Can I run my small business from a Surface?

surface laptop

Surface Pro or Surface RT.

The answer is YES.

When I say yes, I don’t mean you can but only if you’re willing to give up ease of use or to switch to no-name software. I mean you truly can run your business and use some of the very same software you’ve probably been using for years. At a minimum, software that is reputable and well-developed.

Now, that’s not to say there is no catch. Of course there is!

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for; so, you’ll find more options for your small business on a Surface Pro than on a Surface RT but that doesn’t mean the Surface RT options are bad.

In the sections below I’m going to cover some examples of software to help mange your small business. Without knowing what your business is, I can’t get into specialized software but I’ll cover software that can be used for some basics such as Invoicing/Billing and Expense Tracking. I’ll also touch on an idea or two for saving money by combining roles for your devices.

Running your Small Business from a Surface Pro

With the Surface Pro, your options are almost unlimited as it runs the full-blown version of Windows 8 and can run many popular small business management software products, such as Quickbooks or Sage 50. You also have the benefits of a tablet form factor such as a touch screen (for easily entering data/capturing signatures/etc.) and weight savings over most laptops.

Examples of small business software you can run from your Surface Pro:

  • Office 365 Small Business Edition: Office is probably the single most important small business management software packages out there. However, one of the downsides of using the Surface Pro is that it does not come with a version of Microsoft Office installed. If you’re going to run your small business with a Pro, get Office now!!
  • QuickBooks Pro 2013: QuickBooks is pretty much the gold standard for dedicated small business management software. It helps you manage your business by allowing you to do things like track expenses, invoice customers, and run reports.
  • Sage 50 Pro Accounting 2014 (Formerly Peachtree): One of the top competitors to QuickBooks. It does pretty much the same things QuickBooks does along with employee management and inventory control functionality.

Replace your desktop and save money

In addition to the above, running your business from your Toshiba Dynadock Docking Station on your desk and you can turn your ultra-portable tablet into a full blown desktop when you’re in your office (try to do that with an iPad, ha!).

Running your Small Business from a Surface RT

With the Surface RT, your options are a bit more limited for installed software but you still have the benefits of a tablet form factor and an all day battery life. In addition, it comes with a free install of Microsoft Office 365 Small Business Edition but if you’re not doing too many Word documents or Excel spreadsheets it might do the job.

  • The above mentioned free install of Office RT
  • NetSuite: Netsuite is a cloud-based ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) product that let’s you manage many aspects of your business Like (PO, time tracking and inventroy tracking). It’s been around since the late 1990’s and is well known. The only downside is that it might be overkill for a small business. You would have to look at it and make that call for yourself. It starts at about $99/month.
  • SageOne: This is another ERP. It’s not quite as advanced as Netsuite but it has a lot of features you may need for fiancial and project management. It is also cheaper as it starts at about $25/month.
  • Zoho CRM: Zoho CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software helps you bring in sales by improving your communication with your customers. You can start out with their free version or pay up to $35/month for additional features as you need them.

Connectivity

There is a potential downside to using a Surface Pro or Surface RT if your small business has you in your car or going to customer sites (for example, if you’re a roofer or handyman).

The problem is the lack of a 3G network built into the Surface tablets but that can be easily and cheaply overcome with a mobile hotspot like a T-Mobile 4G Hotspot (T-Mobile), an Elevate 4G Mobile Hotspot (AT&T), or a Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot (Verizon). Just pick your favorite wireless vendor and problem solved.

If you are running your business from a brick and mortar location or you have reliable Wi-Fi available at your work sites, this shouldn’t be much of an issue.

I hope you found this post helpful. In future posts I may cover some more advanced small business management topics like eCommerce or Point of Sale solutions.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or feedback…

Tim


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