For many small business owners, choosing the right tools and technology to support their company can seem like a daunting and expensive task. However, it’s no longer necessary for small companies to pay big prices for IT.
Recent advances mean that deploying technology doesn’t need to be a time and money intensive process. Due to falling costs, the consumerization of IT and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) coming of age, smaller companies can now access technology that was previously reserved for large enterprises.
With no funds to invest into business enterprise infrastructure and traditional software, not to mention the IT staff needed to support them, cloud computing offers start-ups the chance to boost their business and deploy low-cost software that can help them grow.
So, apart from reduced costs, what are the advantages of SaaS? Well, SaaS is web-based so anyone and everyone with an Internet connection can access this software. The benefit of universal access means that people can work from any location, at anytime, and they don’t have to be shackled to their desks from dawn until dusk.
Communication with colleagues, partners and suppliers can also be improved as SaaS crosses physical and virtual office boundaries. Rather than being stuck either behind or beyond an office firewall, cloud-based collaboration tools enable everyone working on a project to connect, share ideas, files and information, and work better together. Rather than having to buy the latest software updates to benefit from the most recent features, SaaS is also always up-to-date. Finally, using the latest technology means that, while you may be a small company, you don’t have to come across as one.
So what business-grade, cloud-based software is out there for small businesses to benefit from? Web-based software is now available for numerous business tasks and functions such as human resource management, billing and accounting, and customer support. I’ve selected a few of my favorites below:
a great voice over IP service that can be used to stay in touch with partners, colleagues and suppliers across the globe.
a website building tool that was created to make it far simpler to design, develop and update websites without having to code. It can create websites straight from Photoshop designs, so an ideal solution for small businesses.
a good tool for managing your contacts and tracking your customer relationships.
a professional-grade, web-based customer support service.
Shoeboxed: submitting your expenses no longer has to be a painful task as you can send all your receipts through to shoeboxed.com via postal service, email or mobile phone and the company will scan them, organize them and enter all the data for you. FreshBooks: an online billing and bookkeeping tool that will track and report staff time, send invoices and collect payments. Huddle: now, of course I would say this, but businesses can use Huddle to connect with people, share information and work better together.
The great thing about a lot of SaaS tools is that you often get the chance to try before you buy so you can establish if they are the right fit for your business. Why not give SaaS technology a go and see what it can do for your business?
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After graduating with MSc. in Naval Engineering from Southampton University, where he learned how to build boats and submarines, Alastair has spent the last decade in the online services industry.
During this time he has helped to build the first online market place for the global food commodities market, which provided marketing, auction and logistics capabilities to companies across Europe, Africa, and the Far East. In 2002, Alastair joined customer insight company, dunnhumby, where he led the growth of its web-based marketing intelligence product to £20m in three years. Alastair joined dunnhumby's Strategic Management Board in 2005 to head up the group's Shopping Experience practice, a $60m+ business globally. When he's not running Huddle Alastair enjoys skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and, diving. You can follow him on Twitter @alimitchell where he tweets once every six months.