few steps to protect that information. Be sure to research potential providers when it comes to security and privacy, looking at online reviews as well as recommendations from other small-business owners.
There are a few other must do steps to protect your data and devices if you’re going to run your business from a smart phone.
• Choose reputable companies: With so many new apps coming out, it’s possible the app you choose today could be gone tomorrow. Tend to go with providers who’ve been around for a long time. They’re more likely to both be there tomorrow and to have the resources for high-quality security.
• Use passwords: Use passwords not just for applications, but for your phone itself, and make sure everyone who uses a business app on their phone also uses a password-protected device. And use harder-to-break passwords, not just the name of your oldest child.
• Protect your devices: Since your business is now based on your phone, protect your phone. Keep an eye on it, and treat it carefully. You might want to get a backup, just in case.
• Control access: Make sure that you, as the business owner, controls who can access your data, and when an employee leaves, be sure to turn off their access.
• Turn it off: You’re never leaving the office if you’re carrying your business in your pocket. But you need down time. So set aside device-free time every day.
I’ve spent time checking out some of the most useful apps for running your business on the go. Search for these at either the App Store or Google Play Store, download, and get to work wherever you are.
• Money management and accounting. Send out invoices, track time, pay bills, run payroll, track mileage and more: QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, Intuit Online Payroll, Harvest, Wave, Bill.com, Shoeboxed, Everlance
Rhonda Abrams is the author of Six-Week Start Up, just released in its fourth edition. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter through the handle @RhondaAbrams. Register for her free business tips newsletter at PlanningShop.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.