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Everybody loves the cloud but like any technology, it isn’t the cure for all of your business needs. It can get pretty close, though.
In exchange for reasonably priced access to up-to-date software, data storage, and infrastructure support – depending on how far you want to take it – you do have to mind a couple of caveats.
Security can be an issue, the fact that your data is on somebody else’s server, and the learning curve all have to be evaluated before diving in. Access to and ownership of data is another potential concern.
Each of these problems has solutions. Security software is one. The use of hybrid off-site/on-site data storage and access options can alleviate some concerns as well.
Many small businesses have discovered that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. If you’re a big fan of the cloud, here are some of the best solutions available to your small business.
Which SaaS for You?
For most small businesses Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the most common use they will have for cloud computing. Specific applications are available on a subscription basis. The primary advantages are that your software is always up to date and you do not need to maintain an IT department in every location where you do business.
Cloud Tools for Business
Here are 10 high-quality cloud-based software tools (SaaS) that have proven valuable to small businesses.
$5-$15 per user, per month
Office 365, which comes in a variety of packages, is a cloud-based version of the Microsoft Office suite of products, and much more, depending on the package you select.
Whether you are seeking the ability to collaborate, or use Office products on a variety of platforms and devices, Office 365 likely has a plan that meets your needs.
$0-$11.99 per month
Creating interactive online forms is easy with Adobe FormsCentral. In addition, subscribers have access to powerful data analysis tools. Using Adobe’s Business Intelligence capability data can be analyzed and used immediately on websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, or even email.
$19.95 per month and up
FreshBooks is based on a simple premise – Sending, receiving, printing, and paying invoices should not be difficult. In addition, it should not be time consuming. Only QuickBooks Online has more paying subscribers than FreshBooks, which makes FreshBooks the #1 cloud accounting software solution for small business.
Starting at $19.95 per month for up to 25 clients, FreshBooks is a cost effective way for service-based small businesses, in particular, manage time, expenses, and collect online payments by credit card, PayPal, or eCheck.
QualysGuard Express Lite
Starting at $795
Advertised as an “all-in-one cloud-based suite of security and compliance solutions for small business,” QualysGuard Express Lite lets business owners monitor Internet perimeter servers, websites, and apps to ensure they are all up to date and secure.
With no software to install or maintain, QualysGuard Express Lite ensures PCI compliance and helps business owners stay on top of the latest security patches at all times.
$0-$89 per host per month.
With a basic, free one host plan for up to 3 people per meeting, Cisco WebEx provides an easy no hassle opportunity for any small business to try this web-based conferencing system out with a limited test group. If it’s for you, sign up for one of several paid plans.
Meeting, collaborating, and sharing is easy since everything you need is in one location. Using a concept called Meeting Spaces, Cisco WebEx lets the host post an agenda and all pertinent files prior to the beginning of the meeting.
Salesforce.com Professional Edition
$65 per user, per month
Salesforce.com is a leader in CRM, or Customer Relationship Management. CRM entails all aspects of interaction between a company and its customers, including both sales and service.
Salesforce.com Professional Edition offers full reporting and analytics, email marketing, sales forecasts, and much more. While the Professional Edition is optimal for most small businesses, options exist for as little as $5 per user, per month.
Intuit Online Payroll Enhanced
$28 per month
Intuit Online Payroll Enhanced offers a host of features at about one-third the cost of major payroll services like ADP and Paychex. The intuitive interface allows you to pay employees and contractors as well as file federal and taxes.
QuickBooks Online Plus
$39.95 per month
QuickBooks Online Plus provides an exceptionally easy to use solution for a small service-based or limited product-based business that requires mobile access as well as payroll and basic time billing.
The dashboard is easy to understand and features are clearly explained, making it a snap to get this online product up and running.
DropBox for Business
$15 per user per month for unlimited storage
Cloud storage provided by DropBox makes it possible to keep all your small business documents synced among multiple personnel in multiple locations. The synchronizing is immediate and does not require downloading and opening email messages with attachments that are automatically outdated as soon as a change is made.
$499 per month
Serving as an ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning solution for small business, NetSuite helps coordinate all facets of the business from product planning to manufacturing, marketing, shipping, and even payment.
As you can imagine, new cloud applications are popping up every day. Some are worth your time—then there are all of the others. Most cloud applications have a free or discounted trial period that allows you to separate the right apps from all of the others.
Don’t sign up or spend a lot of time transitioning to these platforms until you’ve tried out all of the features, talked to their customer service and tech support, and allowed employees to take a look.
It’s going to take time and resources to put any of these apps into action for your company. Don’t move too fast into the wrong one.
© 2014 Attard Communications, Inc., DBA Business Know-How®. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission.