It would have been unthinkable a few years ago to have your private or business data stored on the internet – or in the cloud as it’s now known. But the truth is that your data is probably safer from hackers in the cloud than it is on your laptop, thanks to the powerful encryption used by online providers. There are also savings to be made by using cloud-based digital versions of systems that used to require a dedicated machine or software download and continual updates. Here are five ways that your business can use cloud technology, including some useful apps.
1. Use a mobile internet service for calls
If long distances separate you and your clients or suppliers, you can save on airfares by installing Skype on your phone and using the internet to make free conference calls. One of the Skype co-founders has even created a Skype competitor called Wire, and there are other services out there for online video connections as well.
2. Point of sale software on your smartphone
Given Australia’s ongoing fascination with weekend markets, if you’ve ever bought anything at a stall you may have encountered one of these clever little apps already. One example, Square, is a point of sale app that lets SMEs process credit cards, generate business receipts, keep track of inventory and create sales reports. Square’s inventory system will track your stock and warn you when you are running low, and it can produce a spreadsheet at tax time including credit card and cash sales.
3. Accounting software stored in the cloud
Online accounting software means you can access your data from any device. Invoicing, bank integration and payroll integration are included, which means you no longer have to keep filing cabinets filled with paper copies – all the relevant information is stored in the cloud. Most of these services, like MYOB and Nudge, are subscription-based, so you pay a monthly fee with packages suited to your business size.
4. Use online faxing from your smartphone
With the eFax app on your phone, you can do online faxing from wherever you are. This is ideal for real estate professionals, accountants or any business that relies on the secure transmission of contracts and personal documents while on the go. eFax works with an online fax number. People can fax you, or you can fax them by attaching documents up to 1GB to an email. With your smartphone you can take a photo of a document, import it into the app, add a digitised signature and a cover page, and send it. eFax adds mobility to the paperless office.
5. Take your office on your phone
Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint are now available for your smartphone with full functionality (unlike the old Office Mobile app). Apple offers its own iWorks suite, including Pages, Keynote and Numbers roughly equivalent to Microsoft’s big three.
Now that smartphones are getting large enough to be taken seriously, and tablets seem to be taking over from laptops, it’s a good time for small business to take advantage of the technology that’s hovering nearby in the ever-expanding cloud.