Businesses all over the world are rapidly moving to cloud-based services to run their operations. As with any new technology, businesses can be cautious to adopt the unknown, but the benefits of cloud-based tools are impossible to ignore. Cost savings, manageability, location independence, reliability, and scalability are all obvious advantages to online services over traditional ones.
Many of these services are already widely used and recognized by businesses as more beneficial than their predecessors, but there are certain tools that are still relatively unknown to the public.
Three most commonly used cloud based tools:
- Hosted Email Services-From Hotmail to Gmail, Google is now the standard for hosted email. Google Apps lets you synchronize and share emails, calendars, and contacts for all of your employees for $5 user/month. Google Drive allows you to create, edit, and share all of your company documents, eliminating the need for a shared server.
- Digital File Sharing–Dropbox is the gold standard in digital file sharing, which allows you to save and access all of your documents across multiple devices. Dropbox’s shared folders allow you to easily share documents with co-workers, once again eliminating the need for an expensive company server. Google Drive (mentioned above) and Dropbox are competitors, both having their own unique pros. In November 2012, Dropbox announced that they had over 100 million users. Dropbox offers a free plan offering 2+ GB, and paid plans start at $9.99 per month for 100 GB.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) services-You’ve probably heard of Salesforce, without even knowing what a CRM is. A Customer Relationship Management tool allows businesses to manage their interactions with clients. It keeps track of each of your clients (or prospective clients) all the way from leads to sales to customer support.
Three most needed but under-used cloud based tools:
- Online Fax– Online Fax services allow you to send and receive faxes with just an email address and an internet connection. Often costing less that $10/month, and with no overhead cost, using online faxing will save your business a lot of money. Along with the cost saving, online faxing is generally more secure, more environmentally friendly, and much faster than traditional faxing. For a comparison of the top online fax services, check out our reviews.
- Virtual PBX– Virtual PBX services typically start around $10/month and offer you a dedicated business phone number that you can have forwarded to your current cell phone. You receive the benefits of a typical analog business phone line, without having to pay the price. Features include an auto attendant, multiple extensions, and an online interface to manage your users and voicemail. If you like the idea of having a dedicated business desk phone, look into using a business VoIP service.
- Digital Signing– HelloSign, EchoSign, and DocuSign are all digital signing services that allow you to sign important documents without having to go through the process of printing off, signing, and scanning a piece of paper. You can open a document on your computer and use a saved and secure digital signature to sign documents in minutes. These services also allow you to send documents requesting signatures just as easily, and they store all of your signed contracts. Electronic signatures are legally binding, and are just as secure as sending hand-signed documents via fax or email.
What tools help you keep your sanity while running a business? Leave a comment below to make recommendations for other business owners.