How Small Businesses Benefit From Online Tools
In today’s world, one of the best things you can do for your small business is take advantage of technology. Online software in particular plays a huge part in the business world – it will help your business organize its finances, find more customers, get more bang for buck and work better, faster, smarter and more productively. It’s likely that your competitors are enjoying the success that comes with getting online already – so what are you waiting for?
Embrace cloud computing
The first step in your journey online is discovering the world of cloud computing. In recent years, the cloud has revolutionised the way small businesses run.
For the uninitiated, cloud computing means storing and accessing your data on internet applications, instead of your computer’s hard drive. Think about your email, internet banking or social media pages – every time you access that information, you’re using the cloud. If you’re still a little confused, check out Xero’s simple explanation of cloud computing.
What’s so great about cloud computing? For starters, unlike expensive desktop software with costly upgrades, cloud software is paid for by subscription – so you know from the outset what your costs are. There are no set up or maintenance fees – you just log in and it’s all ready for you!
What’s more, unlike desktop software (which has to upgraded by the customer at their own cost), cloud software is updated automatically, for free, by the provider. This means users always have the latest and greatest version of the application.
Additional benefits offered by the cloud include:
Convenience – you can access your information no matter where in the world you are, at any time, from any device with an internet connection.
Remote/global workforce – anyone involved in the running of your business – such as owners, staff, contractors or your accountant – can work, whether they’re out on a job, working from home or on a business trip.
Ease of use – in addition to employing the latest technology, cloud applications are designed to be user-friendly. Because updates are ongoing and simple for the provider to deploy, user feedback is an important part of design – so you know you’re using a product that is going to be intuitive and easy to navigate.
Security – you’ll have access to your data even if your laptop, tablet or mobile is lost, damaged or stolen. Just login from your new device and your data will be waiting for you in the cloud. Your data itself is also extremely secure – cloud software providers spare no expense to ensure your data is just as safe as your internet banking.
Use online business solutions
There are countless online applications that will cater to practically every aspect of almost any business.
One lifesaver for small businesses is online accounting software. Moving your financial data to the cloud means businesses and their accountants and financial advisors can monitor and manage cashflow in real-time. Cloud accounting solutions can connect to business bank accounts so that all bank transactions flow directly into the ledger – meaning there’s no need for manual data entry. What’s really great about using the cloud for your accounting is that good software can connect with a whole range of business tools. This includes point-of-sale, CRM, inventory managements and more – creating a complete business solution. Not only is cloud accounting software more affordable, it lets you save hours of time a week, which you can devote to working on your core business function.
Another example of money-saving online software is office tools – these days, instead of using desktop software, many businesses are using Google Docs. It’s likely you know how great Google is already – you may even be using it as your internet browser, search engine and email service. Google Docs offers documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, presentations and web forms. You can easily share documents and collaborate with other employees, even have staff in different locations working on a document at the same time.
A third great online service to take advantage of is online meetings. They enable staff, clients, consultants, advisors and agencies to stay in touch, no matter where in the world they are. It’s a great way to exchange information with people in different offices or time zones when email won’t cut it and in-person meetings aren’t feasible – for example, it’s a lot cheaper to hold an online meeting than it is to fly someone across the country for the day! Google Hangouts, MeetingBurner, Skype and Citrix GoToMeeting are a few popular choices – but make sure you do your research first before committing to a solution. Of course, it can be tricky adjusting to a different medium, so these tips for a smooth online meeting are worth a read.
Intrigued by cloud computing but not sure where to start? Check out:
- Macworld’s list of top online accounting apps
- CNET’s review of cloud storage providers
- TechRadar’s top 10 cloud collaboration services for SMBs