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3 Easy (& Low Cost) Steps to Get Your Small Business Into The Cloud

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No doubt you have heard of this cloud computing phenomenon sweeping businesses the world over. The term ‘cloud computing’ covers lots of things, but specifically for us:  ‘it’s using internet based services to run your business ’, pretty simple. Now let’s get on with it.

Step 1: Send your Email Skyward

Cloud email allows you access to everything email related, pretty much like opening your Outlook. You can see all your folders, calendars and reminders, which can even sync ‘over-the-air’ to your mobile phone.  No matter which computer or mobile device you send or receive an email on, the cloud server will always be synchronised right up to date.

The two most effective ways of getting your email skyward are Google Apps and Hosted Exchange. Gmail for Business is $50USD per year while Hosted Exchange is around $9USD per mailbox. Gmail for Business is part of Google Apps, utilising a fairly minimalistic, yet easy to use interface. Hosted Exchange is built by Microsoft, and offered by providers such as 123together.com, giving a familiar webmail interface with Outlook Web Access as it looks almost identical to Outlook.

Step 2. Float Your Files

Storing your files in the cloud makes them accessible from anywhere; on any computer and most smartphones. No longer will you have to ask someone back at the office to email you that document, it will be available 24/7. Many cloud storage services offer editors as well, so updating that document on the go won’t be a problem. Cloud services are also great for sharing information, you can email people a direct link to files or folders and easily set permissions on what they can see.

There are lots of cloud storage options available, some options are Box.net, Windows Live Skydrive, DropBox and the hugely popular Google Docs.

Step 3. Accounting from Above

The final part of moving your small business to the cloud is the bookkeeping. Cloud accounting offers all the great features of cloud documents with the specific application of doing your accounting. The small business favourite, MYOB, is now online with Live Accounts from $25 per month. There is also Freshbooks (which can interface with Google Apps). From these cloud services you can easily create and send invoices, track time and collect online payments through Paypal. Prices start at $19.95 pm for Freshbooks and $25 pm for LiveAccounts.

The Cloud’s Silver Lining

Wrapping it all up, you should now have email, documents and accounting up in the cloud, easily accessible for when you feel like working. Throw that server quote away, you won’t need it. Regular software upgrades and patches…a thing of the past. Making sure someone changes the backup tape…not anymore. Rest assured your data is safe online with advanced encryption and most services offer regular backups.

If your looking for the simplest way to ‘go cloud’ then check out Google Apps. It’s your one stop shop, offering a huge list of add-ons. There is also the Telstra T-Suite, which is a branded Microsoft Business Productivity Online service. T Suite offers a comprehensive array of features plus optional applications such as Workforce CRM, Sharepoint and Mozy Backup.

Now get yourself a handy mobile device like a smartphone, iPad or laptop and spend more time out of the office.