Cloud-based
applications can fill critical needs for small and medium sized businesses
(SMBs). With the help of the cloud, SMBs can not only level the competitive playing
field with larger companies, but they can also afford important business
applications that they wouldn’t be able to support internally. Here are ten
great cloud app choices ideally suited for SMBs:

1. Healthcare and
wellness management

In a small
company, it is difficult to find time in HR or administration to fully administer
all aspects of a healthcare or health management program—yet small businesses
want their employees to have this. Insurers and medical providers understand
this, too. This is why many of them now offer portal-based healthcare options,
tutorials, and program self-management for employees at client companies. The
next time you search for a healthcare insurance provider, check into their online
options for employees as part of your RFP (request for proposal) process.

2. Online training

Whether
it is for products you sell, services you provide, or IT or other technologies
and safety practices that you need, small companies want to provide employees
with training just like their larger counterparts. But unlike large companies, many
SMBs lack budget for an internal training staff. Fortunately, the abundance of
online training from both private companies and universities can address many
training needs in a hurry—and inexpensively.

3. VDI

Virtual
Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has been adopted by many smaller companies that
are looking to reduce their software licensing fees for the office—as well as the
time that they spend on individually updating users’ desktops with new versions
of software. Many VDI implementations are fully completed and then supported by
the outside vendor, too.

4. Back office
services

Software
as a service (SaaS) companies now provide an assortment of software and
automation for “back office” functions that include payroll, accounts payable
and receivable, and even inventory management. Especially in administrative
areas, the cloud can handle tasks that free up SMB employees so they can focus
on the end business.

5. Sales force management

One of
the most popular cloud-based applications is Salesforce.com. It allows a
company sales force to track leads and sales activities. It also gives sales managers
visibility of field sales efforts in the cloud. For SMBs with field-based sales,
having a cloud-based sales application also enables salespersons to log in their
activities at any time and from anywhere.

6. Video and teleconferencing

Cloud-based
video and teleconferencing facilitate collaboration and save travel time and
expense. They are invaluable for small organizations with small budgets and are
a perfect fit for many SMBs because most of their payment models are
“pay-for-use.”

7. Application testing

You’d be
amazed at how much computer processing and disk are consumed in application development
and testing. For this reason, both enterprises and SMBs are taking a hard look
at going to the cloud for on-demand compute resources that are deployed for
application development and testing—and then deprovisioned once apps are all tested
and ready to be moved into corporate production in the home data center. Some
companies have even been able to avoid building new data centers by going to
the cloud when they needed extra IT resources!

8. On demand
computing resources

Similar
to going to the cloud for application development and testing, some organizations
also now go to the cloud during busy times of the year when they might need
extra computer processing and storage. A good example is the holiday season, when
sales (and transactions) might be up—but not to the tune where they warrant a permanent
expansion of IT resources. Instead, many SMBs choose to pay for temporary IT resource
augmentation from a cloud provider—returning to their internal data centers for
all processing after their heavy sales periods have wound down.

9. CRM

Every
company, regardless of size, is striving to be more customer-centric. This
makes having a CRM (customer relationship management) system invaluable, since
with CRM, anyone in the company who interacts with a customer can see
everything that has transpired in the customer’s experience in the system. The
trouble is, CRM systems are historically not easy to implement or to fully
exploit. This can make a cloud-based CRM an excellent choice for many SMBs,
which can go to a cloud services provider that already has expertise with CRM
best practices, and that can also provide both CRM and CRM support.

10. Document management

Managing
documents and ensuring proper archiving procedures are real headaches for many
SMBs. Especially if they have already chosen to implement virtual desktop infrastructure
(VDI), SMBs can attain additional leverage from this strategy by moving all of
their documents (and management ) to the cloud. Before doing so, however, the
SMB should carefully review the cloud provider’s governance and information protection
standards to ensure that they meet company expectations.