Instead of heading for an electronics store and purchasing a box of software, many SMB owners today opt for software as a service (SaaS).
SaaS products usually have a subscription-based pricing system. For example, instead of purchasing Intuit’s popular QuickBooks software or downloading a license for $250, you could subscribe to QuickBooks Online for rates starting at $12.95 per month.
In addition to providing a cheaper point of entry for a cash-strapped entrepreneur, SaaS is user-friendly, offers automatic upgrades and integrates easily with many other kinds of software. It also offers major functionality without requiring huge email servers or costly storage systems, and you can access your software from laptops, mobile phones, tablets and other connected devices.
How SaaS Works: The Basics of Cloud Computing
SaaS happens, thanks to the magic of cloud computing. Instead of storing software on your computer, you can access it through the Internet via cloud computing, also called “virtualization.”
The cloud stores not only your software, but the data you create. If you create invoices using QuickBooks Online, your invoices, your client information and your bank account information are stored in the cloud.
Because the data lives in the cloud and not on your PC, you can also download a QuickBooks app and access data from your smartphone or tablet.
As your business grows, you may decide to harness even more cloud service models. You may decide to develop software for your customers using platform as a service (PaaS). As your company grows larger, you may decide to build an entire virtualized computing environment by harnessing infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
The more involved you become with cloud computing, the more you’ll need to learn about how virtualization works and how to develop a secure virtualization solution. If PaaS and IaaS sound too complex for your current needs, don’t worry. You can start getting to know the power of the cloud by using these SaaS solutions for your small company.
SaaS for Productivity and Billing
Check out these solutions for timekeeping and simple billing:
- Toggl. Toggl is basic timekeeping software for tracking hours worked. It’s free for basic timekeeping, and the free version can serve up to five people. Paid versions, starting at $5 monthly, will generate reports for multiple clients, prepare reports and let you analyze how you’re dividing your time.
- FreshBooks. FreshBooks offers an online timer for tracking your work and it connects your hours tracking to invoicing and bookkeeping functionality. You can use FreshBooks to track not only your income, but your expenses — so you’re ready at tax time. FreshBooks offers a free version as well as subscriptions (for more clients) starting at $19.95 per month.
SaaS for File Sharing and Document Collaboration
If you’re working with more than one person on a document, presentation or other type of file, you can use these SaaS programs to collaborate and to share your items:
- Dropbox or box. Both of these programs allow you to upload documents so someone else can download them. The changes to the documents are saved in the cloud, and they show up across your devices.
- Google Apps or Office 365. Office 365 offers the applications that you know, like Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook, online. Google Apps make sharing easy, even if file creation requires a small learning curve. Both products are very reasonably priced, and Office 365 also gives your team access to Microsoft Lync.
SaaS for Finances
FreshBooks is great if you like the way it links timekeeping and client invoicing, but Intuit’s products are usually the gold standard for small businesses.
- QuickBooks Online Plus. For $34.95 per month, QuickBooks Online offers not only invoicing but payroll, bank reconciliation and financial statements. You can import data from Excel and even Gmail.
- Intuit Online Payroll Plus. If you have multiple employees that punch a time clock, then Intuit Online Payroll Plus will help you to process payroll accurately. You can even run your weekly payroll directly from your mobile phone.
Tap into the power of SaaS to make your business soar. As your company grows larger, look into the more advanced ways to deploy cloud computing, and invest in high-quality cloud security products.