I think we small business owners are starting to take cloud computing for granted. Like apps, cloud computing is targeted to very specific tasks. The beauty is they are often free, there is no licensing arrangement, they don’t take up hard drive space and offer more protection against viruses and hardware failure than you can provide in-house. Cloud computing is faster, larger and cheaper than working with most software. What cloud sites are the best bets for small businesses?

Amazon. Almost unparalleled in trustworthiness and service, Amazon offers very large file storage and network support as well as other tools like their new cloud drive and player.

Google. For email, file storage, word processing, spreadsheets, project management, Google Apps for Business is incredibly stable and trustworthy-and dirt cheap or free for its services.

Skype. Skype is great for videoconferencing and international calling. Encourage clients to sign up for an account by putting your account name on business cards. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, even when they are on the other side of the world and the quality is almost always equal to, or better, than a landline.

Evernote. If you need an all-in-one spot for notetaking with the ability to share certain folders with employees or colleagues (folders like: blog posts, possible contacts, research, etc.), Evernote and its accompanying smartphone apps is my choice. It saves URLs, allows you to comment, organize and research later.

Freshbooks is getting great press. A cloud-based tool with a free version, it allows for invoicing, expense organization and time-tracking (an important option for freelancers).

PayPal. I pay my assistant with PayPal. I send out some invoices and sell products using PayPal (though this one is available FREE now). I pay for purchases online with PayPal. It has come a long way from its early days as a payment option for eBay and is increasingly an incredibly easy way to set up payment options for products through your website. It has become an indispensable and affordable financial tool for many people for both personal and professional use.


by Steven Schlagel