Small Business To Leverage The Cloud
The number of cloud apps targeted at small businesses and startups has exploded in the past few years. While hundreds of new cloud apps come out every month, many of the categories are still not mature enough for enterprise usage. Some applications are highly suited to the cloud (such as communication management), while other applications (such as video editing) are still more suited to the desktop.
This distinction is especially important for small businesses who don’t have a big IT team to fix the issues. In this post, I will cover the top five cloud categories that have matured and are ready for small businesses to leverage the best out of.
1. Backup files and documents
This is one of the fundamental ways to tap into the power of the cloud and the most mature category in cloud computing. While traditional backups incur a high cost to keep updated, cloud apps provide easy ways to store, sync and retrieve data. In fact, cloud backup should be an essential part of every business disaster management strategy. While Dropbox is the leader in the category, there are also others in contention for the top spot. Read our review.
2. Create and manage documents
While Microsoft Office might seem indispensable, you should give Google Docs, Office 365 and Zoho Suite a try for document management. The advantages of cloud-based document tools include lower upfront costs (from as low as $3/user/month for Zoho), easy sharing of documents with coworkers and clients, the ability to work from multiple platforms, and an inbuilt backup solution. While the features have not yet fully matched desktop office tools, for most small businesses these cloud apps provide a convenient alternative at an attractive pricing.
3. Communication Management
Communication management is another category that really belongs to the cloud. The options include Google Apps for emails and chat, and Twilio and Skype for voice and text messaging. The advantage of using Google Apps over managing your own exchange or other email server include better out-of-the-box security, lower costs and top-notch spam management.
4. Office Productivity Tools
This category ranges from project management tools to accounting and Customer Relations Management (CRM) tools. Salesforce and 37 Signals are the leaders in this sector. Among the best tools available are Basecamp (project management), Highrise (CRM), Zendesk (customer support), Wunderlist (task tracking) and Freshbooks (invoicing and accounting).
5. Note-taking and Collaboration
As the work force gets increasingly mobile, it is imperative that collaboration tools are built to enable teams to get more productive in a dynamic setting. There are a number of cloud-based tools to undertake Web research and idea collaboration. Evernote is the leader in the category, although other tools such as Springpad are getting closer.
By Balaji Viswanathan
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