For small and medium enterprises (SME’s) particularly start-ups, the attraction of cloud computing is obvious. Low entry costs, updates and maintenance carried out by the cloud vendor, accessible from anywhere in the world, flexible, scalable, and with a growing suite of powerful SaaS tools, it’s almost as if the cloud was designed with SME’s in mind.
But it’s not all been plain sailing and there are still many businesses who have concerns about security and reliability. This is one of the reasons some companies are holding back from using cloud solutions to the fullest potential.
However, the sheer array of new SaaS products that can cut costs and improve efficiency are winning over even the most hardened cloud cynics.
SME’s know that in a flat lining economy, costs need to keep to a minimum and any tool that can help them do this do and improve efficiency, has got to be worth looking at.
The new cloud solutions do just that and are proving too important for many SME’s to ignore. So what are the five essential SaaS tools no small business should be without?
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
One of the most popular and widely used SaaS solutions is CRM. It helps companies manage and automate a whole range of business processes from sales and marketing, to account management, customer service, technical support, analytics and more. The two leading giants in this sector are Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics, both huge US corporations. But it’s a very competitive sector and many new companies are emerging to challenge the dominance of the big two. In the UK companies like Workbooks and Wavehill are taking this further, by offering affordability and more tailored solutions for SME’s.
2. Web Conferencing Applications
One of the fastest growing sectors of the cloud revolution is in web conferencing. New developments in SaaS have revolutionised web conferencing, with companies able to share and present documents, power-points, graphics and much more. With vendors maintaining the software and updates it really is a low cost, low hassle conference solution, which many companies now see as an essential tool in their cloud armoury, particularly if they have staff and clients scattered across the globe. Go To Meeting and Cisco Webex are two of the leading companies in this sector but it’s an extremely competitive part of the cloud market, with new vendors emerging all the time.
3. Sales Force Automation Systems (SFA)
These systems are used as part of the CRM and help to automate sales and sales force management systems. The benefits are that the SFA will automatically record the sales process from start to finish, it can record all contact with a customer through the entire sales process, which can be called upon in seconds. It ensures a smoother sales process, better costumer relations and makes sure that efforts aren’t duplicated. Other unique features are a sales tracking system which can find potential leads through phone lists or even customers who’ve bought related products.
4. Content Management Applications
These can be independent or integrated with CRM or SFA systems. Companies such as Dropbox.com or Box.net offer standalone solutions to capture, manage, store and deliver documents and files. These systems are proving popular with both businesses and private individuals as they are extremely simple to use and can be accessed from any web enabled device. The new content management solutions are descended from the document management systems of the 1990s when the dream of a ‘paperless office’ was just that; a dream. New technological advancements make digital content management a reality and it’s one area that may see ground breaking innovation in the very near future.
5. Document Management and Data Back-up Applications
Faster transfer speeds and highly secure data centres are the key here. Data safety and system reliability is the number one priority for cloud vendors and they are constantly upgrading security software to give maximum protection. Many companies now also demand SaaS data escrow when they transfer critical data to the cloud. This means that important data is held by an independent third party in case there is a breach of security or even to secure against the vender going bankrupt. Businesses usually want regular updates of their SaaS data- which adds yet another layer of security.
These are just five of the very many SaaS solutions that are available for companies today. With dramatic cuts in upfront capital expenditure and maintenance costs, the benefits of instant scalability, real time business collaboration, improved speed and enhanced agility, the cloud is proving to be a no-brainer for many SME’s across the globe.
About the Author:
Jeff Macgonical is an experienced UK based writer and journalist. He has worked for the BBC and has interviewed top politicians, CEO’s, and broken many exclusive stories over the years. Currently, Jeff is working as a freelance blogger and writer in the cloud, SaaS and technology markets.