The cloud has already revolutionised the way we use computers.
No longer do small business owners have to invest in expensive software, or maintain cumbersome hardware. Instead, business and personal users alike can access the solutions they need remotely, using nothing more than their web browser.
There is a huge range of cloud-based software that can help small business owners complete important day-to-day tasks. We have compiled a list of some of the best.
Google Apps is perhaps the highest profile and most popular cloud solution on the market. Apps is the search giant’s attempt to bring all of your software requirements in-house, and to tie you to Google. Happily, though, the tools Apps offers are useful, intuitive, and great for small businesses thanks to their built-in sharing capabilities. For many small business users, Google Docs will be the only office package necessary. Google Apps is available for free.
Office 365 is Microsoft’s attempt to bring Office online. It offers the entire Office suite in the cloud, plus a business email solution. Office 365 also provides simple document sharing functionality, along with a web conferencing service. Microsoft’s package is available to small business users from £8.40 per month.
Clearbooks is one of the best small business bookkeeping packages available in the cloud. It is powerful but simple to use, offering comprehensive invoicing, accounting, and report-generating functionality. Clearbooks is available from £9 per month.
Freedcamp is a fully featured project management solution. It gives you the opportunity to plan, manage, and track tasks across multiple projects - and, crucially, it offers comprehensive collaboration tools. Best of all, unlike competitors such as Basecamp, Freedcamp is completely free.
Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing apps on the market. It allows you to design and send email to thousands of recipients, all using a simple graphical interface. The entry-level Mailchimp package is free, but the price increases depending on the number of subscribers.
Evernote helps you remember and arrange things. It can be thought of as a scrapbook, into which you can place clippings from the web, notes, and more. Evernote have recently launched a business product, which allows you to share knowledge amongst your employees. This costs £8 per user per month, but the personal version is still free.
Storage is one of the great attractions of the cloud. It gives you the opportunity to save huge amounts of data cheaply, and without the necessity to maintain your own hardware. Solutions like Dropbox enable you to ‘monitor’ folders, with their contents being automatically backed up as it changes. A 2GB Dropbox account is free, and you can get extra storage by referring friends. Pro accounts start from $9.99 per month.
Finally, if you use Adobe’s software you may wish to investigate the Creative Cloud. This is Adobe’s attempt to take all of their services online. Along with all of the Creative Suite software, Creative Cloud offers access to a range of new tools and collaborative processes. Creative Cloud is available from £46.88 per month.