When it comes to software and managing your data, the cloud can give your small business all sorts of operational and financial advantages, writes Chief Marketing Officer at 9 Spokes, Simon Atkins.
It’s tempting to bury your head in the sand when people mention ‘the cloud’. Perhaps it’s the name – it sounds vague, out of reach and not particularly secure. Funnily enough, the exact opposite is true.
The cloud is an exciting game changer for small businesses, and it enables the delivery of real-time valuable information to company owners – easily, quickly and securely.
The software market is mature in the UK and there are apps to carry out almost every business function, so small business owners now have the option to manage their entire business in the cloud. With this holistic view of business, you can make data-driven decisions to optimise your performance.
Here, we’ve put together ten top benefits of using the cloud:
(1) Be instantly in the know
With real-time access to your business data, there’s no need for guesswork around performance. Say goodbye to shuffling through old sheets of paper – instead of searching pockets for that lost receipt, you can instantly take photos and log your receipts with cloud apps such as Expensify.
(2) Understand your business better
With all your data accessible on the go and options to have it together in one place, you can easily monitor past and current trends, to plan ahead for the future. Managing your business finances in the cloud with an accounting app can help you keep an eye on your current cash position, balance future income and outgoings and assess your long term business health.
(3) Have up-to-date software
Desktop IT programmes and software can rely on manual and expensive updates, meaning that the long term cost of keeping your software fresh could be higher than expected.
Cloud software is flexible and most apps automatically update as part of their subscription model as they improve over time. This means you don’t have to worry about having outdated software or unexpectedly forking out for more functionality.
(4) Communicate better
The cloud also enables real-time data sharing across members of your team and business advisors. Whether you are sharing important financial data with your accountant or partners, or simply making your shift roster available to staff, cloud data sharing can streamline your business.
Deputy is a good example of an online people management tool which allows you to monitor and manage staff leave, rostering and availability, saving you time and keeping your people in the know.
(5) Be more efficient
Automating your basic business processes can significantly improve your efficiency and reduce workload. For example, automating your sales reporting and linking it in with your accounting software can save a huge amount of time when reconciling sales and cash flow at the end of the business day.
A lot of software has industry specific functionality. If you are a retailer, there are specialist cloud apps such as Vend, Kounta and Shopify that can automatically feed your sales data into your accounting application, eliminating the need to reconcile or input this data manually.
(6) More security
With all your data encrypted and backed-up in the cloud, you won’t need to worry about lost laptops or hard drives again. You can even manage data remotely, so if a laptop does go missing, you can wipe it and be sure your data is safe.
(7) Reduce your carbon footprint
With everything in the cloud, there’s no need for piles of paper or electricity-hungry hardware. It’s great for the environment and your bottom line. It’s well known that many consumers prefer sustainable businesses, so can also reflect well on your brand.
(8) Take your business anywhere
All it takes is an internet connection or mobile data for you to access information from anywhere. Most apps are available on smartphones and tablets, so you don’t always have to carry your laptop to keep up to date.
Marketing apps are a great example of this, as they require constant attention. Important information such as social media engagement and campaign performance can be accessed 24/7 through apps like Google Analytics, Facebook and MailChimp. With the cloud, you can make decisions and take action from anywhere on any device.
(9) Multiple savings
Automating your processes will save money and reduce the time and effort spent on administration. In addition, with all your data stored in the cloud, you’ll no longer have to shell out for expensive servers and hardware. These long time savings can really improve your business’s profitability and keep your costs under control, so you can be more competitive.
(10) Enjoy the flexibility
Whatever stage you’re at – whether you want growth or stability – you can find cloud apps to suit your business. From free trials and freemium starter packages to functionality-rich subscriptions, you can choose the right option to fit your needs.
Plus, you can easily scale or change your subscription level if you need to. Whether you want to manage your basic functionality such as cash flow or you’re looking for niche software like CRM or loyalty apps, the wide range of tools available means you’re guaranteed to find the right fit.
Simon Atkins is chief marketing officer at 9 Spokes, integrating leading cloud apps into a smart dashboard, allowing small business owners to easily track their performance and make key decisions.
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