At frevvo, we LOVE Cloud. Sure, we sell more and more cloud-based solutions to our customers many of whom are themselves small businesses. But so are we! And, we use many cloud services to lower costs and accelerate our own business. We love not having to worry about infrastructure, mobile access, automatic upgrades etc. Here are some cloud services we use today:
- frevvo Live Forms: A no-brainer for us. We absolutely eat our own dog food. Our everyday approvals are automated using our own product – everything from Expense Reports to Leave Approvals to Sales Orders to Training Registrations to you name it. We see firsthand how much more efficient we are as a result and we’re even more excited to bring that efficiency to customers.
- Email & Calendar: This is a no-brainer and no SMB has any business operating their own email. We use GMail and Google Calendar on our own domain. It’s easy and low cost, well supported and reliable. It’s super easy to quickly find relevant emails. We also like several of the plugins that you can add into GMail.
- Infrastructure: As a Cloud provider, this is obviously a key service for us. We use Amazon Web Services (AWS). EC2 for compute, S3 for storage and RDS for the database. AWS is amazing. Costs keep going down, it’s incredibly reliable and they keep adding useful new stuff.
- Sales CRM: We use SFDC (salesforce.com). SFDC has its problems for sure and it’s not cheap (costs can rise quickly). But, this is such a key function that it’s not where you want to compromise. We also like the App Exchange and the fact that so many other cloud services integrate with SFDC.
- Marketing: We use Marketo. We’re relatively new to it so not a whole lot of experience. We’ve found that it integrates really well with SFDC which was a huge plus. As we automate more things, we’re expecting it to save us time and become more efficient. Not sure about their GMail plugin yet.
- Billing: Freshbooks is working brilliantly for us. We don’t have to worry about credit cards and PCI compliance, it’s drop dead simple to use, works overseas (we have customers all over the world) and it’s very affordable. We’ve also integrated frevvo forms/workflows using their API so billing is automated as much as possible.
- Customer Support: We’re deciding between Zendesk and desk.com. Both cloud services. Again, integration with SFDC is critical for us. Of course, a nice interface that’s usable by customers is also a key consideration. We’ll see where we end up but a cloud-based service here is inevitable.
- Accounting: Quickbooks is a no-brainer. I think it costs us around $50 or $75 per month for a full-fledged accounting system that meets our needs. We also like the fact that it can be integrated with SFDC though we haven’t reached that point yet.
- Web Analytics: Google Analytics is free, extremely detailed and well supported. It’s an amazing product and impossible to beat the cost. Encrypting the search keyword sucks but that’s been discussed at length elsewhere.
- Online Documents: We need to share documents too and we’ve been very happy with Google Drive for that – it’s by far the cheapest choice and very convenient for sharing internal documents for quick and easy collaboration. Much nicer than emailing Excel/Word around.
- Office 365: It’s just a reality of the world we live in. You have to deal with Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. And, in some ways, they are better than the alternatives e.g. Track Changes. Office 365 is also amazingly affordable. We can’t complain.
- Online Meetings / Webinars: We extensively use GoToMeeting for online meetings and GoToWebinar for webinars. Easy to use, inexpensive and [usually] quite reliable. Even though we’re small we’re distributed across multiple locations on 3 continents so sharing screens, built-in audio and video conferencing are essential. GTM works well. Of course, we also use Skype, IM (GTalk, MSN …) and the host of other chat tools out there.
- Email Marketing: We still use Constant Contact though, with Marketo being implemented, it may become redundant. Still, over the years, we’ve been a happy customer. It’s incredibly affordable and has been reliable for us.
- Phone System: Skype’s very popular, of course and they offer inexpensive Internet calling. But, it’s simply not good enough to be considered “a landline”. We currently use VOIP services from 8×8 for our phone and voicemail. It’s not dirt cheap but it’s not much money either and it’s been 100% reliable for us.
- Video: We’ve used Powtoon to create a few videos. It’s not clear how long we’ll continue. Yes, it’s inexpensive but it’s still a pain to create these videos and it’s very very limited in what you can do. Professionally made videos cost 10-20X as much each but may still be worth the money.
I’m guessing we might even use a few more but these 15 services have been really helpful over the years. I’m sure your business benefits from many cloud services too.
This article is an update to the original published about 2 years ago.
I recently came across this interesting infographic from New Jersey Institute of Technology on Cloud Computing in small business. Small businesses, in particular, are adopting Cloud Computing because they can attain real benefits like:
- Improved ability to move into new geographical markets
- Simplification of internal operations
- Better delivery of internal resources
- New ways for employees to work, connect and collaborate
- Faster rollout of new initiatives to exploit new opportunities
It’s exactly what we see our customers (whether they’re small or large companies) doing and it’s exactly what we do. Like our customers, we ourselves must focus on our core competencies. We use many Cloud Services ourselves to gain similar benefits from GoToMeeting to Google Analytics. Of course, we use our own product to automate our own approval workflows like Sales Orders, Employee On-Boarding, and Expense Reports. It means less wasted time and a much stronger focus on happy customers.
Like us, you can benefit from Cloud-based approval workflows too. Contact us if you need help or sign up for a free trial online. Like us, we think you’ll find that the sooner you adopt Cloud the bigger the benefits and the bigger your competitive advantage.
Small businesses are at the tipping point of broad-based cloud adoption. This from a new research report from Intuit that shows how big an opportunity this is for developers and cloud solution providers.
The Cloud-Powered Small Business
Currently 37% of United States small businesses are adapted to the cloud, but an anticipated 78% will be fully cloud operational by 2020. Given the sheer size of this market, it’s a huge opportunity.
The center of the small business cloud is financial management
SMB owners spend 4 hours a day online running their business. What are they doing? 65% conduct back-office work like book-keeping and accounting, 65% generate invoices and accept payments, 58% are managing customer relationships and 48% are communicating with employees and partners.
SMBs are enthusiastically embracing mobile
Nearly half (43%) of SMB owners use a smartphone as the primary device to run their business and the vast majority of them use multiple devices.
And, they’re willing to spend
SMBs already spend $630/year on average on software solutions and 85% of SMB executives are willing to invest more in software solutions over the next 5 years with a significant number (27%) looking to simplify day-to-day operations.
Automate routine day-to-day approvals and streamline operations
frevvo’s Cloud-based approval workflows are perfectly suited to small businesses. We’re an SMB ourselves and we use our own product to simplify our day-to-day operations in a host of areas like purchase orders, leave approvals and many other form-based workflows. Check out this infographic on 11 Cloud solutions we use everyday and sign up for a free trial on our website.
Check out the Intuit e-Book here (no login/registration required).
Check out this new Infographic on why Small to Midsize Businesses (SMBs) are rapidly adopting the cloud. Millions of small business are flying to the cloud – some adopting digital technology for the first time.
Why? Because they finally can … for the first time, these tiny shops have access to world-class software for a reasonable monthly fee without having to incur upfront costs for servers, software licenses, I.T. staff etc. They’re ditching paper forms and spreadsheets, registers and paper receipts every day.
Of course, we’re a small business ourselves and we use Cloud-based software everywhere. Check out the Infographic which also shows 11 Cloud Services that we use everyday and find indispensable to our business. From Infrastructure to Email to, of course, Mobile Web Forms and Approval Workflows, we benefit from low-cost, low-maintenance cloud-based software every single day.
Your organization can do it too. For approval workflows, you know where to reach us. But, there are hundreds and hundreds of choices like GoToMeeting for online meetings, Zendesk for Customer Services, Dropbox for File Sharing and Google Analytics for web analytics.
Interesting to see SMB Group’s Top 10 SMB trends for 2014. The top three items are:
- Progressive SMBs Use Technology as a Game Changer: They invest more in technology-based solutions … and will continue to outpace peers.
- Cloud Adoption Accelerates, But SMBs Steer Clear of Dark Clouds: SMBs have absolutely bought into the cloud promise … but aren’t too happy with the annual contracts, fees for everything approach of many enterprise cloud vendors.
- Mobile Management Becomes a Priority as SMB Mobile App Use Soars: 67% of SMBs now view mobile solutions and services as critical to their business and are deploying mobile websites and business applications to engage and transact with customers.
At frevvo, we’ve been seeing this for a while now and not just in the SMB space. For our customers, one, two or all three of the above are key. They’re absolutely looking to technology-based solutions and the promise of paperless forms to outpace peers. Many of them are seriously into cloud nowadays and every single customer sees mobile as a top priority.
Any of this describe you? Check out some of our videos and example forms and contact us if you think we can help. Don’t worry. We promise we’re not the hard-sell at all costs type and won’t hassle you forever just because you gave us an email address 🙂