By David Politis

For small businesses, Google Apps can literally be a lifesaver. The cloud-based messaging and collaboration platform saves companies thousands of dollars in initial set up costs and yearly software licensing fees, leaving more room in the budget for hiring, operating expenses, and expansion. After a small business switches to Google, their messaging, collaboration, document, spreadsheet, presentation, and calendar needs are taken care of for just fifty dollars per user per year.

Other tasks

So Google Apps handles the communication and collaboration needs of a company, but what about those other tasks like expense management, IT administration, customer relationship management, and employee time tracking? Luckily, the Google Apps Marketplace offers a wide array of tools that can help with every aspect of your business, and all at no or minimal cost.

Expense management

Traditionally, company and employee expenses have been managed through legacy tools like Excel. Now that your company operates in the cloud, expense management should be handled similarly. Third-party products for Google Apps like Expensify allow employees to quickly and easily, scan, upload or email receipts to their account. You can also sync company credit cards or bank accounts with the application to pull in expenses directly.

Expensify auto-fills expense forms, cutting down on manual input errors associated with legacy systems. Once forms are complete, an expense report for that time period is submitted to the designated expense administrator who handles reimbursements using direct deposit into the submitter’s checking account.

Small businesses using Expensify, referred to as the team plan, are billed only for users that submit reports for that month. So at just $5 dollars per month per user using the service, Expensify saves your company money both by cutting down on reporting errors and software licensing fees.

IT administration

Managing IT tasks for a team of any size can seem overwhelming, particularly if you’ve just switched to Google Apps and are unfamiliar with the suite’s management tool, the Google Apps Control Panel. However, there is a third-party tool can facilitate easier domain management and IT administration.

FlashPanel, offered for free through the Google Apps Marketplace, makes managing your domain simple. The tool allows administrators to easily provision or de-provision a user, delegate or monitor an email inbox, as you would with a legacy system, and even push out uniform email signatures to your domain based on group or organizational unit. FlashPanel and other admin applications provide the necessary domain management tools so you can complete administrative duties quickly and get back to your business faster.

Editor’s note: FlashPanel is a product of BetterCloud, David Politis is the CEO of BetterCloud.

Customer relationship management

Even the smallest businesses interact with clients, partners, or donors on a daily basis. Using a CRM can make managing these relationships much easier, but many of the most highly used CRMs on the market are expensive and often exceed what a small or new business can spend.

Insightly, a CRM offered through the Google Apps Marketplace, is free for companies with three users or less and offers very reasonable pricing plans for additional users. Coupling a CRM with an email productivity tool like Yesware can make your customer relationship management even more streamlined. After enabling your CRM’s BCC address in the Yesware Toolbar email conversations will be automatically added to your CRM, cutting down on data entry time and input errors.

Time tracking

If you’re a professional services organization, you likely bill your clients on an hourly basis, but keeping track of these hours is a challenge. Harvest, a time tracking tool in the Google Apps Marketplace, can help you accurately track your time and efficiently bill your customers.

With Harvest you can fill out, track, and submit hours by the day or week. The tool even features timers, which are started when your workday begins and stopped when the day ends, for almost foolproof time tracking. Plus if you forget to track your hours that day, you will receive an email notification, which can be filled out directly in the body of the email. Once your hours have been tracked for a specific time period, you can generate reports and create invoices through the app as well.

Bottom line

Cloud computing is making it easier than ever to start and run a company. Building out your suite of integrated cloud applications enhances your day-to-day business practices, while keeping your budget in check.

David Politis is the CEO and Founder of BetterCloud, an independent software vendor providing enterprise class SaaS tools for Google Apps management. Follow David on Twitter @DavePolitis and BetterCloud @bettercloud.

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