By Darren Fell is an entrepreneur and MD/ founder of Crunch Accounting
Scaling is a crucial stage for any young business. You’ve got a decent customer base, a steady income and a couple of staff – now’s the time to think big, right?
Scaling has traditionally meant buying costly new IT equipment, paying out a small fortune in software licenses and taking on dedicated IT staff to manage it all. These additional costs have traditionally made scaling a costly and complex transition for small businesses.
Thankfully, modern cloud computing solutions have removed the need for dedicated IT systems and alleviated many of the associated costs, making scaling your business significantly easier, and cheaper!
Take the oldest and most necessary desktop suite, Microsoft Office. This family of programmes will set you back a few hundred pounds per user – and that’s without factoring in the costs of the hardware in will run on and an Exchange Server to handle your office email systems.
For those who can forego the more in-depth features of Office, there is Google Apps. This cloud suite offers web-based email, calendar and productivity tools that are comparable, and in many ways superior, to Office’s. Best of all, Google Apps is completely free for companies with up to ten employees, and available on a cheap subscription basis for those needing more capacity.
All the hosting and tech support is taken care of for you – all you need is a browser.
There are other ways cloud solutions can pay dividends too. Without numerous desktop applications weighing down your office computers you can do without expensive top-of-the-line hardware, and all software upgrades are included in your subscription fee, meaning you won’t have to fork out for the newest version every few years.
New cloud services are springing up every day to offer a cheap, hassle-free alternative to desktop software. When scaling your business, before dropping thousands of pounds on a clunky desktop solution, have a look around for a similar cloud offering. You’ll usually find they are more user-friendly and much, much cheaper.
There are many other elements of your business, which can be moved to the cloud, such as:
Forget email chains and Gantt Charts – these days the simplest way to stay on top of your workload is through simple web apps like BaseCamp. Basecamp allow managers to create tasks, assign them to employees and track progress through comments and due dates.
Not only is it simple and cheap (pricing starts at around £12 per month), since its recent relaunch BaseCamp is quite beautiful too.
Customer feedback has always been a stilted, one-on-one affair when carried out over phone or email. No longer, with cloud solutions like UserVoice or ZenDesk. These systems create forums where your customers can suggest, discuss and vote on improvements to your products or services.
Your team can get involved in the discourse, and this back-and-forth creates a real sense of value for your customers – as well as a better product, which takes customer feedback into account in a completely transparent way.
If you’re doing away with your noisy, expensive in-office server you’ll need somewhere else to put your shared folders, and there are plenty of cloud options to choose from! Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive and the newly-launched Google Drive all offer varying levels of storage at different price points, but they’re all modern and accessible cloud solutions that make sharing anything a piece of cake.
All you need is an email address and you can share any individual file or folder with another person, and Dropbox even syncs the files to your desktop, so you don’t even need a network connection to get hold of your shared items.