In 1913, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line and revolutionized the way that the manufacturing industry worked. Over a century later, cloud software is doing much the same for modern businesses. In both instances, it’s all about efficiency. The assembly line sped up the manufacturing process and drove down prices by allowing workers to focus on highly specialized tasks and by automating the delegation process.
Cloud platforms similarly automate much of the busy labor that a business needs to accomplish and removes the need for integrating different facets of a business together. The best cloud platforms facilitate communications between different employees, allow critical information to transfer between the various software platforms that make up the larger cloud ecosystem and make sure that everyone has the tools they need to get a job done. Readily available information is more readily actionable information.
But cloud computing really excels in the way it creates a more even playing ground for businesses of all sizes. For instance, complex supply chains were once the exclusive province of large corporations because the infrastructure necessary to build and maintain them was prohibitively expensive. That meant that industry giants could severely undercut the pricing on smaller players who had to rely on more expensive third-party providers to oversee their supply chain. Cloud computing is changing that. Similarly, the automation of email marketing campaigns makes customer outreach more accessible than ever before, and cloud-based CRM platforms provide smaller business owners with the sort of big data that they would previously never be able to get.
Cloud computing is revolutionary because of how easily it scales, how well it can integrate together various discreet platforms, and how it can be continually updated and modified without the upfront cost of a physical product. Here are some of the best cloud platforms for businesses today.
Skype’s well-regarded video and voice conferencing components are further bolstered by features like file sharing, screen sharing, and instant messaging. Companies that use Skype for their business meetings can spend less time coordinating around the busy schedules of their staff, and it’s an especially useful tool when you’re trying to maintain a sense of operational consistency among multiple offices.
2. Google Drive
In terms of maximizing efficiency in collaborative environments, there’s no better tool than Google Drive. It allows you to quickly share your files to whoever needs them, and you can even set editing parameters for the people you share it with. While that’s an obvious benefit for creatives, it’s just as useful for sharing invoices, meeting minutes, or just about any type of information.
The new face of marketing is online, but making sure your content stands apart from the competition can be difficult. HubSpot allows you to analyze how well online marketing materials like blogs, social media posts, and landing pages are performing and provides you with the metrics you need to improve them. Tight integration with multiple CRM platforms further improves HubSpot’s versatility.
Big data is becoming increasingly important for companies that want insights into their operations, but managing that data is another problem entirely. Hadoop helps you manage unwieldy reams of information, and it can be used for everything from providing a deep analysis of your financial projections to providing targeted content for users browsing your online catalog.
On the surface, this cloud storage platform isn’t that different from Google Drive, but it does have its distinct advantages: most prominently its top-shelf syncing options. If you’re looking to quickly share information with your colleagues, Google Drive is a great choice. But when you’re looking for a cloud backup solution for important documents, Dropbox is the platform to beat.
A project without good management is doomed to fall behind, and that’s where Asana comes in. From building to-do lists to delegating tasks to tracking milestones, Asana is a project manager’s best friend. While it’s a popular choice for app development, it can be easily useful for marketing, sales, or customer service teams.
Shopify is an e-commerce platform that allows a business to set up an online storefront with a quickness. Management of your catalog is easy, and it can even coordinate across multiple channels – including your social media accounts and brick and mortar outlets. Everything from building your brand to overseeing marketing can be handled from this singular platform.
Skype is a great choice for official meetings, but Slack is ideal for handling the infinite daily communications that happen in any office space. Their clean interface and multiple channels allow users to build out chat rooms that are catered to specific needs on the fly and collapse them when necessary. This multi-channel approach means that each chat can be targeted to a unique subject, facilitating more direct communications.
As far as email marketing is concerned, there’s no better choice than Mailchimp. Mailchimp allows you to easily put together dynamic marketing materials, but it also offers the ability to automate your marketing campaigns effectively and contains a full CRM that can help you track the success of these campaigns.
One of the strengths of cloud platforms is how well they play together, but not every piece of cloud software integrates that well with every other one. Zapier serves as this connective tissue, allowing for the transfer of information between practically any cloud platform. That allows you to build a software ecosystem that’s unique to your business rather than making sacrifices based off of the native integrations available.
Every business is unique, and that’s where cloud platforms really thrive. With cloud software, you only have to invest in the software that’s right for your business. Let this list be your start, but don’t be afraid to test drive new platforms as you figure out the right model for your professional growth.
Jen McKenzie is an independent business consultant from New York. She writes extensively on business, education and human resource topics. When Jennifer is not at her desk working, you can usually find her hiking or taking a road trip with her two dogs. You can reach Jennifer @jenmcknzie