This week, my head is in the cloud

As a small business owner, I pretty much live my life in the cloud. I use a number of online tools, created by other small businesses, to do everything from my accounting, to collaborating with customers and “virtual” team members, to marketing/social media and more. The services that I used to rely on when working at large companies have now become easily accessible, and affordable for any business to use.

It appears that I am not the only one who feels this way. Today, I posted a story on Techvibes which outlines results from a recent PwC Canada study which found that Canadian private businesses are bullish about investing in technologies like mobile, social media and cloud computing. The new subscription-based models for these services are truly “changing the game for a lot of private companies,” says Philip Grosch, national leader, technology consulting, PwC.

I thought I’d share some of my favourite cloud-based and social media tools for keeping my small business buzzing daily:

  • Freshbooks. This is by far my favourite small business tool on the web today. I use it for all of my accounting needs – from sending and tracking invoices, to tracking my time on each billable client project, to reading reports on revenue per customer, and more. Every week, I discover a new feature that will make my life easier. Check them out at http://www.freshbooks.com/. You can try it out for free. Once you have more than two clients, you pay a monthly fee based on your needs.
  • Dropbox. Sharing large files with clients and “virtual” team members is so simple with this cloud-based tool. A few years ago, I used to rely on tools like YouSendIt.com to share large files. But now, I can share files with customers and team members in the same way that I did working for large companies, over a network. You literally just have to drag and drop files into Dropbox’s cloud-based service for storing files. Start sharing 2 GB right away for at http://www.dropbox.com/. Or, upgrade to pay for more storage.
  • HootSuite. How else would I know who’s talking about small business, B2B marketing and social media online? In a addition, I can’t think of a better way to stay in touch with clients, and learn about what concerns them the most. With HootSuite, I can also track which of my blog posts get the most clicks and re-tweets. This tool continues to grow and I learn new tricks to staying on top of what’s trending online using HootSuite every day. You can get started for free at http://hootsuite.com/. Like the other tools that I listed, you pay based on the sophistication of your needs for analysis and tools.
  • Google Docs. Another way that I collaborate and share documents with clients is via Google docs. I find it especially useful for creating spreadsheets and text documents, where there are multiple contributors. Although, I have to admit that I’ve been using these tools a lot less since Dropbox came along. Still, Google Docs is definitely a tool worth using for keeping documents stored on the cloud for future use.

These are just some of my favourite cloud-based tools. Do you use a cloud-based tool worth noting? If so, please share your story about why you love it in the comments section below.

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