What is Autotask?

Some people call it a “hosted business automation solution”, a “complete business management solution”, a “complete business management platform”, or a “hosted business management software to streamline and optimize business processes” – but all of that sounds like a bunch of words strung together that don’t really mean anything. So what exactly is Autotask?

When I worked for a local IT firm we used Autotask for tracking IT tickets and projects, but it can do much more than that. It can store inventory, track time clock information, and integrate with Outlook and Quickbooks. It can also integrate with quoting software like Quotewerks and remote monitoring software like N-Able.

If you run a business (especially an IT business), whether by yourself or under a company, one day you might need an automated management software to help run the daily tasks of billing, scheduling and managing tasks. That’s what Autotask does well. It takes care of tracking the little things so your business can focus on bigger things.

What is Autotask?

Autotask is an IT Business Management Software that helps value-added resellers (VARs), management service providers (MSPs) and IT Service providers to sell, implement, deliver and bill for their services. It’s similar to Parallels Business Automation Standard, which is the industry’s leading, billing and hosting automation solution.

How does Autotask Work?

You can streamline and automate your workflows, increase your productivity and optimize the value of Autotask. From lead generation, to winning new business and setting up contracts, to managing projects, supporting your clients and simplifying the invoicing process, Autotask delivers proven techniques and customizable best practices to help you work smarter and more profitably.

You can create and format custom reports, leverage other Autotask System Reports, and add simple charting into your reports. And these are just some of the processes and tasks they do for you without requiring you to analyze each data you enter. Because everything is kept in one database, it gives you the power to mine your data to answer virtually any other question about your business.
Autotask

  • What’s due
  • What’s billable
  • What needs to be scheduled
  • Which employees are under-utilized
  • How long specific tasks are taking
  • Which clients are most profitable

Why use Autotask?

When you keep business management and maintenance overhead costs low, you directly increase revenue on top of acquiring new businesses because of great over-all customer experience. When you keep your clients happy or your business running smoothly and efficiently, everything else follows.

With this automation standard you take care of three essential components for your customers: business, operations and management. When you address these three components, you have one very satisfied customer. Every business can profit from Autotask – from freelancers, small businesses, mid-sized businesses, non-profit organizations, public administrations to large enterprises.

Alternatives to Autotask

GoServiceProIn addition to Parallels Business Automation Standard, there are other complete business management solutions such as Tradepoint Enterprise Business Management Software with Integrated CRM, ShareComplete Business Management Software, BusinessMan (which is based on FileMaker Pro), WORKetc’s business management software, ForgeWorks, Arquila, and Insight Business Management Software. If you’re looking for a field service management alternative to Autotask for mobile field service technicians, consider GoServicePro.

Tools of the Trade

These are the Windows tools I use to make web sites, which in turn makes me money online.

Notepad++ – If you’ve used Windows anytime in the last 25 years you know about Notepad, but don’t let the name fool you, Notepad++ is a notable improvement over Notepad, specifically for programmers. Now you might not think of yourself as a programmer, but if you’re editing HTML, CSS, or PHP you’ll find Notepad++’s code-identifying text color changes useful as well as the ability to have multiple tabs open at once (with split screen ability), and “just how you want it to act” tab spacing. It auto-indents code and can indent rows of code at once in highlighted sections. Another neat feature is the ability to search within files or folders for text, which I have used many times.
Filezilla – The defacto standard for open-source FTP programs, Filezilla is what I use to upload files to my host. It’s not as secure as SSH secure shell, but it gets the job done for free. Filezilla’s site manager tool can save connection information, making it easy for you to manage different FTP accounts, but I tend to just use the quickconnect bar, which saves a history of your recently visited FTP sites. Individual view windows can be turned on or off in the view file menu and more customization is available in the settings menu.
Firebug – A browser plug-in for developers that works best in Firebug, but has versions for Chrome and Internet Explorer too that don’t work as well. This program lets you highlight items inside the browsers view screen to find out information or to make temporary changes. These temporary changes allow you to preview the affects before you make the changes permanent. This is an excellent tool and a must-have for web site developers.
Chrome – Contained within Chrome’s tools is a feature called “Chrome developer tools,” which works much like Firebug, but is built into Chrome. It allows you to browse elements on the page or make temporary changes. One nice feature is the Audit tab which lets you review things like network utilization and web page performance. A quick run of the audit tool will yield you advice (if you need it) on CSS, Javascript, cookies, and cache usage.
Paint.Net – For advanced photo editing with layers, Paint.Net delivers as the strongest free comparison to Adobe Photoshop. It features several advanced adjustment tools including “Black and White,” “Curves,” and “Sepia.” There are also built-in effect tools ranging from artistic, to blurs, to distortion, which rival those of Photoshop. For a comparison with Paint.Net, try GIMP. Paint.Net, GIMP, and Photoshop all are made to edit raster graphics, which are like photographs and cannot scale up without losing resolution. Vector images, on the other hand, are like those used in animation and logos and use math to create lines. This allows them to scale up and down without losing resolution since its just a recalculation of the math. Vector images can only be edited with special programs like Inkscape, which is free, or Adobe Illustrator.
Picasa – While its biggest feature is probably its photo management and gallery functions, the reason I’ve included it in this list is as a subsidy to Paint.Net and even Photoshop for specific picture editing. There are two views, “Library” and “Edit”. Inside the edit view there are three tabs, “Basic Tuning”, “Fixes,” and “Effects”. In Basic Tuning or Fixes I use the fill light command the most as I feel it does a better job than just adding brightness using Paint.Net or Photoshop. In Effects I use “Glow”, “Soft Focus”, and “Sepia” the most. Paint.Net also has a sepia effect. Use these or the “Collage” tool in the Library view to create neat pictures for your web site.
Inkscape – A free alternative to Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape is a fully baked open-source scalable vector image editing program. It takes some getting used to if you’re used to working with raster images in layers, but once you get the hang of manipulating objects and lines and knowing when to left-click and when to right-click, you’ll be able to make some decent iconography that might save you some money over buying stock images for your web sites. And just because it is open-sourced doesn’t mean it’s not supported. There is lots of documentation, tutorials, and online forums in a community willing to share and collaborate. If you already own Adobe Illustrator this is a fine tool and also comes highly recommended.

If I’ve missed a Windows tool that you use, please mention it in the comments and for Apple and Linux users, feel free to add your comments as well to share with all.