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 already be familiar with packages like Microsoft Word and Outlook.
However, the world of software is changing. The dominance of cloud computing means internet-based services offer significant 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 device (be it a laptop, smartphone or tablet) as standard.
Here are the main types of essential software you might need:
When you buy a new device, 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. Make sure you keep it up-to-date to protect against evolving risks. And don't attempt to run two packages on the same device - 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 macOS operating system instead.
An alternative is Google's Chrome OS, which is free and available on a wide range of devices. These are powerful operating systems which have yet to gain a significant foothold in the business market.
Mobile devices like smartphones 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, such as iOS and Android.
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 365. This popular office suite usually includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook and comes with both offline and online versions.
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.
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:
- Accounting software, to keep track of your business finances.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software, to track customer communications
- Project management software, to stay on top of projects running in your company
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 far more convenient and, in many cases, inexpensive. Most 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 or add additional functionality.