My whole career I've been working for large companies, but recently I made the leap with two business partners to follow my entrepreneurial spirit. This can be a daunting task for a group of people, let alone a single person trying to make their way. I admire people trying to go it alone. Many of our customers are individual people doing everything themselves. There's so much to do, but not nearly enough time in the day to get it all done, unless you can find tools to help.
When I worked for major corporations, we were handed the necessary tools/computer applications to get our jobs done. Most of the time, the tools allowed us to do our jobs. But there were cases when the provided resources were terrible and not user friendly at all. These tools were sometimes frustrating and we constantly spent time trying to explain what we actually needed. We always got the same answer from the company, "This is what we have to work with."
Now that I co-own a business, my eyes have been opened to the world of Cloud-Based Software as a Service (SaaS). Not only do I co-own a company that is a cloud service, but we run our entire operation using these applications. I recently attended a workshop at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce where Joshua Zerkel of Custom Living Solutions presented dozens of different SaaS applications that help small businesses be more efficient. As I listened to him speak, I began making a list of the different services my company uses. I was shocked that I was able to come up with 7 different SaaS applications in just a few seconds. Here's a list of those applications and why I use them.
1. Stitch Labs - Because we built it!
2. Gmail - Company email
3. Google Docs - Sharing documents with my co-owners
4. Survey Monkey - Market research
5. Dropbox - Back up of important documents and files
6. Highrise - CRM database
7. Basecamp - Project management
After the workshop, I also started using Postling to help me manage our social media efforts. These resources are flexible and all of them are either free or have a free trial period which is helpful for small businesses.
There are still concerns from many people I speak with about putting their information on the internet. We hear those concerns, and companies like ours are doing everything we can to alleviate them. At Stitch Labs we pay extra money for our 256-bit SSL encryption to be sure our customers' information is secure. But the fact is that if people want your information, or a hacker wants to damage a company, even the most secure data can be hacked. Just ask Sony! There's always a risk to doing business. Be sure you do your research before selecting any business solution. After all, your business is your livelihood.
This industry will continue to grow at a rapid pace. Based on a recent Wall Street Journal article, a study by IDC stated that the current $13.2 billion dollar cloud computing industry will be up to $40.5 billion dollars by 2014. This is due to affordability and flexibility that these services offer. Because more and more companies are moving their business to the cloud, they are able to find services that fit their particular needs in an affordable way. I know I was worried about how we were going to be able to get everything organized with so much to do, but we've found it much easier because of the thing they call "The Cloud."