Technology

A business cloud toolkit: What are the essentials for businesses operating in the cloud?

Paul Wallbank /

A few weeks ago I did a presentation for small business on how to prepare your business for the future

During the presentation we looked at the big trends that will affect business over the next decade with a focus on some of the demographic, economic and technological changes that are happening today.

While it’s risky, if not impossible, to forecast the future we can be sure business and employment will change and evolve around technological advances. A good example of this is looking back to how the economy was a hundred years ago.

In the first decades of the Twentieth Century the economy was still predominantly agricultural; in Australia, around a quarter of the workforce were on the farm; in the US, 27% of the population were farmers. In both countries today it’s below 3%.

All of those displaced found jobs, although the transition costs were great as John Steinbeck documented in the Grapes of Wrath.

 

Free your mind and the rest will follow

 

So the key to future proofing your business lies in not being one of Steinbeck’s Okies and that requires a mental shift, we need to be data literate and deploy the tools that mean our companies are more responsive to changing markets.

Part of adapting to the changing economy is using the latest business tools, particularly those based on the cloud. Below are some of the small business tools I mentioned in the presentation broken up into business activities.

We only touched on a small number of ways that the world is changing, for instance the image illustrating this post is Microsoft’s HoloLens and we haven’t mentioned virtual reality at all. The key is to keep an open and flexible mind.

 

Office applications

 

One of the biggest costs for business is the software for writing letters and working on spreadsheet. There’s free and paid-for services that you can use on the cloud that cut your costs and increase your office productivity.

Google Docs

Evernote

Zoho Docs

 

Website platforms

 

There’s plenty of free, or cheap, tools to get your name out on the web.

WordPress

Blogger

Wix.

Don’t forget to register your business name’s domain though.

 

Design software

 

In a crowded world, good design matters. Canva is a good, quick way to get a good-looking logo and graphics for your business.

 

Accounting services

 

One of the greatest challenges for small business is doing their books and accounting software is a must-have for every commercial operation. Online services reduce costs and increase flexibility for businesses of all sizes.

Saasu

Xero

MYOB Business Essentials

 

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

 

CRM software helps you monitor and understand who your customers are and what you’re doing for them.

Salesforce
Sugar CRM

 

Backups

 

Backing up is critical for your business. Having an online automated backup helps you ensure essential data is safe.

Carbonite

 

Shared storage

 

Sharing files with others helps your business be more efficient as teams can get work done without using the same computer.

Dropbox
Box.net

 

Communications

 

Voice over IP, or VoIP, is a massive cost saver and most of them are cloud services.

Skype
MyNetFone

 

Project management

 

Running and managing projects is a complex task made much easier with a good project management program to keep track of tasks and time.

Basecamp
Zoho Projects

 

Outsourcing

 

Cloud computing and online services are making outsourcing possible for small businesses. With a browser and a credit card, you too can be in the outsourcing business.

Upwork (formerly O-Desk)
Freelancer

Paul Wallbank is the publisher of Networked Globe, his personal blog Decoding The New Economy charts how our society is changing in the connected century.

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Paul Wallbank

Paul Wallbank writes on how IT affects communities, markets and workplaces. He also helps businesses to grow and engage their customers with technology.

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