10 must-have cloud apps for startups, entrepreneurs & SMBs

December 3rd, 2019 - Get new posts sent straight to your inbox, click here. Aaron O'Keeffe

Editor’s note: This article was updated and refreshed on May 12, 2022 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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 startups, entrepreneurs, and 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 will also cause security risks and outages.

The benefits of adopting cloud-based solutions for your business far outweigh the risks, particularly if you’re using any (or all) of these cloud services for your business.

The cloud apps at a glance:

  1. Google Workspace
  2. Microsoft OneDrive
  3. Dropbox
  4. Salesforce
  5. Quickbooks
  6. Slack
  7. Asana
  8. Docusign
  9. Adobe Creative Cloud
  10. SpiderOak

Google Workspace (G Suite): Productivity tools & data storage

Google Workspace, formerly G Suite, is a great place to start for most businesses of any size. But for startups, entrepreneurs and SMBs, one of the key attractors to the cloud-based platform is that doesn’t require a tech team to set up and manage. Simplicity is this service’s greatest strength, but it also offers a highly versatile and comprehensive package of tools and solutions.

A Google Workspace account provides your team with access to Google’s full suite of tools including Mail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Meet, and many more. The platform is built around collaboration so it’s easy to share content with members within your company without giving them access to everything in your Drive. The platform also interacts natively with several other Google tools so you could run your entire business just using this one integrated solution.

If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, you can access these tools for free with a personal account. However, for startups and SMBs, it’s worth investing in their business solutions, with prices starting at AUD$8.40 per month per user for 30GB of cloud storage per user.

Microsoft OneDrive: Productivity tools & data storage

Microsoft’s alternative to Google Drive – Microsoft OneDrive – is a great cloud storage app, particularly for businesses operating entirely on a Windows operating system as it offers seamless integration with all of your Microsoft 365 files.

Like Google’s suite of tools, OneDrive also lets multiple users work on the same Microsoft Office documents simultaneously, making it a great tool for remote teams and collaboration. It’s no wonder that over 85 percent of the Fortune 500 uses OneDrive! But that doesn’t mean it’s not also a great solutions for startups and SMBs.

OneDrive offers a range of pricing options for businesses large and small, and if you’re more comfortable using Microsoft 365 tools, then you can choose a plan that also includes additional Microsoft services like Teams, Sharepoint, Office apps, and more.  Plans for just OneDrive only start at AUD$6.90 per month per user and comes with a hefty 1TB of storage per user. For plans that come with additional Microsoft services, including the full Office suite, prices start at AUD$17.20 per month per user.

Read more: 13 essential tools for
business communications + file sharing

Dropbox: Data storage

Google Drive and OneDrive’s storage service works best for internal documents that people within the company might need to access. But when you need to share data with external clients, Dropbox remains the leading choice.

Dropbox is a straightforward online cloud-based storage service, meaning it doesn’t offer productivity tools like Google Docs or Microsoft 365. However, its ability to sync quickly across the desktops of multiple users makes it an essential secondary backup for critical documents, and its cloud sharing features make working with external clients and agencies simplified and secure.

There are single user and team plans, each level offering different features and support. Single-user professional plans start at AUD$30.79 per month and offers 3,000GB of secure storage. Team plans for three or more users start at AUD$23.10 per month per user and provides 5,000GB of secure storage.

Salesforce: CRM & customer service

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 CRMs 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.

There’s not a lot that Salesforce can’t do at this point (other than actually running your business for you — but give them time!), so it’s a good option if your startup or business has plans to rapidly grow and scale. This is a great cloud-based solution that’s scalable and highly customisable.

A good entry point into Salesforce for startups, entrepreneurs, and SMBs would be the Salesforce Essentials solution. For AUD$35 per month per user, it offers a combined sales and service tools that are easy to set up, maintain, and use.

QuickBooks: Accounting

Being able to move your accounting books into the cloud has been a big win for startups and small businesses. With cloud apps like QuickBooks, payroll, tax, invoicing and accounts become so easy that business owners can manage it themselves. The need to work with an accountant is reduced to more complex issues, saving the business significant amounts of money.

QuickBooks allows businesses to quickly create invoices and features full mobile integration so you can work on the fly. It also allows users to easily capture digitised photos and translate them as receipts.

For self-employed freelancers, contractors and sole-traders, QuickBooks offers a pared-back plan featuring just the essentials you’d need for AUD$15 per month. For startups and SMBs, plans start at AUD$22 per month.

Slack: Communications

Sometimes email just doesn’t cut it as an effective method of communication or collaboration between teams, colleagues or within the company. This is particularly pronounced when employees are working remotely.

Ditch the lengthy email reply chains and keep your team in the loop with Slack. The cloud app is a collaborative tool that streamlines communication and improves efficiency. It offers a versatile channel system allows businesses to organise communication based on specific projects, departments or teams, or any other kind of grouping. Over Slack, your team can use the in-built video and voice call functions to conduct meetings or chat with teammates, making it much more streamlined and efficient than setting up a video conference call.

Slack also makes it easy to invite external contacts in for discussion using Slack Connect. It allows contacts outside your company to collaborate within the platform without giving them full access to your entire company’s account.

The free version of Slack is fairly powerful on its own, so for early-stage startups and small businesses, you might find this is all you’ll need. For additional features, plans start at USD$6.67 per month per user when billed annually.

Asana: Project management

Managing complex projects can be complicated at the best of times. Asana is a cloud-based 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, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, as well as Google Workspace, Zendesk, Salesforce, and many more.

Asana is free to use for teams of up to 15 but offers extra features with premium and business plans starting from AUD$14.99 per month per user when billed annually.

Read more:
10 best web-based project management
apps to boost business productivity

DocuSign: Contracts

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. You can sign, store, access and use the documents from the simple web interface, speeding up the process of getting documents signed. Then, once your clients sign the documents, you can rest assured that they’re secure and safe for future reference. DocuSign also integrates into third-party platforms like Google Drive, Microsoft services, Dropbox, Evernote, and others.

Single-user plans start at AUD$14 per month and come with

Adobe Creative Cloud: Design

The modern business is highly visual. Whether its for social media outreach, marketing, presentations, or your website, a company’s visuals are its brand. After all, the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text, so maybe a picture is worth 1,000 words.

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 Adobe Creative Cloud, you can create your own fabulous designs, videos, and more to make your business and brand stand out.

Businesses can choose a plan to suit your design needs, whether it’s just one Adobe app for AUD$51.00 per month per license or get all the apps for AUD$121.00 per month per license.

Canva

Adobe Creative software can come with a hefty price tag and a steep learning curve for those unfamiliar with their programs. Canva gives startups, entrepreneurs, and SMBs a more simplified platform, but for many use cases, the cloud-based design tool is all you’ll need.

Canva has a massive library of pre-made templates that you can customise, or you can start your designs from scratch. Professional designers will bemoan Canva, but for budget-conscious novices, it’s a much more user-friendly alternative to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Better yet, the features and libraries available on Canva’s free plan will cover most bases for most business needs, and it offers 5GB of cloud storage. But if you want to access Canva’s full library of stock graphics, videos and images, as well as other premium features, plans start at AUD$17.99 per month per user up to five people.

SpiderOak: Security

As businesses of all sizes increasingly rely on cloud 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, your confidential information remains safe.

With SpiderOak, you can 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.

 

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.

Running cloud apps for your startup or SMB needs a fast and reliable network. Get in touch with our expert Australian-based team today on 1300 480 905 to chat about your business needs.

About the author

Aaron O'Keeffe

Aaron works from an office in the tropical Northern Territory, inciting intense jealousy from his Victorian workmates during winter. He’s an expert in IT solutions from the ground up. Aaron is National Sales Manager of Aussie Broadband, which specialises in bespoke telco solutions for corporate and government customers.