Chapter 15: Business cloud services
In recent years, we have all heard more and more about the ‘Cloud’. In simplest terms, this usually refers to services based on an outside company’s secure servers that are managed by them. Cloud services are either free or for-a-fee.
For startups, it means that we live in a time where you can outsource many processes, from payroll to data storage to CRM etc. Therefore, you are able to keep your focus on what is most important – your customers. Let’s go to the cloud.
What are business operations?
Business operations refers to all the processes that keep you busy running your company – finance, bookkeeping and payroll, sales and marketing, web hosting and data management, to name a few.
These tasks are all very time consuming! And, time equals money. When you’re on your own and trying to grow your new business, you probably wish there was a better, more efficient way.
Fortunately, there is, and it gives new businesses the opportunity to offload many non-core processes and concentrate on the essentials. This extra time, you will discover, can be the savior of your business and help to ensure it’s success.
What is the cloud?
Cloud-based services, hosted by “data centers”, in secure locations around the world, provide a wide range of business services you can draw on without investing in your own resources or infrastructure. Since it’s web based, you can access the data anytime from any location.
You sign-up with a cloud service provider. It’s free or you’ll pay a monthly fee. You can scale up your use of the service as your business grows. These are some important benefits:
- Lower upfront investments
- Increased flexibility
- Always up-to-date with the latest technologies
- Accessible anywhere
- Automated business processes
- Reduced capital costs
- Increased security and control
- More environmentally friendly
Did you know?
90 percent of Microsoft’s 2011 R&D budget was spent on cloud computing strategy and products.
Software as a Service
Buying software and keeping it up to date can be expensive and time-consuming. Software as a Service (SaaS) provides software from the cloud.
- You pay a monthly or annual user fee.
- The provider takes care of all the updates and ensures you always have the latest versions.
If you use Microsoft Office, for example, you can now obtain Office365. It provides all the latest versions of the software suite for an annual fee that is much lower than the purchase or upgrade price. Or you could use Google Drive which is totally free.
An added bonus is that you can access the same software from smartphones and other mobile devices, if you are away from the office. That’s a great boost to productivity.
Here are some of our favorite cloud based services for improving business processes:
- Google Drive — Free Cloud-based Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms and Drawings. Google Drive can become the backbone of your small business document needs and, because it’s cloud-based, your team can access the docs anywhere, anytime.
- Microsoft Office365 — For a reasonable monthly fee per user (approx. $15), you have access on all your devices to the entire Office suite of software tools, including Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access and SharePoint. No additional costs for upgrades. Versions for both PC or Mac.
- QuickBooks — The industry leader for small business accounting. This software allows you to keep track of all your business finances, sync with your bank, pay employees and analyze the financial health of your business each month with a few clicks.
- WeTransfer — Free way to transfer up to 2GB files to anyone in the world. They also have an affordable paid version that allows for unlimited file transfers of up to 10GB.
- Skype — By now everyone must have heard of Skype. It’s an amazing, free way to have video meetings (and screen sharing) with employees, clients and partners anywhere in the world. It also has individual and group text chatting between members, which can be a great way to communicate amongst teams.
- Dropbox — Premium cloud storage and file synchronization software that allows you to access and share your important files with anyone, anywhere.
- Paychex — Paychex offers back-office solutions that help you run your business efficiently: online payroll; mobile apps; top reporting features; human resource management; employee benefits; 401(k) administration; and more. They are bizHUMM’s payroll provider.
- join.me — Free screen sharing platform, which has better quality than Skype’s screen sharing function. It also has a premium version that allows up to 250 participants.
- GoToMeeting — Hosts professional quality online meetings with video and desktop sharing capabilities. GoToMeeting is like a premium paid version of Skype.
- GoToWebinar — Overall easiest and best way to host an online webinar where up to 1000 people can attend. Webinars can be incredibly effective tools for lead generation and sales.
- Trello — Free, flexible, & visual way to organize anything with anyone. An incredibly useful and versatile project management tool that is super easy to utilize. We use this one all the time at bizHUMM.
- Adobe Creative Cloud — Affordable way to get access to Adobe’s creative suite such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign etc. and only pay for the programs your team uses.
- Asana — A new tool that is supposed to replace the need for email for teamwork. We are testing this one at bizHUMM right now. It has the potential to be a powerful cloud-based tool.
Cloud storage and backup
It’s amazing how quickly businesses accumulate data. Storage needs tend to rapidly grow from gigabytes to terabytes.
By storing data in the cloud, you won’t have to keep investing in additional storage devices. You can access data from your desktop and mobile device from anywhere, anytime.
An added bonus is that you won’t have to worry about manually backing up your data. The cloud provider backs up multiple copies in different locations for added peace of mind.
Security and the cloud
Some businesses have cited security as a barrier to adopting cloud services. Reputable providers have a range of security procedures in place to protect their customers’ data, which actually make it more secure than locally hosted data. Here are some of their procedures:
- Encryption for data in transit
- Separation of individual customers’ data
- Protection for their storage assets
- Strong security policies and governance
Cloud computing – survey of SMB attitudes
• 65% expect to be using cloud email services in the next 2-3 years
• 50% agree that cloud computing is going to become more important for small businesses
• Current cloud users report purchasing an average of 4 services in the cloud
• The number of companies with 2-10 employees using cloud services will triple in the next three years.
You’ve reached the end of our guide on How To Start A Business! Now you’re ready to get your hands dirty and put what you’ve learned into practice. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate in asking via our contact page.
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