An endless number of problems can derail a small-business owner's day. Luckily, there's also a seemingly infinite number of cloud-based solutions that can help. Here are 10 common challenges business owners face, and a cloud solution for each.
The Challenge: Disconnected Applications
When starting their businesses, owners—especially those who aren't tech-centric—add on applications as they need them. It's only after a few years of cobbling together a network of services that they realize what they have is inefficient, there's a huge disconnect between applications, and the people and processes are doing double work.
The Solution: SageOne
SageOne is a project management, accounting and CRM solution all in one package. It's ideal for the entrepreneur who hires a lot of outside contractors, freelancers and consultants who work on different projects. SageOne can handle all the essential functions of running a business, including project time tracking, customer invoicing and paying bills. It even generates reports. Starts at $29 a month.
The Challenge: Too Many Website Forms
A business typically has to create a ton of forms for its website and social media pages.
The Solution: Adobe FormsCentral
Adobe FormsCentral not only has all the forms, surveys and templates a business might need for its website, but more importantly, provides business intelligence from the information it collects. Starts at $12 a month.
The Challenge: Tracking Expenses
Employees dislike filling out expense forms, and financial departments hate reconciling expenses. It's a huge time-sink for everyone.
The Solution: Abukai Expenses
Its front end app can be used while on the road, and the back end is a cloud-based service that integrates with the in-house financial systems. Just snap a photo of the receipt with a smartphone and submit. No typing for employees needed. Starts at $99 a year per user.
The Challenge: Keeping In Touch With Employees
As a company grows, it gets harder for a business owner to keep his or her pulse on what employees want and think.
The Solution: Know Your Company
Know Your Company was developed by the founders of 37Signals, perhaps best known for its Basecamp project management tool, to help owners and employees get to know each other, keep on top of what everyone is working on, and build a strong company culture. This can be invaluable to growing companies that have employees spread out in different offices or who work from home. Starts at $100 per employee.
The Challenge: Creating Effective Web Content
More companies want to post relevant content to best serve readers and increase SEO ranking on search engines like Google and Bing.
The Solution: Scribe
This tool helps users find the topics that matter the most to their audience and use the right terms for searching and discussing it in social media. Starts at $97 a month.
The Challenge: Signing Documents While Out of the Office
Two things are certain for small-business owners: They are always on-the-go, and when they are, someone always needs something signed ASAP.
The Solution: Hello Sign
Hello Sign facilitates the legal process of document signing and tracking. An audit trail keeps users posted of all signers’ activity and stores these documents in the cloud for later reference.
The Challenge: Sharing Big Files
Every small business needs to share files. The problem with services like Dropbox is that for users to look at a file, they may need to increase the size of their boxes, which means higher costs.
The Solution: Hightail (formally called YouSendIt)
Hightail enables a user to store a file in the cloud, and then shares it via a link sent to the other person that can be downloaded to that person's computer or tablet. Free for the lite version; $15.99 a month for a professional version.
The Challenge: Juggling Too Many Tasks and To-Do's
Many small-business owners use task and to-do lists to manage what they need to take care of on a daily basis. But how many of you have everything you do all down on one list?
The Solution: Remember the Milk
This solution integrates across a vast number of platforms like Siri, Evernote, Gmail, Google Calendar, Twitter, Microsoft Outlook and many other applications. Free to start.
The Challenge: Remote Team Collaboration
When your team is spread out all over the country, but is working on one project, it's essential everyone not only stays on the same page, but is in real-time communication with each other to forge a strong culture.
The Solution: Campfire
Campfire is like instant messaging designed for groups. Set up password-protected special chat rooms for different work groups or customers. This is effective for building culture in a company that is spread out. Starts at $12 a month.
The Challenge: No Time to Learn
There is little time for small-business owners (or employees) to learn new skills, or improve the skills they have.
The Solution: Lynda.com
The Lynda.com library has more than 2,000 step-by-step training videos on topics covering business, software applications and creative design. You can learn how to start an online marketing campaign, how to take a perfect product shot, how to use Adobe to Photoshop a picture, and so much more. Starts at $25 month.
What is your favorite cloud-based solution for small business? Let us know in the comments below.
Read more articles on technology for small business.