For the last five years the Cloud has been a hot topic within the IT community. Even more recently, the Cloud topic has jumped from various industry segments and begun to trickle into the business mainstream. Whether you realize it or not, now even your child relies on the Cloud. Their favorite TV program episodes can be found in the Cloud via Netflix, and if they are anything like my nieces, cloud usage is probably a daily occurrence. According to the Silicon Angle, this year alone businesses in the United States will spend more that $13 billion on Cloud Computing services. Not surprisingly, eighty percent of Cloud adopters saw improvements within 6 months of moving to the Cloud. Below are the 4 areas where the Cloud will help to transform your Small to Medium sized business. (SMB)
In the early days of the internet only large corporate entities had access to expensive software packages and high-end subscription based tools and resources. Whereas, due to price and availability, small to medium sized businesses were pretty much left out in the cold. Today, SMB’s have access to an endless array of tools, applications, and services thanks to modern technology and ultimately Cloud based services. Following are some great examples of websites every SMB should consider adding to their list of must have resources.
Salesforce.com - A way to manage your sales contacts and leads, close deals, run lead reports and manage your customer service. http://www.salesforce.com/
Hubspot - Is one of the best marketing automation tools available. Aside from marketing automation you can also manage your blog, email and newsletter campaigns from within Hubspot. They have lots of grea learning and training materials. http://www.hubspot.com/
Acton Software - Is purely a marketing automation program that integrates into your website and blog. It does not have all the bells and whistles Hubspot has but is a lower cost alternative. http://www.act-on.com/
The Cloud has made it possible to be continuously connected, to work applications, email, and documents. All you need is a wifi connection or a great data plan. Wifi connections can be found at every airport, hotel, Starbucks, and even FedEx Kinkos location. When all else fails most smartphones can be turned into a mobile wifi hotspot. This means that when half of the sales team is promoting the company at a business function or a tradeshow the team can still keep up on their emails and other tasks right from their hotel room or the tradeshow floor. Following are some great productivity tools to consider using. Get away from installed software and get in the cloud.
Google – Need we say more? Google has a whole suite of online services from email to document creation, storage and sharing. http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/business/
Office 365 – Microsoft Office can now be found in the cloud. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/
Basecamp – Is a Project management and collaboration tool, the baseline levels of service are free! https://basecamp.com/
Back in the day, it did not matter where a business was located; you had the choice between Ma or Pa Bell. Today SMB owners have multiple options. They can still use the traditional phone company, a cell provider, a combination of the phone company and cellular provider, or a Cloud based VoIP solution. When making this decision the key is to know where the hidden taxes and fees are located. For more information check out VoIP For Dummies by Timothy V. Kelly. With VoIP any SMB can sound like one of the Big Guys. VoIP phone services actually enable the SMB owner to allow their team to work in the office or remotely. Below is the best VoIP provider on the market in our humble opinion.
Voxox - Provides an extensive suite of carrier-grade business phone solutions, through their award-winning unified communications platform in the cloud. Their solutions grow with your business enabling you to keep your up front costs low, no expensive systems to buy. Free calls between all office locations, web and email enabled calls, caller ID with name, call waiting with caller ID, 3 way calling, call forwarding, custom music and messaging on hold, standard voicemail, message waiting indicator, online account management with real-time call logs and so much more. For more information check out the article What a Hosted System Can Do To Rock Your Business. http://www.voxox.com/
When it comes to business, time zones are becoming less relevant. Having a global presence used to mean having brick and mortar offices in strategically placed countries all over the world. Today, any SMB can have a global presence. Now SMB’s can serve their customers 24/7 and even offer a local presence in other countries with just a nominal expenditure. This will increase customer satisfaction and further the SMB’s brand. Following is one of the most comprehensive solutions available on the market for support systems.
ZenDesk –This is a fantastic tool that enables you to provide support to your customers all over the world. Some of their internationalization services include smart language detection, automated multilingual content, and the ability to support customers in over 40 languages. http://www.zendesk.com/
No matter what your business focus, the cloud is here, the cloud is now. The question is how will you interact with the cloud this year? The Cloud can transform the way you do business and save you money if you embrace it. Now go explore, the applications and services available in the Cloud! Below is a great VoIP ebook, take a moment to check it out.