Abram Olmstead  | March 4, 2014

5 Must-Have Apps for Small Businesses

There’s a veritable smorgasbord of both useful and bizarre apps cropping up these days — there’s even one that lets you simulate smashing your phone screen, as if there weren’t enough opportunities to do that in real life.

The app universe is literally exploding: app downloads are forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 36% worldwide through 2017, with 4.4 billion app users by the end of 2017 — four times as many users as there are today, according to Portio Research.

For small companies that are trying to contain costs, hacking their way through the ever-expanding app wilderness to find those that offer the most bang for the buck can be time-consuming. Here are some must-have apps for businesses on the rise:


Over 200 million users and 4 million businesses — including Foursquare, Kayak, and Khan Academy — use Dropbox, a testament to how user friendly this cloud-based file-sharing app is. Invite your friends, family, and teammates to any folder in your Dropbox, and it’s as if you saved that folder straight to their computer. You can also send colleagues links to specific files and folders, making it perfect for group projects. With apps available for all your computers and mobile devices — Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and the Kindle Fire — you can show off videos, automatically upload photos, or open documents from anywhere.

Dropbox offers 2GB of storage for free, while Dropbox for Business, starting at $15 per user per month (minimum 5 users), gives you perks such as unlimited storage and unlimited file recovery. Soon, Dropbox will offer business users the ability to put both a work Dropbox and personal Dropbox on the same device, while releasing a new set of features for IT managers to increase control and visibility over business accounts — including sharing audit logs, remote wipe, and account transfer.


Trello allows you to quarterback a project seamlessly. You can assign tasks, see what everyone is working on, and collaborate in real time using an intuitive “project board” and accompanying “card” system that keeps track of everything — from the big picture to the minute details. Trello keeps a record of everything that’s happened on the card, including comments, changes, and additions. Customize labels for your cards and use filters to only show what you want. You can also filter by keywords and, for teams, by person.

For $50 per month or $500 per year, Trello Business Class allows administrators to access and manage all organization boards, including private boards. You can also link your Google Apps account to Trello with a single click, so you can add anyone from your company to the Trello organization.


Keep tabs on your spending all in one place with Expensify, allowing you to itemize costs, create reports, and upload receipts for proper documentation. Organizing features, such as SmartCategorization, help you auto-categorize expenses based on company accounting policies. SmartScan lets you inputs the receipt information, then matches the receipt to the expense, eliminating manual entry. You can upload receipts by forwarding email receipts, trip itineraries, and any attachments to one email address. Or bring receipts into Expensify via a Google Chrome extension and integrations with Evernote, Dropbox, and Genius Scan.

When you’re on the road, simply snap pictures of receipts on the go using its free mobile apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone. Then create and submit expense reports from your phone. Expensify also integrates seamlessly with any accounting, payroll, customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. Corporate plans start at $6 per month per user for the team plan, which covers most small companies that use QuickBooks.


If you’re looking for a catchall program to help manage your hectic professional life, Evernote is tough to top. Use it to collect ideas, inspiration, and data in any format and store it all in one place. Organize projects and tasks with digital file cabinets, on any device from anywhere.

For $10 per user per month, Evernote Business lets you invite co-workers to your Business Notebooks, where content you’ve shared automatically appears in their Evernote account for collaboration. Or publish your content for the entire company to see. From your company’s Business Home, you can browse and join every Notebook shared with your company and view the profiles of co-workers, including their shared content and recent activity. All of your notes, web clips, files, and images are available even when you’re offline. You can also use Evernote’s Presentation Mode to show notes to colleagues in a full-screen layout with one click.


Think of Hootsuite as the social-media dynamo you could hire, but now don’t have to. This must-have app lets you schedule social media status updates and tweets in advance, while systemizing your social networking needs by selecting the date and time you want to send messages. On Twitter, you can schedule and send tweets and monitor mentions and direct messages. Or use it to create job search streams and follow industry conversations on LinkedIn.

Hootsuite maps your social media management to your real-life teams, whether you’re an agency with multiple client accounts or a small business with external consultants and vendors. Powerful analytics tools and customizable reports provide valuable insight into your social campaigns, offering a comprehensive picture of your participation in social spaces. Hootsuite offers a basic plan for individuals, or the Pro plan starts at $8.99 per month and includes 50 social profiles.