Cloud computing has been a real game-changer for small businesses. Thanks to the proliferation of this technology, the cost of running your own business today is just a faint fraction of what it used to be a decade or two back. If you are a business owner who is looking to improve your team’s efficiency and the overall bottom line, here are some cloud tools that will help you in your endeavor.
This is one of the must-haves for any business. Cloud storage services are especially useful if you have teams located across multiple offices or locations. With a service like DropBox, it is possible to keep your documents synced across multiple teams. To give you a real-world perspective of why this is useful, consider the sales team of any organization. It is customary for members of the sales teams to share their latest presentations, campaigns and closures with other members. Traditionally, this knowledge sharing was done through email which creates a lot of inbox clutter. This can be prevented if all the sales members installed DropBox on their computers. This way, all the documents are kept synchronized across computers and this may accessed at any time without having to search through the clutter.
Gone are the days when ERP used to be an expensive technology that was used solely by the large corporations. With plans costing as less as $200 per month, cloud-based ERP solutions are today affordable even to the bootstrapped start up businesses. ERP solutions like NetSuite and their partner providers like ERP Guru offer small businesses all the resource planning tools that large corporations have through a cloud based network that may be accessed with an internet connection. This helps in ensuring better coordination among various teams, improved decision making along with smarter planning of human and material resources.
With the advent of cloud, it is now possible for businesses to outsource almost every component of their non-core activities to what are known as managed services providers. According to Syntax, a leading provider of manager services, businesses in North American moved nearly $2.547 billion worth of in-house network services to external providers in 2012. These providers manage a variety of services like IT services, infrastructure services, software services, etc. One of the most vital cloud tool for businesses is infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) – using this, businesses may employ third party organizations to support the operations of their storage servers, hardware and networking components. This is not just about outsourcing services but since your business does not require its own hardware, you may avoid the typical capital expenditure on deploying such expensive components and instead choose to pay a monthly subscription fee to the IaaS providers.
Collaboration among various teams of your business, regardless of whether they are based out of the same location or not, becomes easier with the cloud. With tools like Office 365 from Microsoft, businesses can migrate all their productivity tools online which ensures that applications like Word and Excel can now be used to collaborate among various members of the team. With smartphones becoming mainstream and the concept of BYOD gaining traction at a lot of workplaces, a cloud-based collaboration tools enhances quicker decision making since the collaborators can access the document from anywhere and hence can greatly reduce their turnaround times.
Managing your customer leads, archiving your company’s communication history with them, coordinating your tasks and events across members and locations is not simple without a cloud tool like Salesforce. The leading cloud CRM solution is a great way to maintain contact details, handle sales functions, archiving past communications and enable seamless customer support via a cloud based tool. Like it is with all the other cloud tools, it is extremely affordable for small businesses since it costs just about $5 per month to get started.
Cloud is the future of business. While this list above may not cover all the possible tools and services one may require for their business, it is generic to be applicable to all small businesses. What other cloud tools do you use for your business? Tell us in the comments below.