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Essential business software

stack of CDs

The essential software in your business enables you to get on with common, everyday tasks, like working with documents, sending email and fulfilling customer orders.

There are some obvious choices for your essential software. For instance, your employees may be comfortable with packages like Microsoft Word and Outlook.

However, the world of software is changing. The emergence of cloud computing means internet-based services may offer advantages over traditional software.

As long as you take a little time to evaluate your requirements, you can be sure of selecting the essential software that meets you needs.

Types of essential software

Your essential business software will generally include packages that everyone in your company is likely to need.

In short: your essential software is the stuff you install on everyone’s computer as standard.

Here are the main types of essential software you might need:

Security software

When you buy a new computer, security software is the first thing you should install. It blocks viruses, spyware and malware, providing a key line of defence for your business.

There are many security packages available, most of which provide adequate protection.

Make sure your security software is compatible with your other business software. And don’t attempt to run two packages on the same computer - they may interfere with each other.

Operating system software

Your operating system is the first thing that runs when you turn on your computer. It’s essential because it provides a platform on top of which your other software runs. Nothing else will work without it.

Microsoft Windows is the most popular business operating system. Because it’s used widely, your employees may require little training to get to grips with it.

If you’ve decided to use Apple Macs in your business then you’ll probably use Apple’s Mac OS operating system instead.

Other alternatives include Linux and Google’s Chrome OS, both of which are free. These are powerful operating systems which have yet to gain a significant foothold in the business market.

Mobile devices like smart phones and tablets have operating systems too. But although some tablet computers do run Windows, mobile devices generally use different operating systems to your desktop and laptop computers.

Office suite software

An office suite is the name for a collection of individual software packages which allow you to work with spreadsheets, documents, presentations and so on.

In this area of essential software, there’s an obvious choice: Microsoft Office. This popular office suite usually includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

However, Microsoft Office can be expensive, so you may wish to consider alternatives.

In particular, Apple offers office suite packages and Google’s business apps offer a credible alternative if you don’t use the most advanced features in Microsoft Office.

Internet software

Internet-based features are present in most software. But in this context, your internet software allows you to browse the internet and send and receive emails.

Web browsers allow you to view websites and are almost always free. The most common packages are Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari.

In all honesty, there is little to choose between these browsers for general business use. Often, the choice boils down to personal preference or whether the browser will work with other internal company systems.

Other essential software

Depending on your business, you might also add other software packages to your list of essential software. For instance:

It’s easy to end up paying for software that gets underused in your business. Consider working with a good local IT supplier to work out what essential software you actually need.

Essential software in the cloud

Traditionally, there was only one way to buy your essential software. You paid a one-off fee (or maybe the software was bundled with your computer), and you owned the right to use that software forever.

These days, it’s more confusing. Many software packages are available as internet-based versions — also called ‘cloud software’.

With this type of software, you pay a small, ongoing monthly fee instead of a large amount upfront.

Even if you do stick with non-cloud software, you may still find you pay a monthly fee rather than a one-off cost.

There are benefits and drawbacks to this new model, but opting for cloud versions of your essential software can be particularly useful if your employees work remotely or you want to be able to easily increase or decrease the number of users you have.

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