7 Useful Web-Based Software Programs for SMEs
The use of web-based or ‘cloud’ software in SMEs is gradually becoming more the norm than otherwise. In fact, many of us have been using the cloud for years – such as through email and more recently through social media. While cloud-based applications for business are still relatively new, they are in the process of maturing and evolving, with new types of tools and applications popping up all the time.
One of the main advantages of cloud software is that you usually don’t have to commit to the purchase of a full program and updates are generally included. You can try out most of the programs through free trials to see how well they work for you and your business. Many of the programs have different levels of subscription which you can select depending on the size of your business, and the features you want, and come with the flexibility to change plans or add new features as your business needs change.
Here are some of the more useful cloud-based programs for SMEs.
Office and data management
- Office Time – time-tracking software that records billable time worked, calculates costs, and generates invoices and reports. It may suit service businesses that bill by the hour. There is a 21-day free trial available and a one-off cost of around $68 to purchase, which includes upgrades.
- Office 365 for Business – this software comes with Microsoft programs including Word, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, OneNote and others. Plans start at $7 per user per month.
- Sales Force – this is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform for businesses of all sizes. It comes with analytical tools, sales forecasting, reports, data sharing and other features. Plans start at $35 per user per month and come with free trials.
- Box – online data storage and secure file sharing software that provides 5GB of free storage. Prices start at $6 per user per month.
Bookkeeping and accounting
- Xero – excellent full accounting program that includes bank feeds, invoicing, reconciliations, payroll, inventory, reports, depreciation, multi-currency capacity and other features, plus compatible add-ons for specialist solutions. There is a 30-day free trial, with prices starting at $25 per month.
Social media management
- Sprout Social – this software pulls all your social network activities onto the one dashboard. It can also be used to schedule posts, collect messages from all your social media accounts from the one inbox, and measure marketing campaigns using analytical tools. Starts at $59 per month.
- Hootesuite – includes post scheduling, analytics and other features for all your social media accounts with the capacity to connect with popular apps. There is a free version for up to three networks. Paid versions start at $11 per month.
For professional assistance in running your business’s finances, including accounting, taxation, financial planning, and superannuation, our Xero accountants in Sydney can assist. Contact us for more details.
6 Things that Work Better in The Cloud
6 Things that Work Better in The Cloud
Is all the fuss about cloud computing really an indication of its popularity or worth? A new study by Emergent Research has found that the percentage of small businesses in the US expected to use cloud-based systems will more than double in the next six years, from 37% to 80%. That’s quite an increase, and shows just how prevalent cloud computing is becoming. Here are six reasons why it’s worth considering moving to the cloud.
- Improved bookkeeping
A cloud system allows easy access and multi-level management of things such as payroll tax, transactions, client details, inventory and other accounting records. Cloud accounting systems, such as those used by Xero accountants, can automatically be set to pay taxes or invoices at a date that suits. This makes for a versatile one-stop-shop where the cloud system stores vital records, as well as allows alerts and payments to be set up and automated.
- Multi-user access
The cloud allows access for any number of users to collaborate on projects, manage content and share documents. All editing of documents can be easily tracked in the history, and all updated data remains current and easily accessible from anywhere there is an internet connection.
- Security and data recovery
It’s easy to become complacent about security and the safety of data, but it’s worth remembering that portable drives can be lost or stolen. Servers can crash. Networks can be attacked by malware or viruses. Electrical fires or water damage can gut a whole internal system.
These issues become much less risky with the cloud. Good cloud providers will regularly upgrade security in line with industry best practice, and will ideally offer 512-bit SSL encryption for safety. They will regularly back up all your data according to the needs of your business, so in case of disaster you’ll be able to instantly recover a recent system back up.
Storage is a major draw card for cloud systems. Remember the dark days of having to constantly upgrade your groaningly full storage systems? Or trying to predict how much data your network is likely to chew through for the next financial year? Or having to keep re-allocating resources for archiving records?
Agile cloud systems will store all your data and can keep expanding as needs demand.
They also make it more efficient to access files. For instance, instead of having to email large files that chew up the user’s inbox, you can simply share the file in the cloud with the appropriate recipients. Good systems will allow you to create your own data retention policies, and institute a system of data management that suits you.
Cloud systems are by definition without boundaries. This means the system you choose can be expanded or shrunk depending on the needs of the business, so you can add more resources into the cloud whenever you need, without a costly refit of the IT system.
- Save on resources
The cloud is low cost, efficient, and you only pay for what you use. Automatic and free software updates mean that you don’t have to keep forking out on new iterations of important tools. Because the cloud operator is responsible for all the functionality of the cloud, you are no longer spending on IT departments in the same way. The mobile nature of the cloud means you and your employees can access it anywhere, without having to purchase duplicate tools or hardware. Ultimately, it creates a level playing field, allowing small businesses to have all the same advantages of big business, without the operational costs.
Cloud-based solutions can help streamline your business processes, saving you valuable time and money. With cloud-based solutions becoming hard-wired across the small business sector, switching over now can help give your business a head start. If you’re looking to move to the cloud, or want a cloud accountant in Sydney, contact us.