The Best Cloud Services for SMBs
Cloud services—solutions delivered to customers over the Internet—eliminate the need for companies to develop and maintain their own applications and build and administer their own servers and infrastructure. Such services are profoundly changing the way organizations, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), work.
Cloud services typically fall into one of four categories:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – Computing, storage and networking resources are provided on demand on a pay-as-you-go basis. Companies commonly use IaaS for web applications, data warehousing and backup and recovery purposes.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Customers provision, operate and maintain a computing platform—such as an application or development environment—using a service provider’s infrastructure. Businesses frequently use PaaS solutions to develop, test, deploy and run their own programs.
- Serverless – Customers build and run applications and cloud-based services without having to provision or administer servers. Companies often use serverless technologies to enable rapid growth and high availability, as cloud providers offer the corresponding required machine resources, as they are needed, on demand.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) – A subscription-based software licensing and delivery model in which centrally hosted applications are provided by a services company on demand via the Internet to its customers. Both consumers and businesses frequently use SaaS solutions for word processing, customer relationship management (CRM), email and collaboration purposes, among many other options.
The major cloud providers are Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Other examples include Apple, DocuSign, DropBox, HubSpot, Monday, Salesforce, Slack, WebEx, Zendesk and even Netflix.
Just which cloud services are best for your small or medium business depends upon several factors, including your needs and budget and any potential industry compliance requirements, which cloud services can assist fulfilling. For example, Amazon’s AWS Cloud supports security standards and compliance certifications for HIPAA, PCI-DSS and SOC standards, among others, while Microsoft Azure includes components for fulfilling ISO, DoD and NIST standards.
Regardless of size or industry, the following 10 cloud services are frequently a good fit for SMBs.
1. Microsoft 365
Microsoft is an absolute juggernaut of cloud-based services, offering everything from common applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.) and Azure cloud server solutions to hosted Exchange email and advanced threat protection. The company provides a range of cloud services all perfectly positioned for small and medium-sized firms. The Windows publisher also offers Power BI to assist data analytics collection and interpretation, Teams for video conferencing and collaboration and SharePoint for content, knowledge and application sharing and administration.
2. Google Cloud Platform
Similar to Microsoft, Google offers an array of cloud-based services. Google Cloud Platform provides developers with a complete cloud platform for building, testing and running programs, advanced machine learning and analytics capabilities, database services and cybersecurity protections. The company’s Google Workspace collects popular tools—including for calendaring, document and spreadsheet use, file storage, video conferencing and collaboration and email—for SMBs seeking a Microsoft alternative for any reason.
3. Apple Business Essentials
SMBs particularly dependent upon Apple hardware—including iPhones, iPads and Macs—can implement a Business Essentials subscription. The cloud-based solution provides businesses with onboarding and device management features, backup services and cloud data storage, among other benefits, within a single package. Designed for organizations using Apple products seeking to simplify IT administration, management and security, the cloud platform specifically targets small businesses with up to 500 employees.
4. Amazon AWS
Amazon didn’t become one of the biggest companies in the world just by selling products online. The company’s cloud services provide the backbone for numerous other organizations and platforms, including SAP, itself a SaaS provider, NASA and the US Navy. A variety of AWS products and solutions, though, are also appropriate for SMBs, including cloud storage, scalability, security and database services.
5. QuickBooks Online
One of the most common cloud-based apps many small and medium-size businesses depend upon daily is [QuickBooks Online](https://quickbooks.intuit.com/oa/get-quickbooks/. The accounting program, owned by Intuit, assists tracking income and expenses, managing cashflow, issuing invoices and receiving payments. The cloud service can also manage and pay bills, track and report sales tax and perform business analytics.
Slack lets SMB users create channels for various teams to work, collaborate, communicate and coordinate fulfilling professional responsibilities. Regardless of the location or time zone in which a colleague might live or work, Slack assists team members with working together. With flexible communication and support for chat, audio, video and live meetings, Slack also permits storing files, building workflows and automating routine tasks. The cloud service also supports integrating popular applications, such as Google Drive and Microsoft 365, to further extend the usefulness and investment made in those solutions.
You likely think of Dropbox as a cloud file storage application, which it is. But Dropbox offers a host of other features and capabilities that further extend the offering. Using Dropbox, SMBs can also securely share files, electronically sign documents using HelloSign and streamline workflows. With an administrative console, SMBs will also find it easy to configure various team members’ permissions and content settings, automatically back up computers and important drives and generate and review activity reports.
When it comes to marketing, appointment scheduling, maintaining a website presence and building a social media following, many SMBs are on their own. That’s where MailChimp comes in. The cloud services provider offers SMBs a range of marketing capabilities for everything from designing and publishing landing pages to running email promotional campaigns to tracking corresponding activities and more. With free and paid pricing plans, the Intuit-owned firm specializes in assisting smaller organizations in competing as if they were larger enterprises with fully staffed marketing departments.
Many SMBs are unfamiliar with the intricacies and dependencies associated with setting up an online store, properly securing an e-commerce site and selling online. Shopify fills the need by offering cloud-based solutions that are also capable of managing inventory, tracking payments, accommodating discount codes, processing returns and supporting multiple locations.
SMBs often seek applications that are powerful but still approachable and easy to learn and use. HubSpot has carved out quite a share of the CRM marketplace by creating a cloud-based solution that does just that. With lead generation, knowledge base support, drag-and-drop editing and a multitude of traditional CRM features, HubSpot provides SMBs with reasonably priced options for managing and tracking customer relationships.
Distilling the best cloud services into a top 10 list necessarily means omitting numerous other stout and reliable cloud solutions assisting SMBs in managing daily operations more effectively and efficiently than if they were forced to build out and maintain those solutions in-house. Here’s another dozen honorable mentions any SMB would be well served to explore integrating within its operations:
- Asana – Project planning and task management for teams of all sizes.
- Backblaze – Cloud solutions for safeguarding systems and files.
- Bitdefender – Cybersecurity services tailored to SMBs for a variety of applications and platforms.
- Box – Secure collaboration and file storage.
- Carbonite – Backup and data protection for businesses.
- CrashPlan – Cloud backup solutions for small businesses.
- Hootsuite – Social media management and tracking solution.
- Monday – Cloud solutions to assist SMBs with sales, CRM, HR, project management and development functions.
- ShareFile – Secure file sharing and email services.
- Sophos – Cloud-based security technologies for a wide variety of applications, services and platforms.
- SurveyMonkey – Cloud-based employee and customer surveying solution.
- Zoom – Cloud-based video conferencing services.
Need help with cloud services?
Do you have cloud services questions? Maybe your company is struggling to select or use a specific cloud solution. Call a Louisville Geek expert at 502-897-7577 or send an email to [email protected] We’re happy to follow up and address your SMB cloud services questions.