Every once in a while, we come across new apps or services that we adopt into our personal cache of "must-have" tools. Gaining inspiration from a New York Times article earlier this year that talked about tools to help solo entrepreneurs and small businesses look bigger than they are, I decided to come up with a list of cloud services to help SMBs work better. My hope is not so much to advocate cloud computing, as to draw attention to practical online services that can add genuine value to small and mid-sized businesses.
I think that the time is fast approaching when businesses will be less interested in defining "cloud computing,"' but more focused on deploying the pertinent components as part of their computing architecture.
Below are some of the services that could well form these components in your SMB
Rather than having to spend a bunch of money from the get-go on their email, collaboration and communication infrastructure, Microsoft's Office 365 gives businesses the option of buying nothing. Instead, businesses simply pay a small monthly fee for services ranging from Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Office Web Apps and basic web hosting. You can read more in my .
Touted as time tracking with no data entry, RescueTime is a service that makes tracking of how time is spent on your PC a completely automated process. An unobtrusive app resides in your System Tray to collect the requisite statistics, which are fed to the online service. Your personal dashboard is used to view the collected data via a number of intuitive charts with support for detailed drill down. And yes, the service has a "Team Edition" offering too. I wrote about it in a post on
I was indirectly introduced to EchoSign when requesting some evaluation kit recently, which required me to sign an evaluation agreement. The EchoSign service facilitates the acquiring of legally binding signatures by sending an email to the recipient with a link back to its server where the contract is displayed. Once the recipient agrees to the terms and signs the document, a copy automatically gets emailed as a PDF document to the relevant parties for reference.
Shoeboxed is an innovative concept to help businesses organize receipts, business cards and bills online. The idea revolves around getting rid of paper clutter by sending all paper receipts to Shoeboxed. The company will perform the scanning and data entry, which can be printed or downloaded via a wide variety of formats. Depending on service plans, the original paper receipts can also be snail mailed back. Finally, Shoeboxed also accepts digital photos taken from a smartphone.
SMBs still typing out their invoices manually in Word or Excel, and with no plan to get a full-fledged accounting system anytime soon, will want to check out FreshBooks. The popular online service was created to ease the task of billing and generate professional invoices that can be emailed or even posted out via snail mail.