Top Three Cloud Computing Applications for Small Businesses

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Apr 272013
 

Top Three Cloud Computing Applications for Small Businesses

 By Dan Barrowclough

Cloud computing is a great technological resource that can be utilised by businesses – small and large – in an enormous variety of ways. The following article will focus on the best cloud based applications for small businesses

There are a number of benefits of having access to cloud based software. The most prominent one being global access. Since the applications can be delivered to your device over the internet, users are free to work and use the application wherever they see fit. Generally, software updates are free; this is in contrast to in-house software where software updates are purchased. Other benefits include faster run time and access to global management.

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Top Three Cloud Computing Applications for Small Businesses

CRM

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is the process of acquiring, retaining and extending a business’s relations with its customers. This process is essential in the modern business world and because of this, the sale of CRM systems is big business. Recently though, many companies have been offering cloud based CRM solutions to businesses. Cloud based CRM solutions have a number of benefits. For one, they are usually deployed quickly (typically in a few days). For such an important business process, rapid implementation is essential. Another benefit to hosted CRM is that there is no hardware to purchase and therefore no need to hire technical staff to manage it. With many cloud based solutions, security is often cited as a major concern; CRM systems even more so due to the nature of the data that they contain. As I mentioned earlier though, CRM is a competitive market and because of this competition, each vendor has to ensure that data center security is top notch. Free upgrades to the software are also a benefit, although as I mentioned earlier, this isn’t limited to cloud based CRM systems alone.

There is a large number of cloud CRM vendors that small businesses can use, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The best one can only be determined on a situation-by-situation basis. Popular platforms include Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Oracle, Rightnow and SugarCRM

E-Mail

Email has been an integral part of our business activity and personal lives alike over the past 10-15 years. Because of this, having a cost effective, feature rich, cost efficient email is not just important, it’s imperative.

Cloud based email systems are not a new invention, we have been using cloud based email services for as long as we have been using email – especially for personal use. Having your email hosted in the cloud makes a lot of sense. There are a number of benefits to cloud hosted email to go along with the repeat benefits such as free software upgrades. The first is the scalability it offers, with a resource intensive system such as email, it makes sense to have a system that allows for equal resource distribution and scalability. Cloud bases solutions allow for this to happen.

Another benefit is the freeing up of IT resource, this time we are not talking about hardware resource but the human resource. By removing the in-house hardware element of E-mail allows your technical staff to allocate their time to more important tasks.

There are countless cloud based email providers for your company to choose from, the one that this author would recommend though is Zimbra as it has everything that you could want from an email provider.

Accounting

As with CRM, cloud based accounting has seen a real surge in the past few years. There is a reason for this, as accounting based in the cloud has some huge advantages. The biggest one being price. Accounting software is expensive and it can often be difficult for small businesses to cover the costs. By using a cloud based solution, there is no need to shell out on any expensive hardware or software as your accounting system will be accessible through your internet connection. The cloud based systems aren’t stripped down though, many boast feature sets that are as good if not better than a comparable non-cloud system. What’s even better is that you can pick and choose the features that your company needs, rather than selecting a 1 size fits all package.

Again, the choice of service providers at your disposal is large, however the recommended package is Xero. This is because it offers arguably the most power of all the cloud accounting services as well as boasting a rich feature list.

I hope readers have found this article interesting and have, at the very least, had their eyes opened to the possibilities of cloud computing.

For more information on Cloud Computing and various Cloud Services, please visit Interoute’s website. Interoute is Europe’s leading cloud provider.

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