It's time to think about moving part, if not all, of your business to a cloud-based infrastructure. Safety, reliability, scalability, and availability all come to mind when thinking about cloud-based services. The price is right now, too, since the companies that provide these services can meet your needs at a lower cost. Private cloud, public cloud, or a mixture of the two make sense for "The Year of The Cloud." This list of 10 cloud-based companies will help you manage your business, keep track of your employees and give your customers unbreakable service.
Dropbox is a backup and storage service that provides 2GB of space free for those who sign-up for the service. Two gigabytes is enough to store critical configuration files, documentation, and other important files. For those that wish to save everything to the cloud-based service, $9.99 per month buys 50GB of space, and $19.99 per month provides a full 100GB. Dropbox supports all operating systems and mobile devices, including the iPad. You can also selectively share your files by folder.
2. Amazon EC2
Perhaps the best known cloud-based service is Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). This service provides high-end computing power in the form of virtual machines on Amazon's Xen-based virtualization platform. Use the service as a substitute for your entire computing infrastructure or for additional computing bandwidth. It will cost you about $1,000 per year for a standard Windows server and a little less for Linux. How does that price compare to what you pay now?
3. Google Apps
Google Apps include the familiar applications (mail, docs, instant messaging) that you've likely grown used to, and they include an array of new applications that cover every aspect of online business freedom. Use Google's App Marketplace to select web-based software that handles your accounting, document management, CRM and backup/restore. But don't feel limited by the dozens of ready-to-use applications that you see in the lists. If you need something that you can't find, there are companies out there that specialize in creating custom Google applications.
4. QuickBooks Online
The world's most popular small business accounting software is now available online. The online versions have the same features and capabilities as the installable desktop versions, including multiple users, payroll, invoicing and integrated online banking. Handling QuickBooks online might seem more expensive than buying your own software, but the online version includes automated backups for your data, automatic upgrades and updates, customer support, and 100 percent availability from any computer with Internet access.
If you haven't looked at Salesforce.com lately, you should. It's no longer simply a cloud-based CRM management package but a suite of applications. The suite consists of Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Chatter, Jigsaw, Force.com, Heroku, Database.com, and Remedyforce. Salesforce.com enables your company to deliver a fully-equipped and mobile sales, CRM, customer service and helpdesk force to your customers at a price that's low enough to recover without sacrificing huge profits to do so.