Thanks to the new cloud services, many businesses have evolved from e-mail to collaboration suites, available anywhere and from any electronic device. They are a new environment that, at reduced costs, offers many possibilities to entrepreneurs, both to reach the client and to do business.
Create websites, marketing tools such as forms, image galleries, videos, social networking or even location-based applications, among other features. These suites have three elements in common: they are easy to set up, use and manage, allowing you to focus on what you really need.
These are some tools which allow entrepreneurs, both large and small, to benefit from all the advantages offered by cloud computing:
1. Google Entrepreneurs: through this working environment, Google not only offers the possibility of managing meetings, receive reminders, share calendars and store files in the cloud, but also creating, editing and sharing documents or presentations in real time.
It also allows you to place advertisements on the internet, create a website or applications, manage business data and results and even create surveys to facilitate decision making. All with applications such as Google Apps, Google AdWords, Google+For Business, Google Cloud Platform and Google Consumer Surveys.
For instance, one of the success stories in the implementation of the tools offered by Google Apps is the Cofrentes Spa. Its general manager, Miguel Fernández Toran, points out the "revolution" that the company has experienced as a result of working with tools in the cloud. The complex has several facilities that are geographically dispersed, so collaboration solutions facilitate teamwork among the staff. Not only because of its scattered facilities, but also because of its stability, scalability and time savings, Google Apps is key for the communications of the company (internal and with clients), according to its technical team.
2. Microsoft Office 365: With the launch of the new Office, Microsoft releases a new version of its productivity suite based on the cloud and much more focused on entrepreneurs. Just as with Google's platform, business can create a website, have a corporate e-mail account and hold meetings anywhere thanks to the videoconferencing applications and private chats.
With the Home Premium version, for example, you can access the entire Office suite with the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access. In addition, it includes 20 GB of online storage to save, edit and share documents or videos from anywhere with SkyDrive. Moreover, users have 60 minutes of free calls through Skype in 40 countries.
If you are an entrepreneur with up to 10 employees, with Microsoft's Office for Small Business you also have access to the latest Office applications from anywhere. However, with this configuration you can use a corporate e-mail with Outlook and a 50 GB mailbox for each user, and send files up to 25 Mb. It also offers the possibility to design and maintain a website without additional hosting charges, using your own domain name to promote the business.
3. Alfresco: This is a work environment through which it is possible to create a space in the cloud containing all the tasks associated with a business. From there, you can invite people to access the platform and allow them to collaborate and share information. In this sense, the integration with Microsoft Office and Google Docs makes it easier to edit files and save them in Alfresco.
Moreover, what’s interesting about this platform is that it offers the possibility of including a wiki section to exchange ideas. In addition, users can make comments on the documents, allowing business proposals to gain shape gradually. Notifications keep users updated on any changes that might have been made. Finally, note that, just as it happens in Facebook, the online collaboration features allow you to highlight content you find useful. Therefore, when users search for information they can quickly see the most popular documents, i.e. those with more "likes".
Fluidra, for example, has successfully implemented these Alfresco cloud applications in its platform. It is a multi-language platform giving service to about 200 people concurrently, who benefit every day from its two main advantages: centralisation of all corporate documentation and traceability of information. "With the new Alfresco document management platform we have achieved numerous internal improvements, such as getting the entire organisation to homogenize documentation processes, having access to the latest version of a document from any point of the geography," says Joan Soriano, IT Project Manager at Fluidra.
4. Box: This platform is probably less well known than the previous three, but it is already considered one of the leaders in the sharing and corporate file synchronisation sector in 2013, according to respected independent firms such as Forrester and Gartner.
Box allows users to easily upload content, organise it into folders, share links and even manage the permissions for each file and/or folder. There are several ways in which this platform can help entrepreneurs to be more productive. For example, allowing to share large files such as videos or presentations.
Box also centralises all content in one single online workspace, allowing everyone with permission to see changes or developments in real time and to edit and upload more files. It is also possible to include comments and create discussion forums, and receive notifications of any change via e-mail.
5. ownCloud: It is not very well known either, but it’s worth to review it as it is a free and open web application for data synchronisation, file sharing and remote storing of documents in the cloud. This platform gives you universal access to all your information through a web interface or WebDAV. It also provides a platform to view and easily synchronise contacts, calendars and bookmarks across a variety of devices. If more resources are needed, entrepreneurs with more advanced ICT skills can extend the reach of this platform with more applications and plugins through a fairly simple API.