What is the cloud? What is SaaS?
Want to start a business fast and without too much cost or hassle? Need software which will run your business but don’t know where to start? Its never been easier and cheaper or more reliable and secure!
And it’s all available ‘in the cloud’ as a service – geeks and techies know it as Software as a Service (SaaS). In simple language this means that the software you use does not run on your own computer, rather it is accessed over the Internet (from the cloud). Someone else maintains the software for you and stores your data, you just need a device with a browser and an Internet connection. Think Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn – these are all cloud services.
Almost all SaaS is available as pay-by-the-month and often without a contract. Pretty cool. Even better your data is highly secure and reliable because the companies that provide cloud software invest vast amounts of money in these things. Google which is king of the world of cloud and one of the largest corporations in the world literally can’t afford for their cloud software to fail. If it did they’d be out of business. Are you as confident about your current in-house server and do you really like backing it up every night? (I know, you don’t even do backups!)
If you have a laptop / notebook or tablet with broadband internet or even 4G then you’ve nailed the hardware side. That is literally all you need. In fact, you could probably get by just with an iPad or android tablet because all of the software you need is accessed via a web browser and the Internet.
So what about the software and its benefits?
For me the starting point is mind blowing, particularly because I’m a boomer from the world of servers and Microsoft Office (pricy!). Even though I don’t like Google much, their offer is very compelling…
For $5 per month (or $50 a year) per person you get a Google Docs business account with:
- Storage: 30Gb! – If you don’t know how much that is, it’s a lot.
- E-mail: a gmail address.
- Google calendar for all your appointments and meetings.
- Google Docs: including word processing and spreadsheet and the ability to import/export from/to Microsoft Word and Excel respectively.
- Google Hangouts: a video chat platform just like Skype.
So for 5 bucks you’ve got somewhere to create and keep all your documents, access from your smartphone or tablet, e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet, video conferencing, a diary and collaboration tools. I reckon you’re already in business. There’s much more to tell and to like about Docs including the ability to remotely collaborate on documents in real-time, but I’ll leave that for another time.
Other business essentials in the cloud
Inevitably, some businesses will have needs which demand specialised software, so here are a couple of very good SaaS offerings to consider.
MailChimp is a great starting point for email marketing and managing customer lists . And if you have less than 2000 customers and send less than 12,000 messages a month it is absolutely free! That is certainly sufficient for most small businesses.
Chances are you will need accounting software at some stage although perhaps not until you employ a few staff or grow a little. Xero is the go and starts at $25/month. Unfortunately its starting to get a tad expensive, however it is good software and like all things cloud you can access your account from any device, anywhere and at anytime.
There are many valuable cloud software services suitable for small business for all sorts of needs, the world is your oyster so go explore. And if you have any questions, talk to us!