Productivity Apps 101: Get Started with Google Apps, LastPass, and Dropbox

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In the software world, small business productivity apps are a big old bucket of essentials like email and calendar, password protection, and cloud storage.

Boring? Yes.

Critical? Absolutely!

It’s time to eat your veggies, kids. Let’s talk small business productivity apps.

If you’ve been following my posts, you know I’ve been using the Hopscratch approach to covering the basics of small business ownership. Their outline has already fueled posts on how to legally form a small business, and how to take control of small business finance.

Have you kept up so far? Great! Now let’s explore three great small business productivity apps: Google Apps, LastPass, and Dropbox.

1. Send Email from Gmail without the @Gmail.com.

From communicating with customers to setting up social accounts to running our calendar, we all need email. Alas, not all of us have time to set up our own private email server. (What? Too soon?)

It’s tempting to settle for yourcompany@gmail.com. Don’t do it! This isn’t amateur hour.

Instead, sign up for a Google Apps for Work account using your website’s domain (aka, your URL or .com). Come up with a naming convention – firstname@companyname.com will do unless you plan to really grow your business – and add yourself first and your teammates second.

Bonus tip: Create an alias like hello@companyname.com to share access with trusted employees or a virtual assistant and to keep all those transactional emails from cluttering your personal inbox.

2. Create Better Passwords – and Remember Them – with LastPass.

Passwords. Bleh. I, for one, look forward to retina scans. Until then, passwords are the way to go. You can either create and memorize secure, unique, and memorable passwords for every online account. (Unlike King Roland from Spaceballs, it cannot be 1-2-3-4-5.)

Or, you can opt for LastPass.

As you sign up for apps and websites on the internet, LastPass generates encrypted passwords for you and stores them in a vault. The next time you hit the login page, LastPass will auto-fill your username and password. It’s painless for you and your future employees.

Remember to set up LastPass on ALL your secure work devices – tablets, smartphones, laptops, etc. That’ll give you easy access to the apps and websites you need wherever you may roam.

Bonus tip: LastPass can also store your answers to common online form fields, including name, email, and even credit card info. How much time will that save you?!

3. Store and Share Files in the Cloud with Dropbox.

When you’re just getting started, you may not think of file storage. But once you hire that first employee, or go looking for a file that you stored on your laptop instead of in the cloud, you’ll be glad you set up Dropbox.

With Dropbox, you save files on a folder on your computer just like you normally do. Dropbox will automatically sync the file so that the latest version is stored securely in the cloud where every employee and every device can access it.

Just as with LastPass, simply sign up and install Dropbox on ALL your secure work devices. That’s it. Welcome to the cloud!

Bonus tip: Create a system of folders before sharing access with employees. Otherwise you’re just asking for chaos. I name my top-level folders based on business function – operations, finance, marketing, etc. That should help everyone find what they need fast.

Wow, You Ate Your Veggies like a Champ!

You made it! See, small business productivity apps aren’t all that boring. You ate your veggies like the grown-ass business professional you are.

Fortunately, our next small business basics post will be sweet dessert by comparison. Get ready to build and launch your website!

What small business productivity apps do you use?

About the Author

Matt Simpson

Matt is a freelance writer for The DRIVE blog with expertise in digital marketing, social media, and copywriting. He’s active in the #yesphx startup movement and has been recognized by AdWeek, Mashable, and more for digital innovation. Visit Matt’s website or follow Matt on Twitter.

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