Small Business Services

New Business? Tight Budget? Use the Cloud

If you were trying to start a new business in the mid-80s and wanted your operations to be state-of-the-art, you might have had to take out a loan just to buy your first PC. They cost thousands of dollars in those days.

You would have been able to buy some of the earliest software supporting applications like word processing, database management, and accounting, but those cost many hundreds of dollars. Your technology expenses alone would have been enormous compared to their 2016 equivalents.

And you still needed lots of money to pay the myriad expenses associated with launching a business. Office space, postage, payroll – those things haven’t gone down in price in the last 30 years.

The cost of business operations, though, has plummeted, primarily because of two things:

  • Cheaper PCs, and,
  • The cloud.

Chaining yourself to the desktop as you start your new venture will be more expensive than using cloud-based solutions. You will most likely have to buy either more or less functionality than you need. And it will give an edge to your competitors.

Here’s what the cloud can do for you in a number of areas– and do more affordably and flexibly than desktop applications:

Communications. Everyone uses email these days. It’s more economical and immediate than any other form of written communication. If you’ve somehow chosen to ignore it, your company will not survive.

Travel. Not using the cloud for long-distance meetings? You’ll spend far more on travel than you need to, whether you’re going 30 miles or 3,000. There are so many ways to set up and conduct “virtual” meetings, including WebEx, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts. You can share screens and other video and audio – even see who you’re talking to.

Office applications. Microsoft won the office suite wars years ago and has become the de facto standard for applications like word processing, desktop publishing, and spreadsheet management. This software is still available on the desktop, but you’ll pay hundreds of dollars, where you can get portable Office 365 for about 10 bucks a month. There are also free office suites like Google Apps that play nicely with Microsoft applications if you need to convert files.

Accounting. If you plan to buy a local program for your financial management tasks, you will most likely get way more power than you need and spend more money. The cloud has made it possible for developers to create high-end web-based applications that are at least as sophisticated as desktop products, but it’s also accommodated smaller, more manageable solutions that just do a handful of things simply and well (tracking income and expenses, estimating quarterly taxes, creating invoices, etc.).

That’s one of the really cool things about the cloud. In the days when we had to use floppy disks or CDs to install software on our hard drives, it was very difficult and expensive to create the discs and documentation, get shelf space at retail locations, spread the word that you were selling via mail order, etc. Software development was out of the reach of lots of people with good ideas. These days, one individual can get a product going online. Small businesses ultimately benefit from this.

Marketing, promotions, and advertising, etc. Social media, inexpensive local ads, Google searches, email blasts – all of these and more have made it possible for a small business to expand its customer list and increase sales. Printed direct mail doesn’t cut it anymore, and ads in paper publications (the ones that are left) are prohibitively expensive for an entrepreneur starting out. You can create a lot of buzz without spending a lot of bucks.

Some Advice to New Entrepreneurs

  • Consider your mobile presence first. Smartphones are outpacing the desktop where searches and sales are concerned. Your website should either be app-friendly or optimized for the little screens.
  • Consult with a financial advisor when considering financial applications. Big businesses hire whole teams of accounting professionals. It’s equally important for small businesses to have a consultant who can steer them to the right cloud-based solutions and monitor their fiscal health.
  • Take data security seriously, especially if you or your employees are working remotely. Before you subscribe to a cloud-based solution, find out what its security procedures are.

It was not possible in the pricey-PC and hard drive days to launch a business with limited capital. Lean on the cloud, and you can do that today.

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