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7 Essential Tools Every Serious Startup Needs

7 Essential Tools Every Serious Startup Needs

Being an ideology for the new age, the startup practice has already endowed so many with the means, expertise and experience necessary for thriving in the ever-changing climate of the business world. So far, this practice has been fuelled by great networking potentials, intellectual freedom and state-of-the-art tools, all of which came as hugely beneficial aftereffects of the rapid digitalization.

Once opened, such countless possibilities have allowed us to think more inventively, act more bravely and succeed more easily. In the modern world powered by internet and technology, starting up has never been less arduous – all that is needed is a reliable toolkit and a bit of courage. Here’s what to seek and where to find it.

1. Let There Be An Idea!

Assume you’ve already spent a lot of your time trying to come up with the next big thing that will launch you straight to the top. Yet, instead of the sudden strokes of ingenuity, you’ve been wasting away your brainstorming sessions by beating around the bush. All along, that brilliant business idea has remained on the tip of your tongue, but you still cannot seem to define it. Although frustration can be a strong motivator, there’s no harm in seeking assistance – when a creative mind fails, idea generators come to the rescue.

Even though not intuitive enough to promise an unfailing success story, startup idea generators can do a nice job of crystallising your thoughts, discarding bad notions and helping you choose between a number of viable projects. And once the most promising one has been pinpointed, business name generators like Brandings, Names4Brands and FreshBooks will help you shape it all up and get it ready for the big launch.

2. Analyse First, Act Later

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    There’s no foolproof business plan without performing thorough market research. Everything from marketing strategies to competitive positioning hugely depends on the unique conditions your niche is currently being subjected to, which is why getting familiar with, evaluating and analysing customer habits, field competition and latest business trends is absolutely paramount. Besides, the today’s market is mostly data-driven, and your startup is pretty unlikely to succeed without actionable information.

    To keep the odds in your favour, you’ll need all possible facts, particulars and statistics you can find. Luckily, tools like Think With Google’s Marketer’s Almanac, Nielsen’s MyBestSegments and SurveyMonkey offer much-needed insights on how modern customers browse and buy, provide data necessary for major business decisions, allow greater understanding of targeted demographics and their lifestyles and survey both market and customer preferences.

    3. Spread the Word (Digitally)

    Although businesses are still adjusting to the prevailing automation, advertising is one niche that is already entirely online. In consequence, little can be achieved, marketing-wise, without some serious digital campaigning. Social mingling and blogging, audience engagement and content creation are at the very core of today’s advertising strategies; however effective, these techniques require plenty of time and creativity. Being a philosophy of its own, digital marketing demands a little more than an online presence.

    Nothing has significantly changed since Bill Gates declared content a king way back, and SEO is definitely still one of the most potent strategies for getting noticeable in the online environment. To make the best of your optimization efforts, try Answer The Public or Screaming Fog. Tools like Buffer and Hootsuite, on the other hand, are brilliant for getting your social media campaigns up and running.

    4. Get Your Work Flowing

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      Long ago in the pioneer times, which is how we now call the pre-internet era, hard-working people needed to rely on paper-based planners in order to stay on top of their to-do lists and daily commitments. Although productivity methods have notably changed, a flawless workflow management process is still a prerequisite for running a successful business. Efficient organisation is therefore a necessity for those looking for a structural support sturdy enough to manage both the bigger picture and its little details.

      If in need of a productivity boost, you’ll certainly get it with Toggle, SaneBox or Trello. Whether by saving time, sorting out the emails or reminding of the scheduled tasks, all of them provide virtual assistance and organizational support crucial for making the best of your working hours. Consider it as a clever delegation of assignments – instead of depending on sticky notes to keep you on track of all that’s coming up or due soon, you’ll have a smart and intuitive helper to categorize and outline all of your tasks on a daily basis.

      5. Plan, Manage & Track

      Just like business planning, project management is a long and intricate process with an infinite number of little tasks, but it has a nasty habit of not coming through exactly as imagined. Ultimately, the first is being written and developed by a small circle of startup founders and partners, while the later implies flawless communication within a team.

      As such, project management cannot thrive without an efficient division of labour, knowledge and skills, as well as the organizational method that ties all of these elements into a well-oiled machine with a common objective. Due to its overwhelming complexity, this process may just be in the greatest need of automation.

      For businesses in development, project management tools like the aforementioned Trello, Asana and Basecamp are absolutely essential.

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      Not only will they provide a platform for effortless and comprehensive project planning, help managers with assignment delegation and assist team members in managing their schedules, but they also offer greater visibility and transparency for all parties involved, thus making the process significantly easier and more trackable, all while synchronizing the workflow both within individual teams and at the interdepartmental level.

      6. Nurture Your Relationships

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        While market research helps aspiring entrepreneurs detect patterns in customer’s purchasing habits, customer relation management has a responsible task of identifying and pursuing quality leads, converting them into buying customers and, most importantly, retaining the clientele by keeping it happy and satisfied.

        More than anything else, a unique customer experience is considered a differentiating factor in the saturated marketplace; once the audience is compelled to engage with a brand, everything needed for a long-lasting and profitable customer satisfaction is an efficient managing system.

        It goes without saying that choosing a software system is important, because this one is not an easy feat. For startups particularly, Pipedrive, Hubspot and Vtiger are all equally proficient at tracking leads and closing sales, gathering and analysing data that promises more focused marketing efforts, increasing productivity and coordination, providing sturdier administrative support, and consequently, improving the overall customer service and experience.

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        7. Keep Your Books in Order

        Now, imagine a successful company that, digitalisation or not, has got each of these aspects of business operation neatly arranged and smoothly functioning. No matter its size or phase of development, a thriving business is always in great financial risk if lacking a dependable bookkeeping structure.

        And when it comes to startups, the budgeting issue is even more problematic – faced with little material resources for commencing their corporate endeavour in the first place, startups are in great need of getting properly endorsed for all of their efforts. Financial management is, thereby, a key element for any business growth whatsoever.

        Quick and effortless invoice tracking, daily updates of payment statuses, as well as transparent visualisation of real-time incomes, expenses and profits are all included within the best financial management tools like Salesforce Invoice and Payment Platform, BodeTree and Shoeboxed.

        Apart from turning all of your startup paper clutter into organized, easy to read and mobile accessible data and reports, these platforms are money-saving solutions by themselves, since they provide an accurate and reliable substitution for an entire accounting team.

        Starting a business is hard; even with enough resources, aspiring companies are faced with developmental and management challenges that are sometimes too daunting to overcome. When supported by an unfailing, dependable and user-friendly structure, which is something online tools certainly provide, startups are one step closer to accomplishment.

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        Djordje Todorovic

        Blogger, Gamer Extraordinaire

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        Published on September 25, 2020

        10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

        10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

        When it comes to digital security, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t safe enough, making it much easier for hackers to access your personal data. Whether you are studying in a library or scrolling through Facebook in a coffeehouse, it is vital to have a VPN installed on your device.

        VPNs work wonders when it comes to securing your internet connection. By creating an encrypted tunnel between a remote server run by the VPN service, they protect your personal data from prying eyes. There is a variety of VPNs available on the web, and we have collated a list of the best VPNs that stand out from the rest.

        How to Choose a VPN

        • Free trial period – Free trials allow you to try the product risk-free. The same idea technically applies to those with 30-day full refunds as well.
        • Speed – You want your VPN to be just as fast as the internet speed at home. Good quality VPNs are ones where you see little difference between those speeds.
        • Device connection – Of course, the more devices that can connect to VPNs, the better. It increases the customers’ coverage and the product’s value. You also want to consider compatibility since fewer VPNs may work for Mac or Windows only.
        • Number of servers – The number of servers determines how much capacity a VPN can handle while you are connected. The more servers there are, the more users it can handle without running into potential disconnections or slow speeds.
        • Kill switch feature – Having this feature means that your IP address isn’t exposed if the VPN disconnects for some reason. A lack of this feature is a big deal since the whole reason why you’re paying for a VPN is to hide your IP address, among other things. (Find out how to avoid getting tracked online here: Big Brother Is Watching You Online: How To Avoid Being Tracked)

        Why You Should Trust Us

        Our hand-picked VPNs are incredibly efficient and offer such distinctive features that grant you safe browsing. They outperform many VPNs in terms of both speed and security. Their primary aim is to provide you the utmost security, thus enabling you to surf the web safely and prevent any potential threat from causing harm.

        Among the best VPNs’ many unique features include split tunneling, strict logging policies, high encryption level, and availability of international servers. We have gathered them in this article to enlighten our readers and offer the best pieces of advice before you get one. Therefore, take our word for it, and if you go for a VPN mentioned below, you’d be fully appeased.

        1. NordVPN

        The most popular VPN on the market these days is NordVPN, and it’s easy to see why. It has widespread coverage, offering a selection of over 5,000 servers spanning across 59 countries.[1] Due to the high number of servers, its speed is similar to your Wi-Fi at home.

        Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, has been using NordVPN for many years and wants to recommend it for its remarkable server count in different locations with no-logs policy. The VPN perfectly works with Netflix and Fire TV stick, too.

        NordVPN is also compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can download the app onto Chrome, Firefox, Android, and Mac OS. Thanks to its massive coverage, it’s easy to connect multiple devices onto these servers.

        In terms of pricing, while NordVPN doesn’t have a free trial period, they argue that their plans are considerably cheaper than those of their competitors. For example, a one-year plan for ExpressVPN costs $8.32 per month, but NordVPN only charges $6.99 monthly.

        NordVPN has a new protocol called NordLynx that is based on WireGuard with speed benefits, though it’s still under development.[2] If you’re looking for general quality and affordability, this is one of the best VPNs around.

        Buy this VPN.

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        2. ExpressVPN

        ExpressVPN is the second-best option out there for keeping your privacy while browsing the internet. Like many other VPNs here, they will encrypt your IP address, offer vast coverage, and can have multiple devices connected to their servers.

        Compared to NordVPN, while the pricing point is higher, ExpressVPN’s biggest selling point is the number of countries that their connection covers. Depending on where you are in the world, this may be the only option you have. They have fewer servers — 160, to be precise — but they make up for the low server count by covering 94 countries.[3]

        Cost-wise, your best bet is to go with the yearly plan where they charge $8.32 a month. They also have one- and six-month plans.

        Buy this VPN.

        3. Surf Shark

        With regards to Surf Shark, you can connect multiple devices to its servers, and it’s compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac. It is also available on Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and FireTV.

        Furthermore, Surf Shark can whitelist apps and sites, letting them bypass the VPN. This, along with the lines of split-tunneling, is another feature that many VPNs offer. The difference is that Surf Shark allows you to whitelist specific apps or any website, while most VPNs will whitelist all sites or none at all.

        The other consideration for this app is the price. While lower-tier plans are more expensive compared to others, Surf Shark’s 24-month plan is priced at $2.69 a month, so it’s cheaper than even NordVPN’s equivalent plan!

        Buy this VPN.

        4. CyberGhost

        Another top-reviewed VPN is CyberGhost. They’ve been around for 15 years and have fine-tuned their offers and features to stay competitive. They provide the standard package of browsing the web and logging into accounts safely and give you access to regionally blocked content.

        The network also maintains security from hackers, malware, and phishing. Aside from that, you can connect multiple devices, and it’s compatible with all kinds of platforms.

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        What separates CyberGhost from the others is their extensive coverage. They have multiple servers, and the pricing point is still very low. It covers over 88 countries and has roughly 6200 servers for you to choose from, all while charging $2.75 for their 18-month plan.

        Buy this VPN.

        5. IPVanish

        IPVanish’s prime purpose is to give users online freedom by providing fast speeds and private connections. It’s clear that they can meet that promise as they provide many of the features that have been listed previously from their competitors.

        IPVanish is a part of SugarSync now. What is that, you may ask? It’s a cloud-based service that syncs files across devices and computers for sharing, backup, and many more. What this means is that other devices can access various files and videos so long as they are connected to your specific VPN. Furthermore, it can serve as a backup plan if you get hacked or lose your device for some reason.

        Buy this VPN.

        6. Private Internet Access

        Private Internet Access (PIA) is a remarkably generous company in many ways. Aside from the obvious features, they offer great incentives and discounts for people to try out their products. They claim to be the most trustworthy and reliable VPN around, and we believe that.

        One notable thing is that PIA offers a free two-month trial. Compared to other VPNs to this point, none have provided free trials (though all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee). On top of that, small businesses can avail of their VPN at a discounted rate. There is also the fact that their pricing plans go as low as $2.69 a month for two years, and they let you pay with gift cards.

        In terms of specs, PIA has over 2695 servers that cover 47 countries right now.

        These particular aspects make PIA unique and one of the best VPNs to consider.

        Buy this VPN.

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        7. Hotspot Shield

        Hotspot Shield is all about offering protection while you’re browsing the internet or using streaming services like Netflix. The encryption is military-grade, and its speed is ultra-fast. In truth, it is even marketed as one of the fastest VPNs.

        Hotspot Shield offers a plan that only costs  $7.99 a month; however, it’s one of the few in this list to provide its services for free. Like other Freemium apps, the free version comes with limited features. That said, it gives you a much better feel for the VPN.

        Also, take note that the encryption feature is still there, though the limitations in the free plan include connecting to one location in the US and having limited streaming options and speed.

        Buy this VPN.

        8. TunnelBear

        As unusual as a name choice for an online security protection service can be, TunnelBear is nothing short of incredible. It makes our list of the best VPNs for various reasons.

        The biggest one is that the company goes through a yearly security audit. This is notable because many VPNs don’t bother about independent audits to ensure their systems are secure and safe from any issues. This is critical as VPNs have gotten some bad reputation over the years, as TunnelBear has noted in their post about their security audit.[4] The fact that they are doing this annually ensures that nothing is being compromised.

        Furthermore, TunnelBear offers limited services for free, but even their paid plans are pretty cheap. For individuals, you’re merely paying $3.33 per month. The only catch is that you can connect five devices regardless of which paid plan you pick.

        Buy this VPN.

        9. Norton

        Norton has been on the security scene for some time, and it’s actually one of the founders of the internet security industry. It started with virus and malware protection in 1991 and has since branched off to other sectors as the industry has shifted.

        As you might expect from a company that’s been around for a long time, Norton provides excellent services, and a few of their other services have gone into the VPN package. In reality, Norton is the only one thus far to offer a password manager with their VPN services. They provide 50GB of cloud storage as well.

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        Norton has one of the cheapest VPNs, considering you can get their deluxe plan at $49.99 per year. That comes up to roughly $4.17 a month. It might be slightly higher than other equivalent plans, but you get a lot of extra value that makes it worth the price.

        Buy this VPN.

        10. StrongVPN

        The final VPN we want to cover is StrongVPN. Like many others, it’s great at blocking unnecessary web traffic and providing a fast and simple solution to navigating the internet without any hindrance.

        StrongVPN has over 900 servers. It is available in more than 30 countries and compatible with all devices. Beyond that, the only notable selling point it has compared to others is that it also offers Sugarsync services and 250GB of storage, irrespective of your chosen plan.

        As for the pricing, their year-long plan costs $5.83 a month, while their month-long one is $10.

        Buy this VPN.

        Bottom Line

        Getting online protection is important these days, and companies recognize this.

        With more hacks and breaches occurring every single day, the best VPNs can provide an excellent haven for many people who value their security and privacy.

        We hope that by putting together this list, you’ll be able to find the best VPN that you can trust and enjoy using. As you can see, there are several great options with no real wrong one out there. Pick the VPN that’s best for you.

        Featured photo credit: Petter Lagson via unsplash.com

        Reference

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