Nov 022008

HelpDesk Pilot 4 – If you’ve used the ticket system on my website, then you’ve used HelpDesk Pilot. When I was looking for a method to improve my productivity by implementing a mechanism whereby clients could submit and track work requests, I looked at a number of free and commercial software applications. As I become more proficient in working with OS X and to a limited degree Linux, I am finding myself drawn to web based or open source platforms for several reasons. First, these platforms tend to be more cost effective for a small business like mine. Second, most software of this type can be easily modified or adapted to an existing website. Last, I have found that porting data in and out of web based applications using MySQL is easily done, even if you don’t have any programming knowledge. Sourceforge is an excellent place to start looking for new software. With regard to HelpDesk Pilot, I found the cost of the source code to be very reasonable, given the features offered. Additional, my requests for custom modifications and feature suggestions were warmly received and well implemented. I’d like to see the developer implement a better billing module for the software which would enable the user to better track billable hours, but I am sure they will come up with something soon.

Sillaj – Here is a great example of excellent software available for free on Sourceforge. I had a little difficult implementing this and had to modify the code slightly in a few places to get all the features working, but it was a great experience! This software is designed as a project management tool. I used it for several months to track time for billing purposes when providing consulting services to clients. I had wanted to use some sort of paperless work order system since I downsized my company. Since I’m terrible at paperwork, but very good at organizing and maintaining data on a computer, this was a great way for me to track billable hours from any computer. It worked from my iPhone, too! Thanks to some great iPhone software developers, I now have an even better solution to my daily job tracking, but Sillaj will undoubtedly prove to be useful in the future.

WordPress – When a client of mine convinced me that blogs are great earlier this year, it didn’t take too long to find WordPress. I had used blogger for a very brief period a few years ago, and had been aware of a few other blogging systems around the net, but WordPress is simply outstanding. Thanks to WordPress users with far more programing experience and knowledge than I have, I was able to create a WordPress theme that integrates the blog seamlessly (as I can get it) into my existing website. If you’ve ever considered blogging, look no further than WordPress.

ACT! Premium for Web 2009 – I had looked at the web version of ACT! a few years ago. At the time, the interface needed a lot of tweaking, and it was difficult to deploy and had a few too many bugs for me. Recently, Sage presented me with an offer I couldn’t refuse in the form of a fantastic upgrade price to the latest version. I had previously decided that I was not going to upgrade from the 2008 version to the 2009 version of ACT! Premium for Workgroups. The trouble is that I often have to purchase upgrade licenses for all other 3rd party add-on software, which didn’t make financial sense this year. Getting back on point, I am happy that I can actually access my ACT! data from an Apple computer running the Safari web browser. Unfortunately, Firefox is not supported, and the interface is very slow. I would still recommend and deploy this as a solution for a small business that was implementing an out of office sales force. This would allow the small business to very easily protect their client data in the event that the employee is terminated.

Google Applications/Google Calendar – I’ve only scratched the tip of the iceburg with regard to the potential of Google Applications. Google Calendar made it very simple for me to display my scheduling availability in a secure manner on my website. I had previously used a combination of iCal and phpiCal synchronization to display a more complex calendar that did not fit quite so nice into the body of my website.

AWSTATS – In addition to Google Analytics, I use this web based application to review traffic to my website. Mike at Design Principles introduced me to this software awhile back. Thanks to this post, I had no trouble getting it configured to run on my 1&1 hosted website. AWSTATS displays more specific data about visits to the site than Google Analytics, but is a bit more involved to setup. I like to look at both to see that nobody’s reading this!

phpBB – When I had first envisioned the content I wanted for my website, I initially wanted a bulletin board system. I did put one up here, though I no longer have a link to it from my website, as it doesn’t serve any practical application. In the beginning, I thought clients might use it to exchange information on computer problems, but in a moment of clarity, I realized that it’s a lot easier for them to simply call me for support. I don’t change my own oil, either. I just bring the truck over to Walter’s Tune & Lube. Great service and much easier than doing it myself.