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By Kemp Edmonds, Small Business Council Free tools are vital to the success of small businesses in Canada. The current growth in free applications and software continues to benefit businesses. Choosing enough to fit in this column was a real challenge. These applications assist small business owners with common issues such as storage (Dropbox), document creation (Google Docs & Open Office), communication/marketing (HootSuite &Mail Chimp) and scheduling (Doodle). Dropbox (dropbox.com) is a storage system (2GB free) for storing files across multiple computers with ease. It allows the user to drop a file in to an internet folder which can be accessed by other computers or even your iPhone/ Blackberry. Dropbox also allows you to invite people to view private files or host files in a public folder accessible to anyone who knows the address. This is great for working with clients or transferring files among a group of people. Google Docs (docs.google.com) is a free, web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and form application offered by Google. Google Docs allows free storage of up to 1GB of data. Google Docs is also a collaborative tool for editing in real time. Documents can be shared, opened, and edited by multiple users at the same time. Open Office (openoffice.org) is an offline alternative to Google Docs or Microsoft Office. It is available for Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and most other operating systems. Open Office is free to download and easy to install. Hootsuite (hootsuite.com) allows a user to measure, monitor and post to social media like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all from one easy to use dashboard. There is a learning curve when using this incredible free dashboard so watch the short tutorial videos. Social media can be utilized to enhance customer engagement and communications, both internally and externally. Mail Chimp (mailchimp.com) allows the user to send out 3000 electronic mail outs per month or free for up to 500 subscribers. For a small business an email list is essential but keeping those people engaged and up-to-date with your business is even more important. It is important to consider these tools as growth does not have to be an expensive endeavour. Watch this space for upcoming articles on small business tools, tips and ideas from the Small Business Council. Contributions from Raj Hara, Small Business Council and Martin Hui, Small Business Council.