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Favourite Productivity Tools

I’ve used many productivity tools over the years as a Project Manager, my own business or simply a to-do list for my personal projects. I have become dependant on them and some I cannot do without.  In this post, I go through my favourites.

SuiteCRM

SuiteCRMThis Contact Relationship Management system is my most invaluable tool. It’s open source, meaning free, and based on SugarCRM but the company has developed it to be less ugly and put in more features. I use it for managing leads, accounts, contacts, tasks, projects, cases and more. It is a powerful tool which can be modified to your own needs whether you are a large organisation or a one-person operation.

How to install it:

You can host it on your own web server.  Many of the better hosts have a Quick Install feature so its live within a couple of minutes or alternatively follow SuiteCRM or your hosts’ instructions about installing it via the cPanel or Plesk. If you have the funds you can host it at SuiteCRM but you will be charged a minimum of 5 users per month rate which can be expensive, so it might be worth self-hosting. Check the system requirements of SuiteCRM before installing it on your web host to ensure your plan meets your needs, there is nothing worse than your site constantly crashing through lack of resources.

Alternatives:

I have used many alternatives to SuiteCRM, specifically the free or low-cost options. SugarCRM is one of them but if you are going to the bother of installing that on your server you might as well go for SuiteCRM.  Sugar is basically ugly and cumbersome to deal with, I’ve never had an upgrade go well.

ZohoCRM is another alternative on the market.  The user experience and interface are very nice however to get the same functionality as SuiteCRM you would have to pay for it.  The cost per user per month might be better spent having a web host and installing SuiteCRM on there.

Trello

TrelloIf you need a cheap and easy to learn project management tool then this is for you. It gives the ability to place your projects into Boards and within that, you can create streams for your tasks, for example, 1) Planning, 2) Working On, 3) Completed.  It really is up to the user how it’s organized.  Personally I like Trello within small teams but the streams within the boards get manic when there are too many people involved so as a Project Manager it can get out of hand for me.  As a matter of interest, there is a SuiteCRM Trello Suggestion Box online which does appear to be public so this provides an example of how the tool can be used.  Trello has api’s with other software such as Salesforce.  Trello has apps for Mac OS, iPhone and so on, so that makes it easier to use.

Manuscript

When you have a large project there will no doubt be a huge number of issues and bugs that need to be managed. One of the tools that have worked for me well in the past is Manuscript, and I was introduced to this by a Vancouver based web agency.  Manuscript was previously called FogBugz which came up with the idea for Trello, it was later sold to another company.  Manuscript, in short, is an easy way of managing your bugs, keeps the workflow in one place, assigns them to different users, a place for code, scrum style methodology integrated, and so on. The main bonus for me is to cut down on many emails and trying to use something like Excel or Google Sheets which isn’t ideal.

This tool, as it is very expensive, I would say is for large companies or smaller ones with a large budget.  A non-profit would be hard pushed to justify the expense.

Notetaking

As being a chair of many meetings or sitting in the sidelines it’s so important to have software to put notes and action points on.  My preference for this is Microsoft OneNote mainly because I already have the Office365 suite and want to stick with it for consistency.  In this tool I can separate my different projects by creating a new Notebook, or area of work, this helps me to organize things.  The big negative about OneNote is how long the data takes to load within my iPad, but its ok via their website version.  The other notetaking tool is, of course, is Evernote, for some reason I do not like this product but I will use it for something that is “quick and dirty”.

Task Management

I manage tasks in SuiteCRM as I do like them to be associated with Accounts or Contacts that I have, I can’t think of any tools that will link them to my contacts.

2DoI started off using task management with Remember The Milk which at the time the free version met my needs, however now I am a little more advanced and didn’t want a subscription model I left them.  I have been managing tasks in 2Do, I bought this quite a few years ago and have never paid anything else. It’s quite a sophisticated program and data sharing across all my devices is easy. Microsoft has recently released their task management application called To-Do, but has a long way to go, it does link in with their online and application version of Outlook but there is something lacking in the features.

Calendar

As I have an Office365 account I use Microsoft Outlook for all my appointments, the application and online version. I am pretty happy with it especially as their web version has improved considerably over the past couple of years.

There used to be online software where I visitors could see my free/busy times and book meetings with me through that interface. These programs still exist but at a cost which I cannot justify the costs.

Online Meetings

Skype appears to be the most popular tool for my clients so I have been using this, and I use it for general phone calls for which the call quality is quite excellent.  I have used Google Hangouts now and again but it just doesn’t have the friendly interface that Skype does.

Summary

One thing for sure, there is a wide variety of choice for productivity tools out there, spoilt for choice.  It’s best to do a needs assessment before deciding which ones to go with because switching from one to another can be a nightmare.  I have to admit of switching now and again but I am more or less settled with what I have.

By |2018-08-14T15:38:03+00:00August 13th, 2018|Technology|0 Comments

Web Hosting Companies Comparison

I’ve had moderate range of experience with various hosting companies so I thought I would share some of them here.  I am sure many have more negative or positive experiences with these companies so I recommend just going out there and doing research for yourself.

1and1

I used this service when I was based in the UK and still use it for a couple of domains as of today. When I hosted my website there I rarely had any downtime, I don’t have any downtime for the email accounts I have there now. The customer service experience has been pretty positive, only had to phone them once and my issue was expedited pretty quickly. The only issue I have with this company is their control panel and back end management appears to be something they have designed themselves. So, if you are used to the traditional cpanel then you might have an additional learning curve in getting used to their system.

GoDaddy

A few years ago this service, I would say, would be the kiss of death to your business but there have been recent improvements. My colleagues would complain once you have your domain with them its near impossible to transfer it out. Again they are a very large company and there will be little personal attention unless you are on a business level account.  I am personally no longer do business with them but have clients that do and have dealt with them on their behalf, that experience has been pretty positive especially with customer service or learning curve issues.  We went through a period of very bad downtime but in the past 6 months that has improved and the WordPress sites hosted with them are at their most stable.

Bluehost

This is probably the worst company for customer service where they have no desire to resolve your technical issues but to sell you something you don’t need, it is extremely annoying.  Eventually my client left them as they were becoming such a nuisance and not conducive to running a business. Having said that they had a more traditional cpanel and didn’t have much downtime.

Hostgator

This is where I have my websites.  On the whole they are good most of the time but go through spates of downtime with little feedback as to the reasons for the outages and eta for a fix.  I’ve also gone through a spate of issues with billing but it seems they have fixed their poor workflow now. From an infrastructure perspective, against a similar service that other hosts provides, they are much poorer especially around server resources. So, hosting larger WordPress sites can be an issue and if you plan to have a resource intensive site with many visitors then Hostgator may not be for you unless you have a more business level account.

Enom

I guess this company is best known for selling domain names but they do have hosting as well. Well, I had no end of problems with the hosting side of things with Enom. First, their customer support was totally chronic taking weeks if not months to respond to tickets.  When they did respond, a miracle in itself, 80% of the time they would give the wrong advice which happened to me a number of occasions which lead to hours and hours of trying to reverse it.  Then there were downtime issues with their MySQL database disconnecting from WordPress constantly. But, recently, as in the past 2 months, I have seen big improvements in downtime and customer service so hopefully they are back on track.

Summary

So I wouldn’t really want to recommend any of the above companies, not just because they are all awful but I would rather people make their own mind up.  It really is hit and miss sometimes.

By |2018-08-06T17:13:28+00:00February 13th, 2018|Technology|0 Comments