9 Bargain IT Tools For SMBs
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No matter how good a cloud platform is, it's often truly brought to life by the apps, add-ons, and integrations available to users and IT pros.
Basecamp, the project management and collaboration suite from 37 Signals, is no exception. It offers a lean, manageable menu of extras created by third-party developers for everything from mobility to analytics to backup. The trick, of course, is picking the right ones based on your needs and use cases.
In an email interview, Nick Narodny, cofounder and SVP of business training at Grovo, shared four of his must-have Basecamp extras. (If you need a crash course in how to use Basecamp, Grovo offers a half-dozen online training videos free of charge.) We tacked on a few more for good measure.
"Absolutely necessary for anyone with an iPhone [who] needs to access Basecamp projects on the go," Narodny said. Rappel is more expensive than some other apps for Basecamp, but according to Narodny, the $9.99 price tag is well worth it for heavy iPhone users. "Rappel offers the full functionality of the Basecamp on the Web, plus the speed and simplicity of a well-designed mobile app."
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UpcomingTasks offers a mobile alternative for users who don't want to pony up for a paid app, or for the legions who use Android devices. "Also a great option for the Basecamp user on the go, UpcomingTasks is a super-simple way to check Basecamp tasks from any mobile device," Narodny said. "It's free to use and it's not limited to Apple products."
With growing demand for easy-to-use methods of slicing and dicing large piles of data, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the "Reporting, Charts, Planning" category of Basecamp extras is the most robust. Narodny likes EasyInsight for its ability to produce highly visual reports. The EasyInsight platform also works with other popular cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Google, and Zendesk.
"If you're a visually oriented person, or if you [simply] need reporting features from your Basecamp projects, EasyInsight is a great addition," Narodny said. "Once you've connected [the two applications], EasyInsight can build graphs and charts based on the information in your Basecamp account."
Integration is the name of the cloud game for many organizations. Zapier integrates Basecamp with more than 140 other online apps, including Evernote, Facebook, Google Apps, WordPress and Yammer.
"Zapier connects Web-based services together so you can create automated tasks from one service to another," Narodny explained. "For example, if you want to create a Basecamp task each time you get an email with a particular label, you can connect Basecamp with Gmail and build the formula. Or, if you've got big files shared with others in your Basecamp account, you can use Zapier to sync a Dropbox folder as a backup for those files."
To follow on the heels of Narodny's recommendations, here are three more Basecamp apps for your consideration:
We seem to focus on making sure our apps are available on the small screen -- specifically, our phones and tablets. But it's less than ideal to huddle the team around an iPhone. While still in beta, Statusboard enables you to put your Basecamp information on an office TV monitor or other large-screen display. It also includes integrations for Google Analytics and Twitter data.
Wappwolf and Yoxel
Backup and sync features are critical when managing a large quantity of documents and other data across a project team. There are several Basecamp extras for these functions, depending on which other platforms you use and what you want to sync. Wappwolf will automate backup and sync between Basecamp and Box.net, Dropbox and Google Drive. Yoxel syncs Basecamp calendars and tasks with Exchange and Google Apps.
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