Technology has guided the winners in history for a long time. From Alexander the Great to the Romans, those with the best tech win. This is true in business as well. Although now, technology is at a more accessible level than ever before. This translates to massive benefits for the little guys … small businesses.
Leveraging the Cloud, One App At A Time
Rather than buy expensive software that takes weeks (if not months) to learn, by which point it is outdated, let’s take a look at some easier solutions to real world scenarios.
One of the most immediate gains you can obtain from the cloud is not needing a file server, which costs your company money in support, hardware, and electricity. Cloud services such as Box.com, Dropbox, and Office365 can replace this. These files can then be instantly accessed at home, at the office, or on the go, from any type of device. Cloud services also allow for easy sharing of files outside your organization and are often simpler to use than a traditional file server.
There is a caveat. People may unknowingly deploy an unfit solution for their environment. For example, Dropbox may not be ideal for an environment that deals with large files, such as video and graphics files (think, Photoshop or InDesign). Trying to take a one-size-fits-all approach to a department’s technology needs can make employees frustrated with the company and blame the cloud.
Lists and Productivity
There are a lot of lists that can run in a Web browser or run in an app that syncs to the cloud. Apps like Evernote, Wunderlist, and Any.do can enhance productivity by giving you an option to assign tasks while you’re away, assign due dates to those tasks, build lists of tasks that get you to special milestones for your organization, and, of course, remind you to do all those little things, like get coffee for the office.
A good tactician gets everyone right where they need to be. Managing a team of people is so different than it used to be. People can live in other cities, states, and even countries and still check in on the status of their projects, thanks to the Internet. With these simple cloud-based tools, you can share lists with customers (who are just sitting on the cloud, after all) and get status updates on lists from your employees or contractors, allowing you to be as proactive as possible with your customers.
One thing that practically every small business needs is some kind of accounting software. Tracking money in, money out, and money saved is critical, especially in the introduction stage. Thankfully, managing cash flow has never been easier than it is today.
Perhaps your organization starts with software like Mint: probably the simplest approach to managing a general ledger that I’ve ever seen. And then when you grow up a little, you might move into Xero or QuickBooks. Eventually, you may end up spending more on Enterprise Resource Planning and accounting, due to the importance of having a well-structured accounting system running your organization.
Whichever state your organization might be in, there are a lot of options for managing money. All of the ones I mentioned here can be run from the cloud, so you just pay a low monthly fee to manage them from the comfort and portability of a Web browser. Of course, you may notice it is almost too convenient when you realize you just worked about half of your vacation away. However, this is usually work that is well worth it when you’re first starting out.
Line of Business
Specializations, like infantry, can be crucial to winning battles. Each organization has a different logic to how various business processes are approached; this logic is crucial to your competitive advantage. Therefore, many businesses need a different app or collection of apps that will be used to run their business uniquely. This could mean software that helps you stock shelves, plan conferences, distribute files, log work orders, or anything else you can think of. Just keep in mind that if you can think of some way you’d like to work, there’s probably “an app for that.” And chances are, there’s at least one that syncs with a cloud service to keep everyone on the same page!
There are a lot of threats to the security of devices out there. You simply can’t protect against all of them. Luckily, most of these are automated, and protecting against the most common threats is now a commodity. For Windows, you’ll want to look at tools like Microsoft InTune, Symantec AntiVirus, Kaspersky, and a few others. These can’t run exclusively from the cloud, but are a necessary evil. Putting too many of these on your devices, though, will slow them down.
There aren’t any really solid products that can provide defense against malware. Luckily, iOS devices, such as the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch aren’t currently at risk of getting infected with it, but there are still other risks.
For these risks, look at a tool like Bushel. Bushel enables an administrator to enforce encryption on devices, wipe devices remotely, and control the way that data can be moved between apps on devices. This ups the ante of securing Apple devices much further than other platforms, plus it is much cheaper. In fact, you can sign up for free.
Bushel is also able to go a step further and help organizations automate the setup and management of their devices. This makes Bushel yet another cloud service that saves you time, in more areas than one. Whether this results in faster time to market for your products, faster time to your bank account for your sales, or just getting out of work faster so you can get in a little more fishing is up to you. I know what Alexander the Great would have done with that free time. But if you’re reading this article, you’re probably more advanced than him already, thanks to technology.
Cloud Image via Shutterstock