What’s better than fast response to a computer crash?

Technical difficultiesHow about no crash at all?

Most tech companies are still talking about fast response and friendly people…or maybe they list all their certifications, partnerships, and specializations…but having a company that’s great at reacting to problems isn’t nearly as good as having one that prevents them from ever occurring.

I recently returned from a great conference, the ConnectWise Summit down in Orlando. The people who attend are the cream of the crop when it comes to tech companies. As a group, these are the people running the best shops, with the best tools, people, and processes. Despite how busy I’ve been, this was an event I couldn’t afford to miss.

In this crowd, we’re not looking for basics on how to be friendlier or get a technical certification. We’re hardcore: how do we get as efficient as possible about keeping our clients’ systems running smoothly?

This conference delivered. There’s some great stuff right around the corner. We can already restore servers within minutes of an outage; soon we’ll be able to do the same with any computer on a network.

Think about it: instead of waiting hours for recovery, we get you back up and running on a temporary machine – in minutes – while we take care of whatever went wrong. You’re not in crisis, nor are we. Your business is fully functional with almost no interruption from technical issues.

What’s great is that this level of reliability is becoming more affordable than ever. Even if it’s a little more than you spend today, I guarantee it’s cheaper to avoid downtime – keeping operations going and keeping staff – than to skimp a little and then pay your employees to sit around waiting on your techs when problems inevitably occur.

Turbo-charge QuickBooks

Designed for QuickBooksMost small business owners use QuickBooks to handle their finances. It is a great tool, full-featured, flexible, and a real bargain at just a few hundred dollars. But every once in a while, you may find something it can’t do. What then?

Many people create complex spreadsheets and export data on a regular basis to get what they need. This is time-consuming and error-prone. You could also consider a new accounting package but more than likely you’ll just have different gaps. Custom development is tricky at best, even if you know how to program.

Designed for QuickBooks: Third-Party Applications

Fortunately, there’s a better answer. If you lack just a feature or two, consider checking out QuickBooks third-party applications. Because QuickBooks is so popular, they’ve built a huge and highly capable third-party developer community. Chances are that you aren’t the first person who wants that missing feature, and that means someone may have built it for you already!

QuickBooks has an entire website devoted to the needs of their developers, and they offer a set of tools called the Software Development Kit (SDK) that simplify and streamline the process of programming add-ons for QuickBooks users. When these developers create a solution that they expect will have broad appeal, they submit it to QuickBooks for testing and certification.

You’ll find these certified solutions at the QuickBooks Solutions Marketplace. Add-ons range the gamut in features and benefits. A quick sampling includes sales commission calculators, bar code scanners for inventory tracking, project management tools, and more. Some tools link QuickBooks with other software packages–contact managers or CRM solutions, shipping tools, industry-specific applications–while others integrate access with other devices, like smart phones and PDAs so that you can keep data current when you’re in the field or at a client.

Choosing a Solution

We currently use an industry-specific application called ConnectWise to track our clients and our work, and a key feature is that it integrates easily with QuickBooks for billing and A/R.

We are about to purchase an add-on program to track sales commissions so that we don’t have to do it manually each month, and we’re estimating that this will save us a few precious hours each time while improving the odds that the calculations are accurate.

When selecting a tool for your own business, watch demos and see if you can get a free trial. Find out what kind of support they offer if you have problems. And confirm that their software works with your version of QuickBooks–if you have the latest version or the online version, this could trip you up. These add-ons may not be quite as easy as using a built-in feature, but the best come awfully close, improving accuracy while saving you time and, ultimately, money.