Cloud services can save costs and improve productivity for small-to-medium businesses. That’s part of the reason why 69 percent of SMBs currently use some cloud solutions – because they allow you to have state of the art IT systems without a huge IT expenditure.
But cost is not the only reason to migrate. Cloud solutions provide SMBs with the resources to change the way they do business. Whether it’s faster internal communication, better relationships with customers, or launching your own online business, the cloud can be the foundation for real growth.
So how do you make the most of the cloud? The first step is to be aware of the kind of things that are possible with cloud solutions. Here are six of the most popular applications for SMBs:
1. Data storage
Storing data on the cloud has a number of benefits. You can access your data from anywhere, enjoy better protection against data loss, and it can actually be more secure than storing it on your own network. Cloud storage also makes disaster contingency planning easier – there’s far less chance of losing all your records if disaster strikes. Having your data in a single place like Dropbox Business or SpiderOak also makes it easier to sort and to locate critical information when you need it.
2. Communication tools
Managing communications across email and instant messaging platforms can be messy. This is especially true when some people work remotely, don’t have access to internal email and IM, or keep different hours to the rest of the team. Cloud solutions like Slack and Microsoft Teams help people work together in any environment, by blending elements of email, IM, social messaging and file sharing.
3. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM makes it easy to manage your relationship with clients by storing contact data, recording the history of your interactions and tracking open support tickets. Cloud-powered CRM tools like Salesforce and Hubspot offer an easy, secure way to access customer records when you’re on the road. CRM data can also be used for sales reporting and for marketing work, such as customer segmentation.
4. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
ERP keeps track of all the moving parts of your business, from supply chain to payroll. It’s especially useful for larger operations with multiple locations, but cloud solutions like SAP and Oracle make an ERP implementation practical for SMBs. If your business intends to use the Internet of Things technology, such as smart warehouse devices, then ERP is the software platform that enables such changes.
5. Unified communications
Computers are great, but somebody still needs to answer the phone when a customer calls. There is a wide range of cloud-based unified communication solutions available for SMBs. You’ll find a number of additional features on each platform: virtual customer service agents, VoIP technology, intelligent call forwarding, and voicemail-to-email services. What kind of service is best suited to your office?
6. Web services
Ready to go digital by launching an app or e-commerce site? This requires an infrastructure to host your software, which can be an expensive barrier. Cloud platforms such as AWS and Microsoft Azure can host and run any applications that you can build.
Making the move to the cloud
Cloud solutions by themselves won’t transform your business, of course. Technology can only ever be a tool to help you realize your strategic vision.
As with any investment, it’s best to know what you want to achieve and then talk to an expert. Find a cloud technology partner who understands your goals, and consult with them about the right cloud solutions for your business.