4 cloud services your business can’t survive without
You know that the cloud could save your start-up time and money. But what business functions should you move first and why…
You’ve heard of the cloud services. No doubt you’ve spotted hyperbolic statements about how much time and money you can save by moving key functions of your business to it.
You may even be using a cloud service already. And that’s because if you don’t you’ll probably be in a minority very soon. While it pays to beware the evangelist, the wisdom of the crowd does have merit here.
Can your business actually survive without switching to cloud services? Probably. Will it function better, be more flexible and save a bit of money if it does? Very likely.
Office space, size of workforce, budget or skill level no longer have to be a limiting factor, as the cloud connects you to a seemingly infinite network of resources, software and storage facilities. Whether you need to train employees, collaborate or check your cashflow, it’s no longer just useful to embrace the cloud – it’s essential.
So what four business functions should your business move to the cloud first?
1. Productivity software
Your business isn’t going to achieve much unless you have a productive workforce. Productivity software such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Work can help a disparate workforce collaborate and communicate on important data and content from any location, simultaneously. With multiple users working at the same time, productivity is increased, and time and money are saved.
The software can automatically check and update its own suite of programmes and apps, so everyone is using the same versions. There are different plans depending on your business needs, and as the administrator you can add or remove users at your leisure.
For collaboration and task management there’s Asana and Basecamp. Evernote is ideal for creating to-do lists, storing photos, notes, audio clips, files and voice reminders. And Producteev enables you to turn Outlook emails into actions in your calendar.
2. Online storage and backup
Creating a business can require reams of sensitive and important documentation and data. Storing it all on one device or piece of hardware can be problematic, if that device has finite capacity or worse, breaks down… The cloud allows for secure and almost unlimited storage of files and data at very little cost.
File hosting services such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and OneDrive offer online storage for little or no cost depending on your needs. Data can then be accessed from any internet enabled device, ensuring it’s always accessible and you’re never going to lose it. You are also able to control who is able to access and edit any shared files.
If it’s cloud based hosting and servers you’re looking for the likes of Rackspace, Peer 1, Amazon Web Services and many others enable you to backup and manage your IT infrastructure.
3. Finance and accounting software
The cloud is not only helpful for sharing and editing documents but also offers accounting software that mitigates the hassles of complicated and tedious financial admin.
Online accountancy software providers like Sage, Xero, FreeAgent, Clear Books, Intuit, Crunch, Brightpearl and Kashflow are designed to make accounting and payroll processing easier. They take pride in using very little business jargon, so even if accounting isn’t your strong point, you’ll be able to approach it with confidence and have more time to focus on running your business.
These programs are targeted and tailored to small businesses and start-ups, so are designed with your needs in mind. You can keep track of your cashflow, the lifeblood of any fledgling business, check tax and expenses and send invoices.
4. Email and phone communications
With a myriad of communication methods now available, for many modern businesses traditional phone and communication systems are either no longer up to the task, or are simply not cost-effective.
There’s no denying the importance of email to any small business, but while in the past setting up an email system would involve the cost of a server and software licenses, the cloud can offer a low-cost alternative with no hardware or software required. Both Microsoft’s Office 365 (which offers Exchange Online) and Google’s Gmail offer far greater scalability and flexibility than server-based solutions. Employees can access email from anywhere on the go and work collaboratively and for business owners there’s the benefits of no server maintenance and lower costs as well as easier disaster recovery.
And it’s the same story when it comes to phone systems. Unlike static phone systems that are tied to your desk, cloud services such as Ring Central offer an inclusive communication solution that can link multiple locations, employees and customers on one integrated system.
As more and more businesses have remote and global workforces, a move to the cloud could improve your staff communication – both with each other and customers. Calls to the office can be re-directed to you or a suitable employee, and all employees can use any of their own internet enabled devices while retaining their work number.
This article has been written in association with RingCentral, which offers a complete business communications solution based in the cloud.