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Small Business Technology features GotVMail - The Best Products of the Year

Welcome to the second annual Product of the Year Award issue and 2007 Buyer’s Guide, your one-stop guide to the best technology products and services to grow your small business.

Whew! What an amazing array of products our Labs Team has tested over the past three months! We’ve scrutinized approximately 300 entries-our class of 2006 was double the number of entries for our 2005 awards.

2006 Honorees

2006 Top 10 Products of the Year

  • Adobe Contribute 4, Adobe Systems
  • CA Business Protection Suite for Microsoft Small Business Server Premium r2, CA, Inc.
  • Citrix GoToWebinar, Citrix Online
  • ClickTracks Optimizer, ClickTracks Analytics, Inc.
  • FastTrack Schedule 9, AEC Software
  • HP rp5000 Point of Sale System, HP
  • LifeBook T4215 Tablet PC, Fujitsu Computer Systems Corporation
  • Microsoft Small Business Server R2, Microsoft
  • ReadyNAS NV+, Infrant Technologies
  • WorkCentre 4150s, Xerox Corporation

2006 Product of the Year Finalists

  • Act! by Sage, Sage Software
  • Aegis Portable, Apricorn, Inc.
  • BlueService, BlueFolder
  • CallWave Mobile, CallWave, Inc.
  • Constant Contact, Constant Contact
  • Dell UntraSharp 2007WFP, Dell, Inc.
  • Eli, TrustELI, Inc.
  • Freeconference.com, Global Conference Partners
  • KODAK Scan Station 100, Eastman Kodak Company
  • Landslide, Landslide Technologies, Inc.
  • Mirra Sync and Share Personal Media Server, Seagate Technology
  • MoGo MouseBT, Newton Peripherals
  • Mvox MV900, Mvox Technologies, Inc.
  • NetSuite 11.0, NetSuite, Inc.
  • Nokia E62, Cingular Wireless (now a part of the new AT&T)
  • NTRsupport, NTR Global
  • PayCycle Payroll Plus, PayCycle, Inc.
  • SeriTek/2ENSM2-E, FirmTek, LLC
  • SuccessFactors Manager’s Edition, SuccessFactors, Inc.
  • Symantec Ghost Solution Suite 2.0, Symantec Corporation
  • Timecard Monitor with Labor Time Management Module, Count Me In, LLC
  • Wasp WLS 9500 Laser Scanner, Wasp Barcode Technologies
  • YouSendIt Business Plus, YouSendIt, Inc.
  • Zoomerang zPro, Zoomerang

2006 Products to Watch

  • BlueTie Business Class Collaboration Software, BlueTie, Inc.
  • Customized Printed Products, VistaPrint
  • Glance, Glance Networks
  • HyperOffice, HyperOffice
  • Scanalizer 2.5, NeatReceipts
  • SitePal, Oddcast
  • Small Office Solution (SOS), DirectPointe
  • Universal Power Bank, MFUEL
  • ViaCube SOHO Business Solution, ViaCube
  • VirtualOne, GotVMail Communications

2006 Products that Get the Job Done

  • CardScan Team, CardScan
  • EMC Retrospect 7.5, EMC Corp.
  • FileMaker Pro 8.5, FileMaker
  • Maximizer 9, Maximizer Software, Inc.
  • Nitro PDF Professional, Nitro PDF
  • Peachtree by Sage Premium Accounting, Sage Software
  • Plantronics Voyager 510-USB, Plantronics

So what conclusions can be drawn from our testing and what are the implications for your small business? First is a significant increase in the breadth and quality of technical products aimed specifically at the small business market. We are seeing a much wider range of products available with features and price points that are just right for your small business.

Another observation is that the small business technology segment is being fueled by emerging technology trends much like the rest of the market. We’ve seen a large number of product entries this year in categories such as storage, Voice over IP (VoIP), mobile appliances/peripherals and a significant number of hosted online applications (also called Software as a Service or SaaS). This last category is so hot that almost half of our honorees are fully or partially delivered through the SaaS model described below.

Software as a Service Arrives for Small Business

The 2006 Product of the Year awards program attracted a staggering number of hosted online applications and services product entries. This confirms the arrival of SaaS as a significant technology deployment and consumption model for the Small Business market.

Let’s start by defining Software as a Service. Wikipedia defines Software as a Service (SaaS) as “a model of software delivery where the software company provides maintenance, daily technical operation, and support for the software provided to their client.” The network delivery mechanism is usually the Internet.

One of the principal advantages of SaaS for small businesses is that the functionality is “rented” from the vendor, meaning no capital investment requirement and less upfront risk for the business adopting the solution. Also, due to economies of scale derived from a large number of users, you’ll find many SaaS products offer significantly more functionality than similar products that can be purchased and installed locally.

One of this year’s Finalists, NetSuite, is an outstanding example. For a relatively modest cost, small businesses can rent Business Management functionality that spans most of their business processes, such as ERP;CRM and eCommerce. As one of the original players in the SaaS space, NetSuite’s mature application is now into its 11th iteration and has become a very slick package.

SaaS vendors are also providing point functionality that covers one or a couple of business processes in depth. Finance, the business process with the most traction thus far, was well represented among 2006 Product of the Year Awards entries. Strong contenders in this area include Cougar Mountain Software, provider of a comprehensive suite (CMS) of online financial applications. Other strong niche offerings within the financial applications sphere include entries from companies such as Journyx’s Journyx Timesheet, which concentrates on time sheets and expenses, Expensewatch.com, which handles expenses, which focuses on payroll, and Avalara’s AvaTax SST Edition which addresses sales tax calculations online. Paycycle Payroll Plus was a Finalist pick among the SaaS financial applications for its easy-to-use, well-designed online payroll management application.

Another key business process focus area for SaaS is marketing and sales. Email marketing solution entries such as IntelliContact and Elite Email Marketing from Eliteweb Inc. both have useful features. We named Constant Contact a 2006 Finalist for having, in our opinion, the best overall mix of features. Other SaaS marketing solutions entries have a different focus, such as OneLead, a product which supports lead generation, and SiteKreator Business Edition, which helps small businesses build engaging websites. We really like Oddcast’s SitePal, a product that offers a different approach to engaging customers on your website. We awarded SitePal as a “Product to Watch” and believe its innovative technology has the potential to become broadly used. One of the best online marketing applications we tested was Zoomerang zPro, which earned a Finalist spot for offering an inexpensive and intuitive tool to build online surveys for marketing and product intelligence. Landslide, an intriguing newcomer to the SaaS sales force automation space, proved a well thought-through application, earning a Finalist spot and edging out another well-known, strong contender, Salesforce.com.

Back-office applications have not been ignored by SaaS providers, as evidenced by the plethora of high quality entries in this year’s competition. Remote application support solutions were popular;entrants included NetSupport’s NetSupport Manager, Citrix GoToMyPC (a Finalist last year) and Citrix GoToAssist. In our view, NTR Support from NTR Global is a standout product in this category, with its extensive range of configurable functionality. Customer support applications also did well;we were very impressed with Finalist BlueService from BlueFolder, an online service team automation application with extensive functionality at a reasonable price.

SaaS applications for communication and collaboration were also prominent in our list of entries and winners. Citrix Online was well represented with Citrix GoToMeeting, and it’s Citrix GoToWebinar product, a very impressive online webinar event distribution solution, earned a Top 10 award for its ease of use, killer features and price point. Well done to Citrix Online for it’s consistency! Glance earned a Product to Watch award for its desktop sharing application that is extremely simple to use. Other communication entries included Infinite Conferencing with it’s Reservationless Phone Conferencing solution, while Freeconference.com earned a Finalist spot based on its easy-to-use service at an unbeatable price point (free!).

Security applications are rapidly moving toward an appliance/barrier defense model, and a logical extension of this is offering remote security solutions. We were very pleased to see strong entries in this category, including MX Logic, for its MX Logic Web Defense Service and its MX Logic Email Defense Service, which earned a Finalist award.

Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 R2 earned a Top 10 winner spot this year for outstanding value given the breadth of its features, such as file and print, email and groupware, and intranet collaboration. However, competition is intensifying with vendors providing all-in-one solutions online that offer comparable file, email, groupware, instant messaging, intranet, extranet and in some cases security features. We’ve recognized several Products to Watch, including BlueTie Business Class Collaboration Software, HyperOffice and ViaCube SOHO Business Solution. We were particularly impressed with the range of functionality from DirectPointe’s Small Office Solution. Watch this space. It’s clear that this will be a hyper-competitive area for small business SaaS products going forward.

The final hosted service/solution area to highlight is online PBXs/telephone switches, which are combining with Voice over IP (VoIP) technology to offer small businesses compelling and competitively priced solutions. M5’s Outsourced IP Phone System (a 2005 Finalist) was joined this year by strong entries from PBNext, Angel.com (with products for virtual receptionists and call centers) and Virtual PBX. We were most impressed by simple point telephony applications such as Finalist CallWave Mobile by Callwave and Product to Watch VirtualOne from GotVMail Communications, both products offering straightforward features and value for the small business user.

Software as a Service has definitely arrived in the small business market. I encourage you to try out some of these great products for yourself.

Kick-start Your Technology Planning

Read on and enjoy our take on the 10 top products and 25 Finalists for 2006, plus other standout products earning our “Products to Watch” and “Products that Get the Job Done” awards. You’ll also find a comprehensive Buyer’s Guide of products you may want to consider to help you run your business.

This issue is a great resource for your technology planning, but as always, we encourage you to make up your own mind by trying products out for yourself. To help you along the way, we’ve introduced exciting new resources on our website, including our 2007 Buyer’s Guide and DemoLounge, where you can experience product demos in an environment that’s easy to use (and almost as fun as lava lamps and turntables!) To see where all the A-list products hang out, check out sbtechnologymagazine.org.

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Patrick Cook is Product Editor and Labs Director for Small Business Technology Magazine, and CTO of the Small Business Technology Institute. Don’t miss Patrick’s small business technical blog at sbtechnologymagazine.org. Got a small biz product tip? Email patrick@sbtechnologyinstitute.org