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Top cloud packages for small businesses

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Richard Askew is managing director of digital agency AskewBrook.com 

As many small business owners know, we spend a lot of time taking care of things that are all part and parcel of running a business but which are some way from what you actually set up in business to do. I’m thinking about things like accountancy, managing staff, social media or lead generation. With the explosion of cloud-based and software as a service packages there are lots of tools out there to help you.



Accountancy packages


There are many ways to manage your accounts: spreadsheets, a big bag of receipts that gets dropped off with the accountant once a year, expensive accountancy packages installed on a server; or you could opt for a cloud-based solution. 

We use the latter and it allows us to manage our entire financial operation in real time. It can send out invoices (and chase them too!), manage payroll, take care of auto-enrolment and automatically link up with your bank accounts. Most importantly, it shows the financial state of your business in real time, so I know at any point in time what I have incoming, what is due to go out and how we’re performing month on month and year on year. 



Finally, you can create your accountant a login so they can log in and sign off your accounts at the end of the year. Our accountancy bill more than halved once we did this as most of the legwork had been done.
Packages to consider: Freeagent, Xero, ClearBooks, QuickBooks

Scheduling staff


If your business relies on a large number of staff who work shifts, then managing their time and communicating with them can be tricky.

There are online packages that can take the pain away from this, so you can create rotas which are then communicated to your team and they can flag any issues in advance. Some packages also allow staff to clock-in too. 
Packages to consider: RotaCloud, Get Scheduled, Humanity



Communicating with staff


Ensuring your staff have the latest information at their fingertips ensures that everything keeps moving smoothly, projects get finished quicker and customers receive the best possible customer service. Email is fine but things get missed and spam filters get in the way. Embracing new technologies can make communicating easier.
Packages to consider: Facebook Messenger, Whats App, Slack

Social media management


Whether platforms like Twitter and Facebook form a big part of your marketing strategy or not, managing them can take a significant amount of time. 

There are lots of ways that you can speed up the process by scheduling all your social posts for the weeks ahead – the techy-minded of you can get even more automated and set up work streams so you can send updates when other things happen (like a blog post going live on a website).
Packages to consider: Buffer, Tweet Deck, IFTTT (automated work streams)

Lead generation

The biggie. We can create the most sophisticated marketing strategies imaginable but it’s always difficult to know if it's worked and more importantly who it worked for. There are online platforms that can tell you which companies have looked at your website and where they’ve looked, and this makes it much easier to pick up the phone and engage with someone.
Packages to consider: LeadForensics, A1WebStats