Cloud-based management software provides a significant competitive advantage for small businesses, but finding the most effective service can be difficult. Here are six possible solutions.
Small to midsize businesses (SMBs) that have not taken steps to transform their operational methods to include at least some cloud-based components are placing themselves at a tremendous competitive disadvantage. The benefits of cloud computing for infrastructure (IaaS), platforms (PaaS), and software (SaaS) are well documented and undeniable--dismissing or ignoring those benefits does a disservice not only to the company but to its your stakeholders.
Contracting for a complete cloud-based integrated management service specializing in the SMB demographic can be just the catalyst your business needs to outgrow and out-thrive your competition. However, researching and comparing the dozens of available services and choosing which is right for your specific business needs can be a daunting proposition. The first, and most important step, is to thoroughly understand your business from beginning to end, top to bottom.
This article examines six potential cloud-based integrated management services that could help your SMB transform itself into a modern digital enterprise that outshines the competition in every way that matters. The list is presented in alphabetical order and the services are not ranked in any way.
SEE: Vendor comparison tool: Cloud-based integrated management services (Tech Pro Research)
Cloud service vendors
We have purposely left out three of the more prominent players in the cloud-based integrated management space: Microsoft 365, Google G-Suite, and QuickBooks Online. It's common for those services to be the first, and almost default, choice of many small businesses and the extent of their services are well known and well documented. We chose to concentrate on some of the lesser-known, and frankly more interesting, cloud services for this list.
The services offered by FreshBooks are designed to simplify SMB financial transactions by focusing on invoicing. Once an SMB can effectively invoice for rendered services or sold products, it can learn to manage customers and track revenues and expenses. Only when those steps are mastered does the SMB begin to work on the required financial reporting.
FreshBooks offers a full array of services, including invoices, expenses, and time tracking. The company also provides a mobile app that allows users to access all its services on the go. FreshBooks offers a limited Lite version of its services for $15/month, but the more popular Plus version costs $25/month.
2. Sage Intacct
Financial and accounting software has been sold by a version of the Sage organization since the first IBM PC of the 1980s. Sage Intacct offers a complete set of financial and accounting tools that cater to SMBs and has grown beyond the single professional consultant or "mom-and-pop" stage of development.
The services offered by Sage Intacct expect users with some background in accounting. The services include accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger, and budgeting. Consequently, pricing varies depending on your business and the services you use--you will have to request a quote for services from Sage Intacct to know the total cost.
A relative newcomer to the cloud-based integrated business management service market, Thryv approaches financial record-keeping from a mobile SMB perspective. The company's services emphasize estimate creation, customer management, and social media interaction. Promotional services include email marketing, online presence augmentation, and appointment booking and scheduling.
Thryv services are designed as catalysts to grow your business beyond its current reach. This growth potential will cost you $59/month for the Starter package, which you can try for free for seven days. The Essential level of service, with more promotional features, costs $99/month.
SEE: Special report: Digital transformation: A CXO's guide (free TechRepublic PDF)
The services offered by Wave include the usual suspects of invoicing, revenue and expense tracking, and payment processing. The offered services also include a receipt scanning app. The company offers access to these services via mobile apps as well as the traditional desktop PC.
However, the thing that most distinguishes Wave from other services is that it offers most of these apps and services for free. Accounting, invoicing, and receipt scanning are offered at no cost, but if your SMB wants to process payments or has payroll to manage, it will be charged a fee per transaction.
Offering an extensive array of products, services, and features, Xero is more attuned to the established SMB that is looking for a way to expand operations. Besides the common invoicing, accounting, and customer management services, Xero offers services for managing assets, payroll, inventory, purchase orders, and sales tax.
Xero offers a limited Starter version for $9/month, but the Standard version, which includes payroll management for up to five people, costs $30/month. The company website says its pricing structure will change soon, so you should check back for updated information.
6. Zoho One
Offering a suite of more than 40 business-related products, Zoho One provides access to just about any and every potential service, app, or feature a business could ask for. Besides the expected accounting, customer management, and invoicing apps, the company offers support app, like a word processor and a spreadsheet. Every one of the applications is also offered in a mobile-friendly form, so you can manage your business on the go.
Zoho One is offered on a subscription basis, with the standard package costing $30/employee per month. The standard package requires a minimum of five employees, so that is at least $150/month.
Effectively comparing cloud-based integrated management services for your small business requires a systematic approach with proper documentation that can support your decision-making process. The Vendor comparison tool: Cloud-based integrated management services, published by our sister site Tech Pro Research, can help you make your comparisons and provide the information you need to make the best decisions for your business and its stakeholders.
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- Small business IT spending to pass $600 billion in 2018: IDC (ZDNet)
What accounting or management software does your business use? Is it up to the task? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.