Since taking over the management of VII Tech Solutions back in 2012, one of my main objectives was to “run it in the cloud”. After 3 long years of trial and error, many systems later, and quite a number of migrations, I can FINALLY say that I’m done!!
I’m listing all the Cloud-Based Tools that we use, how they’ve worked for us, and how they make our life easier. Of course there is the cost implication and the required buy-in from my team, but all-in, it’s been a great investment, and we’re reaping the benefits today.
Three main factors have guided our selection of the tools used (apart from the general rule of them being in the cloud. Only 10% of the company data is hosted in-house!), considering we’re a small business and a small team:
- The Cost
- The User-friendliness
This list achieves the above to great lengths, but should still be considered more of a “case study” than a one-size-fits-all solution. This is also in order of implementation.
We’ve been using Google for Work for our emails, calendars and file sharing/storage. At $50 per user per year (paid on a monthly basis), it provides everything we need in this regard, and it’s been in use for the past 3 years without any problems. We get 30GB of storage per user. We’re no where near reaching this limit, but from what I know, Google provides the ability to purchase extra storage.
From an admin perspective, the user management dashboard is quite intuitive, and at the time of this post, Google is rolling out a fresh UI which should make things even easier.
With Basecamp we found the perfect project management tool! Their pricing is based on the number of “active” projects at any given time. For 40 Active Projects and 15GB of storage, we pay $50 per month, for unlimited users. This works great, as not only have we got our whole team onboard, but we can also add our clients to their respective projects, and control what they can and cannot view. Their mobile apps have been recently revamped and look great.
Another advantage you get with Basecamp is its numerous integrations with other systems.
Github is where our development team hangs out! I am not a developer, and can’t say much about the tool, but these are the words of one of the developers: “We can’t live without Github”. An exaggerated statement, but something I trust is crucial for team collaboration. They have many packages (including free ones), and we’ve been using the Bronze “Organisation Plan” for $25 per month for unlimited users and public repositories. Private repositories is capped at 10.
PeopleHR is a lifesaver when it comes to HR management! We’ve tried many systems, and this has taken care of all our HR needs end-to-end. They have multiple plans based on features, each charging per employee per month. The “Professional” plan works great for us, for $2.20 per “active” employee per month (which comes to $33 per month for us).
Employees have separate logins for self-service tools, and the admin has a complete view of the company along with task assignment, appraisals, leave plans, …etc. There is no mobile app, but the mobile “site” is quite impressive.
Although we use Quickbooks for Mac (on-premise installation) to manage all our finances, the cloud version offers a great alternative, bar a couple of features that we needed (especially in estimates and progress invoicing). The 2015 version of Quickbooks for Mac came to about $300 for the copy, but the online version of the equivalent feature set can be subscribed to for about $18 per month.
We’ve been using Intuit products since 2010.
A good CRM system for small business is the one I’ve struggled most with, but Base is the one I’ve finally been able to use to very good effect. Offering a great user interface, but most importantly a top-notch mobile app, which any salesperson definitely needs to access info on the go. Seamless integration with Google for Work, and many other integrations with other systems, provides for a great tool for many of the salespeople who view using a CRM as a chore.
Their starter plan of $15 per user per month works great for a small sales team (although prices have just increased).
We used many internal communication tools (especially that I hate internal emails floating around!), but Slack is the one! Amazing for creating chat groups, both public (internally) and private, as well as one-to-one communication. Quick file sharing tools and a great search functionality makes it indispensable for us.
We’re currently using the free version, which is working great, but allows for only 10,000 message searchable archive. Their plan starts at $6.67 per user per month (if paid annually).
Finally, Social Media Management!! As a small business and an agency, this is another area we struggled with, but finally settled on Hootsuite. It’s the most comprehensive tool out there, and for $10 per month it’s great value for money.
To conclude, we are paying about $250 per month for all these systems, which manages all our internal processes, and saves us a lot more per month if these were managed manually, both in terms of time and effort. That time has been redirected to more productive tasks which everyone is thankful for; including our clients!!