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BEST STARTER KIT
Primarily a search engine, the site gathers articles and advice from around the Web on everything from effective advertising to executing a business plan, and it provides quick summaries with each direct link. In the Byline section, successful executives in various industries ruminate on such diverse topics as corporate culture and cash flow, branding and burnout. For U.S. business demographics and other interesting factoids, go to Quick Facts under Media Resource Center. The site is run by the not-for-profit Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, so it's refreshingly independent and ad-free.
Business Owner's Toolkit
Practical how-to guides on topics such as marketing a product, organizing an office and protecting assets, penned by the site's team of writers and analysts. The Ask Alice advice column tackles timely issues like identity theft and deceptive accounting.
Small Business Suite
oraclesmallbusiness.com Web-based tools designed to help with accounting, payroll and sales-force management. The software automates paper-based tasks (sales orders, bill payment, etc.), so employees can work more efficiently and keep up with what's happening in other departments. Prices start at $1,200 a year, but free trials are available.
The Wall Street Journal's site for small-business owners offers timely feature articles ("Dot-com Entrepreneurs: Where Are They Now?"), plus free tools such as a step-by-step guide to writing an effective business plan. If you're in the market to buy a business, there's also a searchable database of some 15,000 of them that are for sale.
U.S. Business Advisor
A useful reference, run by the Small Business Administration, on federal laws and regulations, loan programs and other government-sponsored services. Special sections cover such topics as taxes (where to file, untangling the code) and workplace issues (complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, maintaining indoor air quality).
Mastering Your Gear
BEST FREE ADVICE
Smart, concise reviews of a wide range of products, from mountain bikes to webcams. The site wins points for the clarity of its layout and ease of use, and you can sort the reviews by price range. ConsumerReview also builds active website communities around each category. Once you have bought that fabulous new audio system, you can come back and talk about it as much as you like.
If members of your company's tech-support staff run when they see you coming, maybe it's time to wrestle with Windows yourself. This guide, compiled by fellow Windows users, will tell you how to fix (and avoid) common PC problems.
Before you buy any electronic gear, begin here. CNET's tech experts put pdas, MP3 players and every other gizmo through their paces to produce detailed reviews. The site also posts ratings by other users and links to the latest prices offered by online merchants. Also, check out the Download section for hundreds of popular shareware programs.