Guest post by Sarah Ollington & Claire Broadley of Wish.co.uk
With cloud computing comes convenience and choice. No longer are small business owners tied to their desks or forced to work sequentially on large projects. Cloud apps can boost productivity by giving you the power of real-time collaborative working, increased efficiency and a more sensible way to manage your workflow. The modern entrepreneur can also benefit from collaboration over long distances, opening up the possibility of hiring staff on a freelance basis when they’re needed. Cloud services can also be scaled up and down very quickly, making them ideal for a fast-growing company.
Here are five cloud apps every entrepreneur should consider for increased productivity and significant cost savings:
1. Google Docs
Google Docs was the first true cloud suite. Widely used and well-established, Google Docs Suite should never be underestimated. It can be used with a Gmail account or run as part of a Google Apps domain, handling email as well as the Docs suite itself. It is essential for documentation, spreadsheets, forms and more. With the calendar, simply set up your tasks and have alerts and reminders sent directly to your email account or the screen of your mobile device. Best of all, the basic version of Google Docs is free to use, making it ideal for the entrepreneur who’s just getting started. It can also be expanded later as the company grows.
Accounting is an area well-suited to cloud computing and there are a number of accountancy packages to choose from. FreeAgent is a complete management system for paying and getting paid from time sheets, expenses, to financial management, all of which are available on a per-client or per-project basis. The entire suite is topped off with an at-a-glance dashboard which gives an instant snapshot of the financial state of the enterprise. With FreeAgent, many of the aspects associated with recording tasks, finances and expenses are taken care of with very minimal effort. FreeAgent costs just $20 per month and it pays for itself simply due to the fact that your accountancy and book-keeping bills will be vastly reduced.
As entrepreneurs become more likely to work on mobile devices, file compatibility and storage space also comes into play. Dropbox is a simple, elegant solution for file syncing and sharing. Dropbox works like a USB memory stick in the cloud. Syncing between desktops is silent and mobile devices only download on demand. It is fast becoming a standard, so many of your colleagues and clients are likely to already have an account. Yet it is expensive. Compare the pricing: 100GB of storage in Dropbox costs almost $240/yr, yet 200GB of storage on Google Apps costs just $50/yr.
Most entrepreneurs will begin their business with a simple spreadsheet or task list, but over time you’re going to need something more powerful to organize your projects, freelancers, finances and staff. Basecamp allows you to take your project planning out of the stuffy confines of Gantt charts and place it in a more accessible and useful location. Entrepreneurs will appreciate the interface and customizable access levels. Every employee, member of staff or client can be given a different level of access to a project plan. A wide array of mobile apps also make it handy to track project status and log completion when away from your desk. Its simplicity and cross-platform compatibility means you won’t be concerned about file formats. Pricing starts at $24 a month, with the more practical 35-project plan coming in at a weighty $49/month. The user interface lacks the flair of cloud apps like FreeAgent, but the ability to collaborate with very little training is a bonus and that’s achieved through the simple layout approach.
Assistly is designed to help businesses who deal with large amounts of customer feedback, support and social media communication.It connects the dots easily between email accounts, social media accounts and telephone call logging are all combined to provide a complete and efficient dashboard. Assistly is a great way to handle the demand for support calls over social media websites such as Facebook – a task which can be very time consuming, not to mention distracting, for your staff. Pulling all of this communication into one place helps you to better serve your clients at minimal cost. Assistly is free for one customer service agent. Additional agents cost $49 per person per month, putting Assistly in the same pricing band as professional service desk applications. If you run extra Twitter accounts, you’ll have to pay another $29 per account per month. Phone support costs a huge $299 per month. But depending on the size of your organization and the time you lose to social networking, this might be a price worth paying to maintain productivity in your business.
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