Buying software for your business can be a daunting task. There are so many options, and each option has so many features that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. However, if you break the task down into manageable chunks, you can do the job and make sure you get the right applications for your company.
By evaluating the features you need and the complexity and cost of the software programs, you can determine which packages will best suit your business.
Your software needs will depend on the type of business you operate. Many across-the-board business functions, such as e-mail clients, calendars, and word-processing applications, may come bundled with your computer. Typically you’ll have a suite like Microsoft Office already installed or on disk available to install when you purchase your hardware.
But you may also need more specific programs, such as human-resources management, accounting, graphics, inventory control, or engineering programs. Don’t just rely on a vendor’s ad copy to determine which product is best. Go to the newsstand or go online and do some research. PC Magazine and InfoWorld are logical places to start, and CNET’s review section has a wealth of real-world information on just about every software title there is.
Computer trade shows, while emphasizing hardware, typically have plenty of software on display. Usenet newsgroups and discussion forums are also useful to learn what actual customers are saying about software products.
The need for smooth integration, cost effectiveness, and brand recognition has led many businesses to stick with the major players: Oracle, Microsoft, Siebel, and others. The breadth and scope of these companies’ offerings just can’t be matched by smaller software companies. An increase in telecommuting and wireless access has also made cross-platform compatibility an area of growing concern. This too is more easily found when purchasing from major software companies.
Make sure you know your hard drive capabilities, and check the system requirements for any program carefully before purchasing or downloading any software. Keep in mind that other than physically having the disk in hand, there’s typically no difference in the actual program if you purchase it in a box or download it from the software company’s Web site. Just make sure you have a legal copy.