As a small business owner, I’ve grown accustomed to being a jack-of-all-trades. I keep the books, invoice customers, maintain my blogs and websites, all while trying to grow my business.
When I first started making money online way back in 2007, I didn’t give much thought to the nuts and bolts of a business. I just blogged. Then came tax time and advertisers. It became clear that spreadsheets wouldn’t cut it, and I was tired of downloading and maintaining software to run everything. And then came the cloud.
Today, everything from my bookkeeping to invoices to even my passwords are maintained online. I can access the data I need from anywhere, so long as I can find Wi-Fi. It’s not only allowed me to focus more time on growing my business, it also makes life a heck of lot easier.
As a result, I thought I’d share some of the better options that can help you move some or all of your business to the cloud. And even if you don’t run a business, some of these tools can increase anybody’s productivity.
Most people have a really bad habit when it comes to passwords. No, it’s not writing them down, although that can create its own problems. It’s using the same, simple password for everything. We do it so we don’t forget the password.
With LastPass, you can create really powerful passwords without remembering them. All you need remember is your LastPass password, and LastPass takes care of the rest. It comes with a free Firefox add-on so that you can easily login to any website you use that requires a password. And you can even share your login credentials with others if you need to without actually revealing the password to them. That comes in handy when I need somebody to work on one of my blogs. Oh, and LastPass is free.
I’ve written about FreshBooks before both in a review of FreshBooks based on using the service and a summary of the best accounting software for small businesses. Simply put, it makes invoicing customers a breeze. I can send an invoice via email with just a few clicks of the mouse, and it integrates seamlessly with OutRight (see below).
I’ve been using BaseCamp to help administer my step-mother’s estate. Think of it as online, collaborative project management. It’s dead simple to use, and allows you to store everything about a project in one place.
Salesforce.com does not need any introduction when it comes to CRM. Simply put, it allows you to have a customer database that everybody in your organization can share. This would enable you to know what has been done for the client, what needs to be done and what the client needs. But it does not stop there as it also has all the tools and features you need when it comes to customer service and customer relationship management.
If you allow employees to telecommute, you would love Chrometa. This cloud application analyzes your computer usage and automatically fills in time sheets.
If you have clients you need to bill, Chrometa can also track billable time. You no longer have to use a timer or a spreadsheet to keep track of how you spend your time.
Having a hard time keeping up with your receivables and payables? Bill.com is the solution to your problem.
Bill.com allows you to automatically pay your bills on the dates you want them paid. All you have to do is e-mail, scan or fax your bills to the system and it keeps track of your due dates and even keeps a copy of the contract associate with each bill for your convenience.
It also helps you get paid faster. It sends out invoices to customers by mail or e-mail, and you can configure it to send out timely reminders to them regarding those invoices that they have not yet paid. You can also give your customers more options on how to settle accounts: they can pay by credit card, PayPal or from their bank accounts. Better yet, you could allow them to autopay their bills.
Once they pay, Bill.com can also take care of putting their payments into your bank account!
Bill.com works well with whatever accounting software you may be using, such as Intacct, Preachtree, Quickbooks, Sage and NetSuite.
Think of Outright.com as your personal accountant. Outright.com allows you to keep track of your income, expenses and even taxes. It gives you a comprehensive report, too. What’s more, all the information you put into Outright.com is secure and safe.
Having used the service for more than a year, one of its best features is integration. It is fully integrated with freshBooks, PayPal and my Capital One business credit card. As a result, most of my transactions are automatically entered into OutRight.
8. The Resumator
The Resumator allows you to hire the best candidate for the job even if you do not have an in-house HR department. It also eliminates the need for a recruitment agency. This tool instantly advertises your job opening on free online job boards and talks about your company and vacancies on social networks. It also helps you keep track of your applicants, communicate with them and make hiring decisions faster by giving you a centralized system to manage everything.
Evernote allows you to have an easy way to remember little snippets of information that you come across. It is like a digital scrapbook where you could store text, photos, screenshots, or even an audio recording. Once you clip something to Evernote, the system indexes it so you can easily search for it later on.
10. Google Drive
Google Drive started out as Google Docs, a suite of office productivity tools that allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms and drawings on the cloud. Think of it as Microsoft Office for the cloud, and what makes it better is that it is free.
With the rebranding to Google Drive, you could now store files in the cloud. On top of the documents and other stuff we previously mentioned, you could store PDF files, music files, videos clips, and everything else to your drive. It offers five gigabytes of space, again for free.
11. Mindomo 5 Premium
If you need to visualize and manage projects, Mindomo 5 Premium is for you. It allows you to create and easily share a mind map that will give you a visual representation of your thoughts and ideas.
In a world where employees are increasingly preferring to use their own devices to perform work-related tasks, it is easy for them to have duplicate copies of the same files stored in various devices. One version of a report could be in their laptop, while another version can be found on their computers at home. Or perhaps, they have all their important stuff on their office computer, which crashed and accidentally deleted all of its content.
Dropbox takes care of that by allowing you to store your files on the cloud. You can then access these files on any device you connect to your Dropbox account. Think of it as an easy way to back up and sync your files.
Dropbox also serves as a file sharing solution.
Sounds good? Wait, it gets better.
Dropbox gives you 2-18 gigabytes worth of storage space for FREE. If you need more, you can upgrade to a Pro account for as low at $10 per month.
I’ll end with one tool I’ve just started using. With DocuSign, you can easily create contracts and other documents online that need to be signed by multiple parties. In my case, every time I hire a freelancer, I can send them my standard agreement for signature in a matter of seconds. They then sign the agreement electronically with the help of DocuSign, and it gets zapped back to me for my signature. It takes just a click of the mouse to the sign the document, and then all parties to the agreement receive a copy via email. It’s a great tool that saves a ton of time.
These are just 10 tools you can use when doing business in the cloud. We’re sure you can find more and that other useful tools will get developed in the near future. The important thing is, you see the benefits of moving your business to the cloud.