If you’re running your own business, you probably learned more from this experience in the first year than all your other working years combined. You probably did a lot of the work manually with little help. But, now that your business is established, it’s time to think about how you can save yourself the time you spend doing routine business tasks. That’s where the cloud can help.
File Storage and Backup
Small businesses can get a lot of work done in the cloud. You probably use it already for tasks such as email, banking and social media, but there is much more available in the cloud. For example, many stores now process their payments through cloud applications. Additionally, one of the most well known benefits of the cloud is file storage and secure backup. This service is so important for three reasons:
- Data backups can be scheduled or initiated when you shut down your computer so you will never forget.
- It provides safe storage with strong anti-hacking and other security measures.
- It is scalable because you can purchase additional file space without any data loss or compromise.
A good example of a cloud storage service is Zip Cloud. The review site Top 10 Cloud Storage claims that Zip Cloud takes their file security seriously and has great pricing with unlimited storage for $4.95 per month.
Cloud Software Automates Complicated Tasks
The Small Business Playbook lists several important cloud services that are particularly appealing for small businesses because they make complicated tasks routine. These tasks include accounting, invoicing, email and postage.
Most business owners outsource accounting because it’s too risky to try to do it by themselves. But, you don’t have to hire an accounting firm to do your accounting correctly; many business owners are satisfied with cloud-based accounting products like FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online, which sit at the top spots on TopTenReviews for small business packages.
Business News Daily recommends Hiveage and Sage One for cloud-based invoicing and payment processing services. Hiveage provides free invoicing to an unlimited number of clients, and payments can be processed through Google Wallet or PayPal for free. Additional services are available a la carte and include tasks like recurrent billing, estimates that can be transferred into invoices and expense tracking. Sage One offers similar services and accounting, although none are free. Unlike Hiveage, Sage One works on mobile platforms, and prospective customers can try it free for 30 days.
Marketing will be a big part of your business, and rather than doing it all manually, take advantage of platforms that make it much easier.
If you’re active on social media, Hootsuite, Sprout and Buffer let you schedule posts on several popular platforms. While Facebook and Twitter also allow you to schedule messaging, it can be time-consuming to go into each service separately. Social media management tools also provide analytics that measure the success of a particular campaign or type of message.
Email continues to be a solid marketing tool. A study by Custora shows it is particularly good at driving mobile marketing and it generates a conversion rate of nearly 27 percent on smartphones and 23 percent on tablets. With results like these, you want to use specialized email marketing software like Constant Contact or MailChimp. Both services are user-friendly and operate entirely within the cloud. Both offer templates that are easy to customize with your logo and photos, and they also provide suggestions that will make your email more effective. You can create and schedule customized emails and text message lists, and then track the results like message openings, clicks and shares. MailChimp offers a “Forever Free” basic service for up to 2,000 emails addresses and 12,000 deliveries per month, and ConstantContact offers a free service for 60 days.