10 Of The Best Cloud Apps For Small And Medium Businesses
Any business that’s not leveraging cloud solutions in today’s market is going to be at a significant competitive disadvantage. The access to enterprise-grade technology and solutions for a monthly fee that’s a fraction of the cost of buying them outright can give small and medium sized businesses a major leg up, allowing them to work more effectively and productively than before.
Finding the right cloud services is a challenge, because not all cloud services are created equally. An inferior cloud service will not only reduce your productivity, but you’ll also be faced with security risks and outages, which can stop your organisation from working for great lengths of time.
The benefits far outweigh the risks, however, particularly if you’re using any (or all) of these cloud services in your business.
Google Drive is ideal for SMBs, because Google Drive doesn’t require a tech team to set up and manage. Simplicity is this service’s greatest strength, but it’s also a very versatile and comprehensive package of tools and solutions.
With Google Drive, you get storage, and at a good price – 100GB of storage costs just $1.99 per month, and as you need more you can continue to scale. However, it’s how you can use that storage that is the biggest feature. Google Drive interacts natively with Google Docs, Sheets, Photos and other Google Tools, meaning that you can run your entire business from within the Drive if you’d like to. You can also share that content with particular members of your company if you need to, without giving them access to everything in your Drive.
Google Drive’s storage service works best for internal documents that people within the company need to use. When you need to share data with clients, Dropbox remains the leading choice. It’s a straightforward online storage service, meaning it doesn’t offer productivity features like Google Docs, but its ability to sync quickly across the desktops of multiple users makes it useful as a secondary backup for critical documents, and its sharing features are both secure and robust.
Assuming that your business sells things (and we think that’s a fair assumption to make), you’ll want a good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, and trust us, you’ll want that tool to be in the cloud. That way, your entire sales team and organisation can access critical data about your customers in real time. Traditionally, one of the challenges that businesses have had with CRM is keeping the data consistent – one sales representative has one set of data on a customer, but another has different information etc. Consolidating all of that onto one single platform is the reason that Salesforce is such a dominant power in the cloud.
Being able to move your accounting books into the cloud has been a big win for small businesses. With tools such as QuickBooks, payroll, tax, invoicing and accounts become so easy that the business owner can quickly manage them themselves. The need to work with an accountant is reduced to more complex issues, saving the business significant amounts of money.
QuickBooks also allows invoices to be created quickly, features full mobile integration so the work can be done on the fly, and allows users to capture digitised photos and translate them as receipts.
Contracts and other signed legal forms can be such a pesky thing for businesses to manage. Not only can they be time consuming to write, send off, get signed, and then have them returned, but then you have to store copies and hope that nothing damages them. They are the lifeblood of the organisation, after all!
DocuSign resolves all of that by moving signed documents into the cloud. Now you can sign, store, access and use the documents from the simple web interface, speeding up the process of getting documents signed. It also allows you to make sure that once they are signed, they’re secure and safe for future reference.
The modern business is highly visual. Whether its for social media outreach, marketing, presentations or the company website, a company’s visuals are its brand, and every company needs to be highly visual.
Adobe, long the premier name in creative software, has cloud versions of most of its suite of products – particularly the most important one, Photoshop. Using the cloud, you can instantly collaborate with other designers, allowing you to work with contractors from around the world to get the very best designs done for your business.
If your business operates entirely on Windows’ operating system, Microsoft’s alternative to Google Drive – Microsoft OneDrive – would be a great cloud storage option, as it will offer you seamless integration. The system lets multiple users work on the same documents simultaneously and features generous storage space for a reasonable price.
Finally, with the increasing reliance that businesses have with technology, security is more essential than ever. The problem is that security is also a complex, rapidly evolving field, and SMBs just don’t have the money to recruit security teams.
SpiderOak is a zero-knowledge data encryption solution for smaller businesses. This means that the company behind the software won’t ever monitor or investigate what’s going on behind their own encryption algorithms – only you will – which means that even if somebody hacks into their servers, they won’t give out any of your confidential information.
This means that you’ll be able to engage in private collaboration, while keeping your backups and passwords safe and inaccessible to everybody other than you. It’s the industry security leader for a reason, boasting a track record of 10 years of service without any major problems or mistakes on their end.
Many businesses may find that email is not an effective way for teams to communicate or collaborate. This is particularly pronounced when teams are working remotely – email fails to foster a sense of culture or teamwork. Ditch the lengthy email reply chains and keep your team in the loop with Slack. A collaborative tool that streamlines communication and improves efficiency, Slack’s versatile channel system allows businesses to organise communication based on specific projects, departments or teams, or any other kind of grouping.
Managing complex projects can be complicated at the best of times. Asana is project management tool that makes it easy to organise and keep track of projects involving multiple team members. Asana’s work board and card system allows users to create subtasks underneath a specific project or task and assign them to different staff members or teams, while providing a centralised space for communication. Best of all Asana has integration options with cloud-based communication tools, like Slack.
In addition to all of the above, there are all kinds of cloud services that are specific to your market sector and type of business. A bit of research will pull up all kinds of value-adding, cost-saving solutions that will help you run a far more efficient and effective business.