Category Archives: Startup Zone

WELCOME TO OUR STARTUP ZONE!

If you’re starting up a business, you’ll find advice and free software to help you get started at the lowest cost possible.

Use the menu above to find relevant articles – or dig around below to see articles listed in chronological order.

And, as always, we’re if you’ve found any free tools that you find a must, do let us know by entering its web address in the box at the foot of each article. If it looks good, we’ll share it with everyone else. Thanks!

Research

Whether researching a new or existing market to understand customers and competition, or looking into Intellectual property rights to protect your idea, research is an important part of the process for any start-up business. Here you’ll find our links to pages about different types of research.

Market Research

Intellectual Property and Patents

 

Intellectual Property & Patents

For many businesses, exploiting and protecting Intellectual Property (or IP) rights is a core business activity. So it’s essential you do your homework to find out if others are treading on your toes – or if you’re infringing others’ intellectual property rights.

Here are a number of resources that will help you search various countries’ patents and find IP information.

You can perform free searches of the US Patent Office and find EU, German and Japanese patent documents at FPO, a free resource that includes blogs and articles on IP. You can also visit the US, EU and and UK patent offices directly, all of which have plenty of free tools and resources covering patents, copyright and trade marks.

If you’d like to license out your own intellectual property, Creative Commons offers a simple, standardised way to protect and share your IP.

Business Startup Fascinating Articles

Inspirational and instructional articles for startups will be linked below. If you come across great articles that you think must be shared with the startup community, please use the submissions box at the bottom of the page.

How Dropbox, Reddit, Quora, Foursquare, Groupon, Tinder & Airbnb promoted their fledgling businesses. A Fascinating article found on Reddit. 

Website Tools and Utilities

If you own or run a website, you’re always going to need tools to check it’s fit for purpose. Here are a selection of free and insightful tools you’ll find useful.

SEO

For a tool that quickly crawls your website and finds important SEO-relevant information such as meta tags and page errors, Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a fantastic utility that allows you to quickly audit your website. It works on Windows, OS X and Ubuntu.

Links

To check your site for broken hyperlinks, download Xenu’s Link Sleuth – available for Windows/Ubuntu (instructions for running on OS X available on the site). Running the app will scour your site and report on various errors and broken links.

Free Mockup and Design Tools

It’s always useful to be able to mock-up what a screen will look like before entering the asset creation phase. But it can be a little daunting if you’re unused to paint or photo-manipulation software.

However, there are some tools which have been created to make the design of websites and software that bit easier – if you know where to look…

Balsamiq isn’t free software, but the trial version is fully functional for 30 days which should give you time to design whatever it is you need on a smaller project. It’s available through the browser or to download for Windows and Mac – and is just a fabulous and easy to use mockup design tool.

Invision offers a fully free version which allows you to not only create wireframes, but is also a collaborative design tool used by lots of larger software companies.

There’s a 15 day free trial version of HotGloos wireframing and website mockup tool, thereafter their starter plan is €4 per month. However, MockFlow offer a basic free account for one designer with their wireframing and collaboration tool. MockFlow is also particularly intuitive to use.

Best Free Firewalls

Firewall software protects your computer, tablet or phone by monitoring the data coming in and out of your device to ensure nothing nasty gets in.

It’s important that all your devices have up to date firewall and antivirus software installed and working at all times. And while the software that comes in-built with your hardware will often do an adequate job, there’s a couple of problems.

First, adequate might not be quite good enough to protect you from the latest threats. Second, after an introductory free period, they’ll often quickly start to charge. Obviously you don’t want to pay, and the good news is there’s no need as there are some excellent free firewalls around.

Here, we look at the best free firewalls for your business PC or Mac.

Best Free PC Firewalls

Zonealarm is probably the best-known free firewall available for the PC. It is simple to install and widely regarded as offering good quality protection.

Another well-regarded, back to basics free firewall is Privatefirewall. It allows you to control access to your computer from websites and gives secure access to trusted programs while working silently in the background.

Free Mac/OSX Firewalls

Macs usually come with their in-built firewall software turned off.  Which is weird because Macs are prone to hack attacks too. Go into ‘system preferences > security & privacy’ to check if your firewall’s on or off (and turn it on).

The only other popular firewall for the Mac is Murus. The lite version is free for personal and business use and has a simple interface which is relatively easy to configure.

Free Websites

Every business wants and needs a good quality website. But they can be a real drain on resources – whether paying for your domain name and hosting or administrating the content.

But there are ways to reduce the cost and time spent on creating your website, and it’s never been easier to do things yourself  with just a small amount of know-how.

Follow our links below and you’ll discover lots of free and low-cost ways to find your ideal website address and quickly get up, running and productive.

 

 

Website Domain Name Registration

The quickest and cheapest way to get your website up and running with no outlay is by using a free service such as WordPress.com or blogger. These sites will give you your own subdomain name such as www.yourbusiness.wordpress.com. But if you want your business website to reside on a top-level domain like www.yourbusiness.com instead, then you’ll have to buy your own domain name.

Domain names can be very expensive if you’re after a short, notable name on a .com address, but there are some places where you can get a domain name for free.

Free website domains

You can get a totally free top-level domain at Freedomain as long as you’re happy with a .co.nr (Republic of Nauru) suffix and provide their site with a back-link.

An alternative way is to buy a hosting package with One and you can get your domain registered for free for the first year. Similarly, 1and1 will provide a free domain, including .com domains, for free for the first year with their small business hosting package.

Cheap web domains

For the no-strings-attached registration of a new domain, which you can then take with you to the web host of your choosing, Freezone offer competitively priced domains, as do Go Daddy and Fasthosts.

 

Best Free Anti-virus Software

It’s essential to have up to date antivirus software on your computer, tablet or mobile. If you get infected with a destructive virus, it can mean considerable downtime and quite possibly the loss of important data,  so you should always ensure you have antivirus software installed and that your virus definitions are up to date.

Thankfully, it’s not difficult to install antivirus software these days and it’s a relatively painless, almost invisible process to update virus definitions too.

These are our recommended free virus checkers – use one of these and your business devices and data should be safe from attack.

AVG Free is one of the best known free antivirus solutions and is available for PC and Mac as well as many other mobiles and tablets. It also blocks spyware and malware.

Another well-know solution is Avast Antivirus free. Again this includes malware protection and works on PC, Mac, Android and iOS.

Finally, Avira Free Antivirus again works on Mac, PC, iOS and Android and offers solid protection from viruses and malware.

Note: it’s vital to allow the software to regularly update virus definitions in order to stay protected against new attacks.

Free Business Communications Solutions

Communications traditionally meant hardware. But increasingly, software solutions have replaced hardware and offer a range of cheap and free solutions, depending on what you’re after.

Below, you’ll find links to our pages on free or low-cost messaging, video calling, screen sharing and conference calling.