Monday, September 15, 2008

Guide to IT for sole proprietor consultants

I've received various requests in the last week or two for a review of the technology that I use to keep track of my life as a consultant to multiple clients and a sole proprietor. Forthwith, what I use for E-mail, Contacts, Calendar and Tasks"

(I generally try for products that are platform agnostic. I use a Lenovo laptop with Windows Vista but a lot of this applies to a Mac as well. I use a BlackBerry, so this is biased in that direction. Much but not all of the same can be accomplished with Windows Mobile or the iPhone.)


GMail for domains. In other words, GMail set up with my own e-mail address rather than GMail has a different approach to e-mail, which includes always (and only) threa
ding e-mails and using tags rather than folders. Works for me and I couldn't go back to anything else. On the BlackBerry, the GMail program is pretty good for searching for e-mail when you don't have your computer handy. But it's intermittent and tempermental at best when using it to reply and compose. Reason is th
at it has to go out to Google's servers for everything and when it sends, has to connect right then rather than doing it asychonrously, when signal strength is adequate. Therefore, I have the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) pull my e-mails from Google and push them to my BlackBerry. If you do this with GMail, you have make sure that you set up filters or everytime you send an e-mail, it will give you two copies of the sent mail--very annoying. You get the e-mail that you just sent listed on your BlackBerry. But you want a BCC of every e-mail sent from your BlackBerry sent to yourself at GMail or you'll lose your reponses. This results in a rebound back to your BlackBerry as new mail. Solution is to filter every e-mail from your own e-mail address, using the BIS online web interface, so tha
t it doesn't show up on your BlackBerry.

Contact Management: Salesforce

There simply isn't anything better than Salesforce and they keep making it better and better (though if you're on a Mac, you shouldn't ignore Marketcircle's Daylite). The basic version is now just $99 per year (you used to have to buy 5 seats but now only have to buy 1). PC syncing is good into Outlook so that you can bring your con
tacts down from the cloud (and then back up to your BlackBerry). There is no Entourage or Apple Addressbook equivalent on the Mac side. However, there's a recently launched free third party sync with GMail contacts. Doesn't work perfectly and produces problems (multiple contacts) when a contact has multiple e-mails, but it is a way to sync into Apple Mail via GMail since there is a way of syncing GMail contacts with Apple Addressbook.

Calendar: Google Calendar

Wonderful in the background and OTA (Over The Air) f
ree sync utility keeps this and my BlackBerry in sync. 

Task Management: Outlook

I've finally returned to Outlook but only for task management and as a sync for contacts into my BlackBerry. You can sign up for an outsourced version of Exchange + BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for $20 per user ( for example). You should be able to get set-up fees waived. Sounds kind of pricey but it is a pleasure and a luxury to have contacts and tasks always in sync between Outlook and BlackBerry. I ma
ke use of the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) for e-mail rather than using BES because I use GMail--so I'm paying that $20 just for contacts and tasks. (Added benefit is that this provides a sync between Google Calendar and Outlook, via the BlackBerry but I don't tend to use my Outlook calendar at all.) Note that for e-mail, if you have different addresses, you can use BIS for some addresses and also use BES. BIS is what comes with every BlackBerry as the basic e-mail offering. But it doesn't offer anything for contacts or tasks. Note also that you could do this all with a Mac and Entourage instead of Windows and Outlook as long as you have the version of Entourage that connects to an Exchange server.

To completely obsess on this post of small larger meaning, here's a diagram:

No comments: