Biz Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Small Business Success

By Chris Pentago posted 04-24-2014 07:07

  

By now it’s common knowledge that small businesses can benefit from cloud technology. The value of never needing an in-house IT bank to do anything is inestimable.

With the cloud industry growing to over $45 billion globally in 2013 and higher to come, there’s never been a better time to jump in.

Small business

Companies are even springing up to offer migration services, if your business needs assistance jumping from traditional enterprise software to a cloud solution.

That said, what cloud solutions are the best? What cloud-based applications should any small business investigate?

Before getting into specifics, you should remember that every SMB is unique. An application that works perfectly for one business might be limited for another, or may offer too many functions for the simple needs of a smaller business. Don’t simply take this list as word from on high; investigate the options and pick an application that works best for your needs.

This list also leaves off some of the most common suggestions. By now, you are probably aware of Google Apps, Microsoft OneDrive, Salesforce and the other big names.

This is the common set of applications I use on daily basis in my company and surely makes my office hours a whole lot more easier. I hope that you’ll also find something useful that will make operating your small business easier in this list.

 

Open Centralized Collaboration: Box

Not many people are aware of everything you can do with Box and they consider it only a file storage space, but the reality is a bit different/better.

Box is designed for collaboration with a few specific perks that other collaboration suites fail to offer. In addition to centralized file sharing platform, Box allows complete integration with other business cloud applications, including Salesforce and Google Apps.

With multiple business plan options and an incredibly cheap starter plan, Box is great to try out before really investing in it.

This screenshot scratches only the surface of the possibilities this platform offers to its users.

Box 3rd party integration

 

Rostering, Timesheet and Payrol Software: Deputy

If your small business has more than two or three employees, managing their schedules can become quite the hassle.

Deputy app

Deputy is an easily accessed timesheet application that keeps track of employee schedules, tasks, performance and shift allocation. Employees can access it to announce sick days and ask for shift swaps, eliminating the messy need for phone calls, voicemails just for scheduling and much more. Plus, the starter version is free. Really useful.

Here’s interesting video which presents some of Deputy’s features.

 

Data Security and Privacy: SpiderOak

Everybody heard about recent events when government agencies spied on data from a lot of major cloud services and which plenty of businesses didn’t really like as it poses a serious threat to business security and privacy if this data falls into wrong hands.

Still, every modern business requires a secure place to store data, whether it is confidential or not.

Still, every modern business require secure place to store data, both important and not so important. One of the security risks with cloud data storage is the slim potential chance that, with your encrypted password stored remotely, the cloud data center can decrypt your data.

SpiderOak

With SpiderOak, this isn’t possible. Your password is created and stored on your own computer; SpiderOak never has it. Your data is completely secure to anyone without your password. One caveat; if you lose your password, there’s no recovery option. Make sure you don’t forget it.

While it doesn’t offer as rich experience as aforementioned Box, it capitalize on other, to plenty of people more important feature, privacy/security and peace of mind.

 

Sales Collaboration and Tracking: Base

Base is, as it sounds, a base application for sales management. It’s unbranded and customizable, which allows you to tailor it to your business needs. It’s great for centralizing your information, so you don’t have to search out notes on sales calls, tasks and emails.

Base CRM

It’s a great option for those businesses that need a customized solution and don’t want something quite as feature-packed as Salesforce. Here’s a feature tour.

 

Customer Service Flow: Zendesk

As a business, sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with customers. It’s a fact that some of those customers are going to be less than perfectly satisfied with the product or service they receive.

ZenDesk screenshot

Handling those customers is a matter for the support desk, and handling the support desk is a matter for Zendesk. The service offers ticket automation and support through mobile apps, as well as robust reporting and analytics to help determine why your customers are unsatisfied. It also integrates well with dozens of other cloud apps. Product tour here.

 

Outro

There are, of course, hundreds of other cloud applications to browse. Some of these apps will be just what the doctor ordered, while others might not be the right fit for your business – and that’s okay.

The cloud is an expanding industry with plenty of room to find the perfect solution. Or, as they say so often about the weather in many states; if you don’t like it, just wait an hour.

In Internet terms, that product lifetime is plenty of time for a new solution to be discovered, developed or released.

That being said, I’m eager to hear your suggestions for business solutions I haven’t covered.



#smallbusiness #cloud #business #applications #smb
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