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Источник: ЦБ РФ

Best CRM Software 2017

Looking for a better way to manage and grow your small business? Customer relationship management (CRM) software can make all the difference. Whether you're looking for a robust CRM software solution, a simple one designed for very small businesses or a free version to fit your budget, there's a CRM software choice for you. Our staff researched and reviewed an extensive collection of CRM software products and picked out what we believe are the best for different types of small businesses in 2017.

Here is a roundup of our best picks and how we chose them. To help you find the right CRM software for your business, check out Choosing a CRM Software: A Buyer's Guide. 

Best CRM Software

Best CRM Software for Small Business: Salesforce

Salesforce is an all-in-one, cloud-based solution that has everything you need in a CRM software. Although this software is typically associated with larger businesses and enterprises, Salesforce's small business edition lets you take advantage of the product's robust set of CRM tools and resources at an affordable, small-business-friendly price. Part of Salesforce Small Business Solutions, the platform is very easy to use and includes key features like lead generation, contact and opportunity management, sales forecasting, workflow automation, and much more. [Go here for a full review of the Salesforce CRM software.]

Best CRM Software for Very Small Business: Insightly

Insightly is a simple, but feature-rich CRM software fits the bill for microbusinesses. It has all the basic capabilities that really small businesses need in a CRM software, but is also highly scalable as your business grows. Additionally, Insightly is one of the most affordable CRM solutions available; there's a free version to help you get started, and paid plans start at a fraction of the price of comparable CRM software. [Go here for a full review of the Insightly CRM software.]

Best Free CRM Software: Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM is powerful CRM software that doesn't compromise on capabilities just because you're not paying for it. Unlike other free CRM, Zoho CRM offers all the core functionalities of CRM software and lets you onboard up to 10 users at no extra cost. You'll also have access to your data anytime, anywhere using Zoho CRM's mobile app, without having to purchase a plan. [Go here for a full review of the Zoho CRM e-commerce software.]

Editor's Note: Looking for CRM software for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

How many employees will need access to this system?

1 to 10

11 to 49

50 to 99

100 to 200

200+

NEXT ?

Our methodology

To find the best CRM software for small business, we started by asking small business owners what CRM software they used, what their likes and dislikes were, and what they think makes the "perfect" CRM software. 

Next, we looked at CRM software that appeared on review sites, business websites and other reputable online sources. We also considered popular CRM software that we were familiar with or have heard about. 

The last steps of our research involved testing our top picks ourselves. This process included signing up for business accounts, trying out software demos, downloading mobile apps, watching videos and contacting vendors with questions as business owners. 

In total, we ended up with more than 50 CRM software products. Our top picks are Salesforce, Insightly and Zoho CRM. Those that made it to our short list include Infusionsoft, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics, Nutshell, NetSuite, Act!, TeamWox and Highrise.

Here are the criteria we used to evaluate each software:

Cost

Ease of use

Contact-management features

Lead-generation tools

Sales and marketing tools

Employee-tracking capabilities

Customization options

Automation capabilities

Third-party integration

Reporting and analytics 

Mobile access

Service limitations

Customer service

 

Here is a full list of CRM software and a summary of what each company claims to offer. This alphabetical list also includes our best picks.

Act! Essentials — Act! Essentials, by Swiftpage, marries contact management with e-marketing to help you get organized, convert new customers and get more from existing customers. The software takes the guesswork out of choosing where to focus time and resources by offering you intelligent, prioritized recommendations based on the level of engagement of customers and prospects. act.com/products/act-essentials

AllProWebTools— If you're looking for a simpler way to acquire leads and maintain customer relationships, AllProWebTools' CRM software is a unique integrated solution. This CRM tool is part of a business suite that also includes email, Web and e-commerce hosting, marketing, task management, and timecards. Having all these tools available from one dashboard keeps you organized and saves you time. AllProWebTools.com

Apptivo CRM — Apptivo CRM combines contact and lead management with project management and marketing software to help your business connect better with customers. Apptivo CRM is part of Apptivo's suite of business solutions. apptivo.com/crm

Avidian/Prophet — Use Outlook as your CRM software with Avidian. The company's own Prophet CRM turns your inbox into a full-featured, mobile-friendly CRM solution. From contacts to emails, tasks, notes, appointments and meetings, Avidian also syncs all your data in a familiar platform you likely already use every day. avidian.com

Base — Called an "intelligent productivity platform," Base is all about using data to help your business make wiser, more informed sales decisions. It closely monitors your sales pipeline, sales rep activities, goals and quotas to make sure your team is productive and succeeding. getbase.com

Bluenose — Bluenose combines big data analytics with powerful technology for customer-success management. Known as a "Customer Success" platform, the software empowers software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses to proactively manage and engage their customers through its insight-driven toolkit, built-in playbooks and more. bluenose.com

BoomTown! — Do you own a real estate business? BoomTown's predictive CRM software is designed specifically for agents, teams, brokerage firms and other real estate professionals. Services include lead generation, a website builder, success management and the ability to manage multiple offices. boomtownroi.com

bpm'online — Get end-to-end process management, from lead generation to ordering to customer service. More than your traditional CRM software, bmp'online combines sales, marketing and help desk functions so you can be there for customers every step of the sales journey. bpmonline.com/crm

Buddy CRM — True to its name, Buddy CRM acts as a small business's CRM BFF for establishing and keeping customer relationships. It starts by giving you all the information you need about customers before you even contact them, so you're always prepared for a sales call or meeting. Buddy CRM also gives you at-a-glance looks at the status of your business throughout the sales cycle, so you can pinpoint hot leads, identify where and why sales are lost, monitor KPIs and track team activities from a single screen. It also comes with a free mobile app, so you can take Buddy CRM with you wherever you go. buddycrm.com

Bullhorn — Own a service-oriented business? Bullhorn CRM is specifically built to help service providers strengthen relationships with customers while improving sales productivity and driving growth. There are also dedicated CRM software offerings for niche businesses, such as staffing and recruitment firms and PR agencies. bullhorn.com/products/crm/

CampaignerCRM — Campaigner offers two types of CRM software. One is for businesses that deal with shorter, simpler sales processes, and the other combines CRM with sales-process management to help companies with longer, more complex sales processes. The latter option offers more advanced functionalities, such as reporting, customization, a sales process API and more. campaignercrm.com

Capsule — Capsule aims to make CRM as simple as possible by offering six core capabilities to help you run your business: managing relationships, managing the sales pipeline, organizing emails, saving contact histories, performing task management and completing customization. capsulecrm.com

Commence — Specifically designed for small to midsize businesses, Commence is a Web-based CRM software that's both powerful and affordable. It's also designed for fast deployment, meaning it's easy to implement and you can get started right away. commence.com

Contactually — Contactually is all about getting the most out of your CRM investment. It is built to help businesses convert existing leads into closed sales, build relationships for long sales cycles, stay on top of revenue opportunities and get more prospects down the sales funnel. contactually.com

GoldMine — Need a premise-based CRM software? Unlike cloud-based CRM software, GoldMine is installed on your own servers and infrastructure to give you more control over your software. In addition to its many CRM features, the company also offers one of the best customer support systems, so you can get help right when you need it. goldmine.com

GreenRope — GreenRope combines the best of CRM with robust marketing automation to help you save time and dedicate more resources to closing sales. Additional features include project management, collaboration tools, e-commerce, event management and more. greenrope.com

Hatchbuck — One of our runner-ups, Hatchbuck is all-in-one sales and marketing tool built with small businesses in mind. It focuses on simplicity, ease of use and affordability, while giving you all the tools you need to organize data and automate marketing processes. hatchbuck.com

Highrise — Also a top contender on our list of best CRM software, Highrise focuses on helping you manage three key areas of your business: contacts, tasks and communications. You can maintain and share contacts with your team, create tasks and set reminders, and keep track of emails, notes and other forms of correspondence. highrisehq.com

Hubspot CRM — A popular inbound marketing and sales platform, Hubspot's CRM software streamlines your sales process across multiple channels in your organization. It works in the background to save you from wasting time manually performing repetitive sales and marketing tasks. The software also specializes in automatically logging and syncing data from different sources of communication, such as your website, phone calls, emails, social media and more. hubspot.com/products/crm

Infusionsoft — Infusionsoft is a favorite amongst small business owners we talked to, because of its ease of use and because it offers a comprehensive set of CRM tools at a small-business-friendly price. Users particularly liked its automation features, ability to nurture leads all the way to closing the sales and extras like email marketing, billing and project management. infusionsoft.com

*Insightly — Our pick for the best CRM software for very small businesses, Insightly is a simple, scalable solution that grows with your business. It offers both basic and advanced capabilities, so you can start with a free or super-affordable standard plan, then upgrade as your business expands. Read our full review here.

iSEEit — Focus on sales. iSEEit offers an intuitive way for sales people to manage all their daily sales activities. This iPad and Web-based CRM solution makes it easy to focus on the right steps to move deals through your pipeline by letting you better qualify leads, tasks, and opportunities; manage deals via milestones and qualifiers; and coordinate and collaborate with customers and colleagues, all from a single, consistent source. now.iseeit.com

LeadMaster — If you're looking for a simple way to gather, manage and convert leads, LeadMaster can help. First, the software aims to save you hours spent looking for high-quality leads by automating your marketing system. Next, its sales lead-management tools helps you turn those leads into sales by making it easy to track, analyze and communicate with those prospects. leadmastercrm.com

Maximizer — Need more flexibility in your CRM software? Maximizer is an all-in-one CRM solution that is completely customizable to cater to your business's unique needs. In addition to offering three robust CRM tools — sales management, marketing automation and customer service — the software also gives you a choice of using the cloud-based version of the software or an on-premise version hosted on your own servers. maximizer.com

Method:CRM — Do you use QuickBooks as your accounting software? Intuit-approved Method works with QuickBooks to integrate your customer data with your financial data. This software links and syncs everything from contact information to invoices, purchase histories and much more to give you a complete view of customers in one, easily accessible place. method.me

Microsoft Dynamics CRM — Microsoft Dynamics CRM takes a different approach to CRM. The software uses social insights, business intelligence and campaign management to help your business strengthen relationships with customers, improve marketing campaigns and, ultimately, boost sales. It is available in the cloud, on premise or a combination of both, and you can integrate the software with Office 365 for even more productivity. microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm.aspx

NetSuite CRM — NetSuite CRM lets you track leads through each step of the customer lifecycle, from lead generation to prospect nurturing, sales ordering, fulfilment and support. It also shows you opportunities for up- and cross-selling, as well as renewals to boost sales and maintain customer loyalty. Other features include order management, commission management, sales forecasting and e-commerce. netsuite.com/portal/products/netsuite/crm.shtml

Nimble — Does your business rely heavily on social media marketing? Known as an Intelligent Relationship Platform, Nimble automatically syncs all types of contact data across multiple channels, including social media. It uses "social listening" to filter contacts and prospects on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn to help you find and close high-value opportunities. The software also syncs emails, direct messages and @mentions, making them easily accessible straight from your dashboard. nimble.com

Nutshell — Specially built for small businesses, Nutshell helps you close sales fast. In addition to standard CRM features like contact and lead management, Nutshell also offers collaboration tools, custom reporting and third-party integrations. You're also in luck if you use Google Apps; the software automatically imports Gmail messages and events and meetings into Google Calendar. It promises fast deployment, too, so you can get started in no time. nutshell.com

Odoo — Odoo is an open-source software that focuses on tracking leads, closing opportunities and generating accurate forecasts. And because it's open source, it lets you customize the software to your exact needs and add on a wide range of apps. Supported apps include marketing, project management, e-commerce, Website building, billing, accounting and even human resources. Odoo is a little on the pricier side, however. It requires a monthly per-user fee in addition to a monthly per-app fee, though you get two free users to start. You can also use the software on multiple companies for an additional fee. odoo.com/page/crm

OnContact — OnContact combines CRM with marketing automation, giving you a complete sales and marketing solution in one. Unlike many CRM solutions, however, OnContact comes with powerful customer-service features, such as contact center capabilities and incident tracking, so you can be there for your customers whenever they need you. OnContact is available as a cloud-based or on-premise software. oncontact.com

Pipedrive— Small business owners like Pipedrive because it is simple and easy to use. It's also a highly visual platform, making it easy to quickly navigate the dashboard and get the data you need at a glance. There is also no training required, and setup takes less than two minutes, so you and your team can get started right away. pipedrive.com

PipelineDeals— PipelineDeals doesn't just help you boost sales; it also helps you and your staff be more productive. What makes it stand out from other CRM software is that it goes the extra mile. For instance, it can send snapshots of your pipeline to your inbox every morning so you know exactly how your business is doing before you even open the software. Plans also come with premium support, so you can reach a real, live PipelineDeals representative any time to help resolve any issues. pipelinedeals.com

Pipeliner — If you're a visual person, you'll like Pipeliner. This CRM software presents all your data in an intuitive, visual way, so you don't have to go through multiple steps to get the data you need. For instance, when you go to the Pipeline section of the software, you'll be greeted with charts showing you who is in which stage of your pipeline. This way, you don't have to open each stage or contact separately to get this information. Pipeliner also offers an all-inclusive pricing model, so you get all the features for just one monthly price. pipelinersales.com

Podio — Podio aims to cut through the noise of CRM and deliver a clutter-free CRM solution. It is a very lightweight software that lets you customize features, so you get all the capabilities you need without all the fuss. With this product's simple interface, you can easily get where you need to go without getting lost in extra steps navigating the software. podio.com/site/use-cases/crm

Sage CRM — Sage CRM is an all-in-one solution that lets you do more with your CRM. In addition to contact and lead management, Sage CRM offers targeted marketing, email marketing, social CRM and more. It also comes with a built-in customer-service portal to help you deliver excellent customer support. And if you use Sage ERP, Sage CRM integrates seamlessly for even better sales acceleration. sagecrm.com

*Salesforce — Our top pick for the best CRM software for small business, Salesforce has everything you need in a cloud-based CRM software. It's affordable and easy to use, and offers a ton of features at a small business price point. It also comes with top-notch customer support, so you can get help any time you need it. Read our full review here.

Salesnet — Salesnet takes CRM to the next level by pairing it with Microsoft Office. Besides Salesnet's native CRM features, the software integrates with Outlook to automatically sync contacts, meetings and tasks; Excel to view and edit reports; and Word to merge data and attach files to the software. salesnet.com

SalesNexus — SalesNexus isn't just another CRM software; it combines CRM with email marketing to help you better target leads, connect with them and convert them to loyal customers. You won't even need a separate email-marketing solution to get the job done. SalesNexus' lead-generation tool also lets you find leads using a wide range of specific categories, such as by industry, title, company revenue, location, social media profiles and more. Each plan comes with 500 leads and 25,000 emails per month. salesnexus.com

SAP Digital CRM — SAP offers enterprise-level CRM tools at a small business price point. Features include lead, contact and opportunity management, as well as robust collaboration capabilities to help you and your team engage more effectively with customers. It's also easy to get started — just follow the step-by-step wizard and you're good to go — and you can manage the software yourself (for instance, you don't have to wait on SAP to make user changes to your account). And because the software is built for small businesses, there are no minimum user requirements and it is scalable to your needs as your business grows. sapstore.com/solutions/99026/SAP-Digital-CRM

Snapforce — If you want a truly comprehensive CRM solution, check out Snapforce. This CRM software eliminates the need to use multiple tools to manage your business. In addition to core CRM features, Snapforce offers cloud-based file storage, calendars and event management, email syncing with your email client, and case management via a ticket system. It also comes with a complete call center software, so customers can reach you with a simple phone call. snapforce.com

SugarCRM — Another favorite amongst small business owners, SugarCRM is powerful CRM software that integrates sales, marketing and employee tracking. The base plan comes with a robust set of features, such as sales automation and forecasting, lead management, call-center automation, reporting, unlimited customizations and unlimited online support. SugarCRM is available as a cloud-based or on-premise software. sugarcrm.com

TeamWox — Need a more advanced CRM software? More of an enterprise management system, TeamWox brings big business tools to small businesses. In addition to CRM, it also helps you manage teams, tasks, service desks and other areas of your business. But if you're looking for a ready-to-use, cloud-based solution, look elsewhere — you'll need to download TeamWox, then install it in your own systems. TeamWox is also on the pricy side. It's free for up to five users, but it will set you back several hundred dollars if you need more than that. teamwox.com

Vtiger — Vtiger is a one-stop shop for all your sales, marketing and customer-support needs. It features a bevy of built-in CRM solutions, including email marketing, project management, calendar and task management, reporting, document management, and more. It also has a customer portal where customers can access their accounts and submit help tickets. vtiger.com

Workbooks — Known for its high level of customer satisfaction, Workbooks is one of our runner-ups for the best CRM software for small business. It focus on four core areas of CRM: sales to boost your business's growth, highly targeted marketing to help you get the most ROI, order fulfilment to streamline your sales processing and customer support to keep your customers happy. A free version is available for up to two users; it also comes with free online support. workbooks.com

*Zoho CRM — Our top pick for the best free CRM software, Zoho CRM is packed with features, despite its free price tag. Unlike other free CRM software, Zoho CRM offers a ton of premium capabilities and lets you add up to 10 users at no extra cost. Read our full review here.

Ready to choose a CRM software? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:

How to Choose a CRM Software

Salesforce Review: Best CRM Software for Small Business

Insightly Review: Best CRM Software for Very Small Business

Zoho CRM Review: Best Free CRM Software

 

Editor's Note: Looking for CRM software for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

Finding the Best No Win No Fee Compensation Lawyer

Why go through all the trouble of having to pursue a compensation claim on your own when you can hire the experts - with no up front costs to you. 

Whilst it’s true that it is possible to seek damages from the person who has caused your injuries without seeking professional help, like most legal experts, we would strongly advise against this. Apart from the fact that it’s exhausting and time consuming, it is highly likely that you will not achieve the compensation you are entitled to for your injuries, or the loss and damage you have sustained as a result of the accident, without expert legal representation.

When you have the opportunity to engage lawyers who are specialists in personal injury law on a No Win No Fee basis, you really do have "nothing to lose" as they say. This is because under the No Win No Fee service, you are not charged any money for the legal services provided to you during your claim, unless you receive compensation for your injuries. You do not have to pay anything until the very end of your claim when that compensation is paid to you.

For this reason, it is only logical that you hire a lawyer who specialises in personal injury claims and is an expert in all matters involving pursuing injury compensation. But with so many compensation and personal injury lawyers offering their services in Queensland, which of them should you hire?

When looking for a good personal injury lawyer - think experience, experience, experience

When it comes to hiring a good personal injury lawyer to assist you with your claim, always make sure that the person or law firm you choose has extensive experience in handling cases similar to yours. Experience can make a huge difference between getting a mediocre result and a great result, or in some instances, winning or losing your case. It can also help ensure that you get your money’s worth, rather than paying for mistakes or a learning curve.

So how do you make sure that the lawyer you hire is indeed experienced? During the initial consultation, here’s what you should do:

First, ask the law firm who will be in charge of your claim, or who will be doing your work on a daily basis.

Speak to that person, not to the most experienced partner or head of the law firm you have chosen.

Obtain the necessary information by asking the lawyer the right questions. You can start by asking how long they have been working on claims similar to yours, the results of those claims, the challenges they have faced and how they have overcome them.

After doing a quick background check, it’s time for you to assess the lawyer’s ability to manage your case. The next thing you need to do is determine how they intend to work on your claim. Ask them to explain if there are things or procedures you don’t understand.

Pay attention to how the lawyer responds to your questions. How did the lawyer sound? Did he or she answer with confidence and competence? Was the lawyer able to give you all the information you need? Finding the answers to these questions will give you an idea as to whether lawyer is indeed someone who is experienced, reliable and trustworthy.

Ideal years of experience

According to experts, a good personal injury lawyer is considered “experienced” if he or she has spent at least five to seven years handling compensation claims and other related matters. This should be enough to ensure that they will be reliable, competent and good at their jobs. It is even better if you find someone who has more years of experience.

Why a No Win No Fee Lawyer, or, more aptly, why not a No Win No Fee Lawyer?

Normally, hiring a lawyer, whether for a personal injury case or to recover the costs of repair to your motor vehicle damaged in an accident, costs money up front. This is usually a primary reason why injury victims, whether from a road accident, workplace accident, or a slip and fall incident, often don't even consider pursuing a compensation claim. They simply think that the legal assistance they will need to pursue such a claim is beyond their financial reach. In some cases, thinking that the services of a good lawyer can add to their current expenses, some people would rather try pursuing compensation claims on their own, which, as mentioned earlier, is a tough road to take and usually does not end with the best result. But with the No Win No Fee service, this is not a concern. 

When a lawyer offers his or her services on a no win, no fee basis, it basically means that the client won’t pay the lawyer anything if their claim is unsuccessful. In other words, if you suffer an injury through the fault of another person, there really is nothing to lose in bringing a claim for compensation using a No Win No Fee Lawyer, because if they don’t achieve any compensation for you, you do not have to pay them anything at all.

"There really is nothing to lose..."

More often than not, only the best and most experienced lawyers offer this kind of service, because if they didn't know their business, they wouldn't be able to keep their doors open. So when you engage injury lawyers who provide this service, your odds of succeeding and receiving the amount of compensation you deserve are usually much higher.

Another advantage of hiring such a lawyer is that it can help you better manage your finances when you are having financial difficulties whilst waiting for your claim to settle. No win no fee lawyers don’t ask their clients to pay up front, so you don’t have to scramble for funds if you want to enlist their assistance.

When hiring a no win, no fee lawyer, the following is a piece of advice you should definitely take on board - make sure that you look over their costs or client agreement carefully. There are lawyers who word their costs agreement differently and may not include certain things in their ‘no fee’ clause. If you don’t want to be saddled with unexpected expenses later on, you should read the fine print carefully and thoroughly. If there are clauses in the costs agreement you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek clarification. This is something that a good no win no fee lawyer expects from their client, so don’t think that you’ll be inconveniencing them by asking questions. No doubt they would be doing the same if they were in your shoes. If you are uncertain of what they are telling you, then call us at The Personal Injury Lawyers and we will be able to advise you as to what their Client Agreements are really saying.

Fortunately, The Personal Injury Lawyers, one of the best and foremost personal injury law firms in Queensland, with head offices in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast and visited offices throughout Queensland, offer their services on a no win no fee basis to all injured Queenslanders. 

The Personal Injury Lawyers, upfront and transparent

As for how we charge you, we like to be upfront and transparent with all our potential clients as to how they will be charged for work done at the end of their case, when compensation is received. Right from the start, we will provide you with a copy of our standard client agreement as well as our "Disclosure Notice", a further document explaining the client agreement in more detail and in simpler terms, to help you understand the way in which costs are charged at the conclusion of your claim.

Strict time limits apply

If you have suffered an injury, which you think has been caused by the wrongful or negligent act of another person, chat with us online or on your mobile, email or call us free and we'll be happy to help. Remember, STRICT TIME LIMITS APPLY to personal injury claims, so you need to contact us as soon as possible to ensure that you are not missing out on significant compensation. 

Get our accredited Lawyers to assess your claim for free. Contact us now

If you have been injured as a result of any vehicle such as car, bike or boat accident, or whilst at work, on holiday, or in many other situations you believe was caused by someone else's wrongful act or negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Even if you think your actions may have contributed to your injury, you may still have a claim well-worth pursuing. Chat, call, email, or let us assess your claim, just press the button below. There is no cost, and no obligation.

7 Platforms for Conference Calls

The word conference used to be something that only business magnates used to use, people with high rankings in the business scene. Nowadays, anyone can create a quick conference call with anyone they like; their business partner, their associates, or just a newcomer who needs to be told what to do. It’s all possible, at no cost.

It’s better known as the VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) way of communicating. You’re technically accessing these apps, tools and platforms for free, but you still require an internet connection to connect with the other person. You might say: Hey, that’s not free? But, you can literally boot up your free conference calls from anywhere you like, be it the gym or a cafe.

Right, there are quite a few ways to understand conference calls, but as far as learning how they work goes - I recommend you read this post about the rates of conference calls, and why are they labeled free, and I recommend you read this podcast article to learn more about regulations and stipulations of VoIP conferencing. Make sure to dive into the comment section for the second article.

Apps, Tools & Platforms for Free Conference Calls

I’ll be putting the emphasis on a few video calling services, because I believe as the technology trends evolve, we’re going to see more and more one-on-one type of conference software come out. It’s - a lot - cheaper to use a program like Skype to host a conference call, whereas an premium service - without video - might prove to be quite costly.

Google+ Hangouts

Google+ Hangouts is probably one of the quickest ways of getting up and running with your free conference call. You can use it literally on any device that has either video or audio support, and the quality of calls is remarkable. You can organize your contacts so that you may always make quick calls necessary, you can also live-stream your conferences if you like, transparency is looked upon a lot!

Skype

Who doesn’t know Skype? It might not be the most secure program in terms of government policies, but it certainly has its appeal when it comes to free video calls, free voice calls, and free instant messaging. You can easily create a video call that consists of up to 25 people, see the official group calls page for more details.

FreeBridge

FreeBridge is a free conferencing platform that can host conference calls of up to 100+ people, a number that you most likely won’t achieve in the very near future, as I believe that major corporations have this part of their business already taken care of. (I’m talking about premium conference call tools!)

FreeBridge is commonly used to conduct board meetings, legal depositions, sales or training seminars, or even phone conferencing with family and friends. Host a free conference call, and see your business processes streamlined, increase productivity, communicate vital information quickly, and save time and money with FreeBridge!

Rehuddle

Rehuddle is the winner in terms of simplicity and straightforwardness, it’s such an easy tool to use - all you have to do is create a group name, you can then dial the given number and enter the extension that was given to you. Same applies for everyone else who wants to join the call, simple and flexible!

Free Conference Calling

I’ve to give it to these guys, snagging the ‘Free Conference Calling’ company name was a pretty smart idea, but luckily these guys are also providing the necessary value. (If we choose to take the name for granted.) You can create calls that consist of up to a 1,000 people, but the most interesting feature is that you can get detailed reports of your conference calls in the account dashboard. Statistics are always great, especially if you have to monitor attendance.

OpenVoice

OpenVoice will allow you to build open call groups for up to 500 people, not only is it easy to use, OpenVoice also provides statistic reports, and features that allow to create specific call groups. If you’re always travelling or on the go, you’ll be happy to learn that OpenVoice has a mobile app that makes conferencing a true breeze!

SendHub

SendHub brings simplicity, affordability, and multi-channel customer service to business telephony. Finally a phone solution that is flexible and adaptable to the dynamic needs of small and midsize companies, without adding costs and complexity to their operations.

Their customers include companies such as Asana, AT&T, and Pigeonly. Out of all the great futures, things like automatic voice transcribe to text and ability to send people messages with a link to join the conversation have really stood out for me. What about you?

Platforms and Tools for Free Conference Calls

My own conference calls so far have been quite small in their size, but it doesn’t mean that they won’t grow as the time goes by. I’m sure that I myself will need to return to this list of platforms and tools myself, but while you’re still here - which one of these have you tried out for yourself, and would you recommend it to others?

10 College Degrees That Could Pay Off in 2017

Recent news about the rising costs of college has been nothing short of dark and dreary. By all accounts, the price tag of higher education has been skyrocketing — and student bank accounts simply cannot keep up.

Government data show that college costs for the 2011–12 academic year were approximately $14,300 at public institutions and $37,800 at private, nonprofit institutions — that’s a 28% to 40% increase since the 2001-2002 school year, even after adjusting for inflation.

It’s no wonder many students can’t afford college without borrowing for the privilege — and it shows. With a collective $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, millennials are now reportedly putting off marriage, home ownership, and starting a family, just so they can service their barely-manageable debt loads. Some students even claim that student loans are holding them back from achieving the American dream, and it’s easy to see why.

Is a College Degree Worth It?

With nothing but bad news about college costs and student loans in the media, it’s equally easy to see why some high school graduates might be tempted to skip college altogether. But, as most experts agree, that isn’t necessarily the answer.

A new paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that the ROI (return on investment) for a bachelor’s degree has hovered around the 14%-15% range since 2000, making it a sound investment choice in most cases. That’s because, according to the research, college graduates tend to earn about 75% more than high school graduates over the course of a lifetime — up to $1 million dollars more, in fact.

Choosing a Bachelor’s Degree That Pays Off

Of course, some degrees pay off more than others, and that might be the key to ensuring that any student loan debt you take on is worth it. Fortunately, finding the ROI for specific degrees is not as difficult as one might think. Data on employment, wages, and job growth is out there, but you typically have to dig for it yourself.

With that in mind, I researched many college degrees in the United States, as well as their potential outcomes in the job market. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor data on job growth and average annual earnings, I compiled this list of college degrees that are likely to pay off in 2015 and beyond:

No. 10: Civil Engineering

As the population grows and cities expand, more bridges, buildings, airports, and dams need to be built — not to mention the existing ones that need to be repaired or maintained. That’s where civil engineers come in.

Given our nation’s aging infrastructure and the many new projects expected to break ground across the country in the coming years, the BLS predicts that employment for civil engineers will increase 20% from 2012 to 2022. The annual mean wage for this profession was $80,770 in 2013, with the top 10% of earners making $126,190; even the bottom 10% still earned a respectable $51,810.

Industries paying the highest annual mean wages to civil engineers in 2013 were Oil and Gas Extraction ($118,790), Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services ($110,910), and Waste Treatment and Disposal ($101,750).

No. 9: Logistics

As the world economy grows, logisticians work tirelessly to find creative ways to move products seamlessly from production to the consumer. And since they work in nearly every industry, the employment opportunities in this field are only limited by the number of products that are produced and delivered in any given year.

Because of the overall demand, the BLS predicts that employment for logisticians will increase 22% from 2012 to 2022, or twice the average for all occupations combined. Students who earn a degree in this field will also be treated to healthy wages: The annual mean wage for logisticians was $73,400 in 2013, and the top 10% of earners made an average of $112,750.

Logisticians were paid the most in the District of Columbia ($99,850), Maryland ($86,400), and Virginia ($86,070).

No. 8: Health Care Administration

It’s no secret that the health care industry is booming, and any type of job within the industry is likely to be a good bet. However, certain health care careers are expected to grow a little faster than the rest, and one of those happens to be health care administration.

According to the BLS, employment for health care administrators, also known as medical and health services managers, is expected to increase 23% during the decade leading up to 2022, as the industry adds another 73,300 jobs. And with all the demand, salaries remain relatively high as well. The BLS reports that the annual mean wage for this career was $90,940 in May of 2013, with the top 10% of earners making $155,130.

In 2013, health care administrators earned the most in the District of Columbia ($123,120), California ($118,040), and New York ($118,020).

No. 7: Petroleum Engineering

Energy production is booming again in the U.S., and as we use up the earth’s limited supply of oil, petroleum engineers will come up with strategies to find the rest of the oil and bring it to the market. And since finding and extracting oil becomes a more complex process with each passing year, students who earn a degree in petroleum engineering will likely be rewarded for their expertise.

The BLS predicts the employment for petroleum engineers will grow by as much as 26% from 2012 to 2022. High demand for this career also leads to high wages. According to the BLS, the annual mean wage for petroleum engineers was $132,320 in 2013. Furthermore, the top ten percent of earners brought home a cool $186,520. The states with the highest annual mean wages for petroleum engineers were Alaska ($160,340), Texas ($159,340), and Kansas ($155,160).

No. 6: Actuarial Science

In the complicated field of insurance, actuaries use complex mathematical models to assess risk and determine the precise price that provides a value to the customer while ensuring a likely profit for the business. However, the math behind majoring in this discipline is decidedly less complex: Students who pursue a degree in actuarial science will likely find that their decision pays off.

That’s because, according to the BLS, employment for these professionals is expected to increase 26 percent from 2012 to 2022 as insurance companies grow and expand. And wages are high too; the annual mean wage for actuaries was $94,340 nationally in May of 2013. Furthermore, the top 10% of actuaries brought in an average wage of $176,190 that same year.

Industries paying actuaries the highest annual mean wage in 2013 were Legal Services ($240,500), Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services ($119,440), and the Federal Executive Branch ($116,210).

No. 5: Biomedical Engineering

The prevalence of technology in modern medicine means that professionals who understand both disciplines should be in high demand. Students who’ve earned a degree in biomedical engineering have found themselves graduating into a field with plenty of opportunity and historically high wages.

And that’s not expected to change any time soon. The BLS projects that employment for biomedical engineers will increase 27% in the decade leading up to 2022. Furthermore, annual mean wages averaged out to $88,670 in May of 2013, with the top 10% of earners making $143,000 and the bottom 10% still earning $54,100.

The three industries that paid biomedical engineers the most in 2013 were Specialized Design Services ($115,300), Offices of Physicians ($103,890), and Scientific Research and Development Services ($102,000).

No. 4: Financial Planning

We all have to deal with money, and that means there will always be a need for personal financial advisors. That’s why many students choose to pursue a degree in this field, and a high percentage of them choose to take things a step further by becoming a CFP, or Certified Financial Planner.

For many of them, this degree will pay off. The BLS reports the job openings for financial advisors could increase as much as 27% between 2012 and 2022. Annual mean wages are high too, with the average personal financial advisor making $75,320 in 2013.

Advisors in certain states earned even more. The states paying the highest annual mean wage for this profession in 2013 were Connecticut ($136,680), New York ($133,110), and Massachusetts ($130,400).

No. 3: Geography

You don’t typically hear about geography as a growing profession, mainly because there are so few people in this field to begin with. According to the BLS, only 1,700 geographers were employed in the U.S. in 2012.

However, students who earn a degree in geography could find themselves in high demand in the coming years. That’s because, according to the BLS, employment in this field is expected to increase 29% from 2012 to 2022. Wages are healthy too: Government data show the annual mean wage for geographers was $74,750 in 2013, with the top 10% of earners making well over $100,000.

The three industries that paid geographers the highest annual mean wage in 2013 were Scientific Research and Development Services ($90,210), Federal Executive Branch ($81,050), and Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services ($66,190).

No. 2: Marketing

New businesses come and go year-round, creating a constant stream of opportunities for marketing professionals who know how to create ad campaigns that effectively sell products and services.

Thanks to a growing economy, the BLS projects healthy employment for students who earn a degree in this field. Specifically, government data show that the number of jobs for market research analysts will increase 32% between 2012 and 2022, nearly three times as fast as the average for all occupations combined. Annual mean wages for market research analysts and marketing specialists were relatively high, too — $60,800 as of May 2013. However, the top 10% of earners brought home an average of $114,250.

The three industries paying market research analysts the highest annual mean wage in 2013 were Support Activities for Mining ($101,530), Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing ($98,320), and Motor Vehicle Manufacturing ($96,470).

No. 1: Computer Science

For years, computer programming has been heralded as the career of the future in our country, and around the world. And while the industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the past two decades, that’s still very much the case. Fortunately, it’s not too late for students to get in on the ground floor of next-generation computer science and gain an in-depth understanding of computers, software, and coding.

Careers that require a computer science degree are expected to take off over the coming decade. For example, the BLS reports that employment for information security analysts is expected to increase 37% in the decade leading up to 2022. Furthermore, jobs for computer systems analysts are expected to increase 25% during the same time frame.

Wages aren’t too shabby, either. The BLS reports that the annual mean wage for information security analysts and computer systems analysts was $88,590 and $81,190, respectively, in 2013.

Don’t Make a ‘Major’ Mistake

With student loan debt at an all-time high, it’s important to choose a college degree that makes financial sense. After all, you’ll eventually have to pay back every dollar you borrow — plus interest.

This list is a good start, but it doesn’t include information on every college degree that is expected to be a good investment over the coming decade. If you’re interested in researching more careers with solid earning and growth potential, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics at BLS.gov and the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop for more information.

 

 

 

 

Best Charities for Your Donations

For many people, the holiday season is the time of year for charitable giving. Donations can be given to charities that support the environment, protect children, feed the hungry, or help other worthy causes. Last year, nearly 18 percent of charitable giving occurred in December, according to a recent report by the Giving USA Foundation in partnership with the Growth in Giving Initiative. 

For many donors, though, the tricky part of making a donation is choosing the charity.

"You can't really base your decision to give to an organization on the name alone," says Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the charity watchdog BBB Wise Giving Alliance. "Unfortunately, there are some donors who do." 

But a charity's name doesn't always tell you where your donation will go. The Disabled Veterans National Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., has a name that suggests that most of the money it raises helps veterans. But according to its latest 990 Form (Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax), of the $29 million it spent in its fiscal 2015 year, less than one-third was used for the group’s charitable programs. Most of the rest was used for fundraising. (Disabled Veterans National Foundation didn't respond to our request for comment.)

By comparison, the St. Louis-based charity The Mission Continues—a name that gives no clue that it helps veterans—spent nearly 90 percent of its total spending on its charitable program and just 7 percent on fundraising, according to the watchdog Charity Navigator.

A better way to choose a charity is to find one that really puts your money to work.

“You can get more bang for your buck by giving to an A-rated charity," says Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of watchdog group CharityWatch, referring to the grading system it uses. CharityWatch gave Disabled Veteran’s National Foundation a grade of F, and The Mission Continues earned an A.

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Check With a Watchdog

Before making a donation, it's a good idea to look up the charity you are considering at the websites of the charity watchdogs. The three big ones are CharityWatch, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Collectively, these groups evaluate thousands of nonprofit organizations based on how they collect and spend their money, how transparent they are to the public, and how well they’re governed.

Though each watchdog has its own system for assessing charities, they all use similar criteria. For example, CharityWatch says that for a group to have a satisfactory rating, at least 60 percent of its spending should go to the charity's programs. To garner its top rating, 75 percent of a group's expenses must be used for its programs, and its fundraising costs cannot exceed 25 percent of the money it raises.

Charity Navigator also examines how much of a charity's spending goes to programs, but the percentages vary depending on the causes they support.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance requires charities to spend at least 65 percent of their total expenses on their charitable missions and no more than 35 percent of their contributions on fundraising activities—as well as meet about 20 other requirements—in order to be accredited. 

The watchdogs, though, report their findings differently. CharityWatch gives letter grades, Charity Navigator uses stars, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance reports which, if any, of its charitable standards a charity fails to meet, awarding accreditation only to those charities that comply with its request for information and meet all of its standards. Those that don’t send in requested information get the label “Did Not Disclose” on the BBB website.

What are your favorite charities?

Tell us in the comments section below.

Using the watchdog reports, we came up with a list of some of the highest- and lowest-rated charities in 11 categories. We looked for agreement among all three watchdogs; however, in some cases we included groups that were evaluated by just two. If a group did not disclose requested information to the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, we did not include it in our list of high-rated charities, although it may have been included on our list of low-rated charities.

Our goal was to come up with five highest- and lowest-rated charities in each category, but that wasn’t always possible. Though environmental charities generally do well with all of the watchdogs, for example, it was impossible to find highly rated national police and fire charities.

Keep in mind that our table below is a partial list of high- and low-rated charities in only some categories. You can find more by going to the watchdogs’ websites directly. CharityWatch is the only watchdog of the three that requires visitors to make a donation for full access to its reports, although it provides a list of its top-rated charities and other useful information free of charge.

High-Rated and Low-Rated Charities

Tips for Giving

• Verify tax-exempt status. If you're not sure whether donations to a particular charity are tax-deductible (don't assume they are), confirm a group's tax-exempt status by checking with the group or by going to the IRS website.

• Give directly. If you're contacted by a professional fundraiser for a charity you want to support, hang up and give directly instead. “The fundraiser might be keeping 75 to 90 percent of the money,” says Borochoff of CharityWatch. Sometimes, he says, charities may end up paying fundraisers more than they take in, leaving the group with a loss.

• Request privacy. If you don't want to be bothered by endless fundraising appeals, tell groups you support that you don't want your name and contact information sold, exchanged, or rented to other groups or for-profit companies, a common practice among some charities. You also can ask the groups not to send you further appeal letters, email, or phone solicitations. Check the charity's privacy policy before giving.

• Be on guard for sound-alikes. Some low-rated charities have names that resemble those of high-rated ones. For example, there's the low-rated Kidney & Urology Foundation of America of Freehold, N.J., and the high-rated American Kidney Fund in Rockville, Md. "In some cases, sound-alike charities are there with the intent to deceive donors into thinking they are donating to somebody else," says Weiner of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. In other instances, groups have similar names because they're focusing on the same causes.

• Consider donating to the charity watchdogs. They're charities, too.


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