You hear people talk about the cloud all the time, but do you understand what it is? Think of the cloud as a basket of data and information stored somewhere other than your hard drive or on-premises serve. When paired with the right apps, it lets you run a majority of your business from your phone. You can access your information from any location with an internet connection, making it easier to build new relationships with clients, connect with clients remotely, store your data safely, and share your data with clients and co-workers. The cloud model works like a service rather than a product, which means you can scale how much you use and pay for as your needs increase and decrease.
How Does the Cloud Work?
You already use the cloud for numerous things right now, even if you don’t think about it. If you store your pictures and files on Google Drive, iCloud, or Skydrive or if you participate in meetings by using Skype, Webex, or Google Hangouts, you use the cloud. Just like it can help with personal storage needs, it also helps businesses with numerous tasks, including cloud accounting.
Most businesses either use a public or private cloud. A public cloud allows customers and clients to interface with your business. For example, you use a public cloud when your website hosts a web form that gathers customers’ addresses. When they input their addresses, the cloud remotely stores them. Think Skydrive and Google Drive when you think of examples of a public cloud.
Larger businesses typically use a private cloud because they’ve grown enough to require licenses for multiple users, servers, and IT infrastructure that they need to store in-house or on bigger servers. In this case, companies can use network and servers hosted elsewhere, such as through companies such as Rackspace. Think of these companies as off-site IT departments. Each employee desktop runs a cloud interface software that works with the applications your company uses.
How Does the Cloud Work With Mobile Businesses?
Cloud computing lets you run a mobile business from virtually anywhere. It gives you the ability to access data and information from any device, which provides you more agility to respond to customer demands. For instance, if you need to collaborate with a client on a project, you can share documents through the cloud and work together from different locations on any device. You also can build a company app that your customers can download to their phones to receive on-the-go service. For example, your app might enable them to schedule appointments, get information about your products, or interact with your customer service department.
In addition to engaging your customers, cloud computing can help you run your business. Note taking, accounting, account management, and file storage apps and tools make it simple to conduct business on the go. When you keep important tasks and documents in the cloud, you don’t need an office to complete your work — you just need an internet connection and a quiet spot.
How Does the Cloud Benefit Mobile Businesses?
Aside from letting you do business practically anywhere, the cloud has numerous benefits for mobile businesses. These include:
- Expediting customer service – Mobile apps let your customers find you on any device at any time. This ensures faster, easier responses that keep your customers happy. For example, Salesforce’s out-of-the-box product, Desk, allows customers to report service issues, and it then routes those issues to the right employee. It also lets employees manage their caseload from anywhere 24/7 and prioritize customer tasks based on severity, ensuring critical issues get attention first.
- Beating the competition – If your company has a user-friendly app while your competition still operates on a PC-based interface, savvy customers may choose your business over your competition. Cloud-based apps make your business look professional and well run, and when you combine them with loyalty program apps, you stand to capture value-minded customers as well. Belly, for example, asserts its loyalty app increases customer visits by 54%. These programs give your customers access to exclusive deals and promotions in real time, and combining it with mobile payment options, including those found in QuickBooks Online, boosts the chances of on-the-fly purchases.
- Managing Your Marketing – A software-as-a-service (SAAS) such as Mailchimp lets you market your business and target potential customers with email templates and automation analytics. You can connect Mailchimp to online stores such as Shopify to see how many customers click through your marketing campaigns and then make a purchase.
- Enabling real-time payments – Cloud software allows your employees to interface with client data and applications from the field. They can access information such as a customer’s billing history, and they can run payments or invoices. With the cloud, your employees don’t have to deal with paper receipts or unpaid invoices. Instead, you can mail customers invoices with apps such as QuickBooks at the time you render service.
- Setting Up Schedules – You can set up your app to let customers request appointment times and sync them with your technicians. You then arrange the app to send calendar reminders to customers to reduce no-shows and lost revenue. This also lets customers schedule appointments outside of your normal business hours.
- Focusing on Core Competencies – Cloud services can record your mileage, separate personal and business expenses, track your income, and help you with tax filings. By removing these administrative tasks, you and your employees can focus on what you do best — running your business and securing new leads.
Are Some Tasks Better on Desktops Than the Cloud?
Accessibility proves to be one of the best benefits of cloud computing, as it provides access to your data, accounts, documents, and leads from any device, from your smartphone to your desktop computer. This means you can work on projects while you’re on vacation or attending conferences.
You can naturally complete some cloud computing tasks easier on a laptop or desktop because of the extra screen space and computing power. For example, if you need to conduct research or read extensive content, a larger screen comes in handy. If you need to view detailed reports, presentations, or large spreadsheets, desktop or laptop computers often work better due to their more powerful performance. Email also often proves easier on a computer because of the full-size keyboard.
Cloud computing and mobile devices offer a multitude of benefits to small businesses, which shows in its quick adoption by those same small businesses. For many, it just makes sense to move to the cloud due to its scalability to its cost savings. As a business owner, using the cloud with the right apps, tools, and services helps you stay ahead of the competition and provide the best service to your customers. QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track manage your businesses on the go. Download the app today.