Cloud applications, software as a service, SaaS, hosted services--no matter what you want to call them, online tools have become a growing part of the technology mix at a wide range of companies. The typical pay-as-you-go, per seat model--with little or no up-front costs--can be particularly appealing to startups and other small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that need to acquire productive, scalable applications without crippling their budgets.
While the total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) analysis might look a little different at each company--and, contrary to some sales pitches, is not a slam dunk--SMBs are no longer beholden to traditional software licensing or hardware models.
The menu of cloud applications continues to grow, and they now cover most of the basic business functions, from productivity to analytics to social collaboration and beyond. Here are 10 cloud applications for a variety of needs that SMBs should at least be aware of--even if they ultimately go in a different direction. (For clarity of definition: We included any platform or tool delivered online and hosted off-site, usually on a monthly or annual subscription basis.)
The tools you choose need to fit your particular business goals and challenges. These are certainly not the only options out there, but if your organization has treaded cautiously into the cloud--or not at all--this list is a good place to start. It's also a good place to start if you're running your own solo show.
Of course, in this age of consumer IT, you'll also see some of these apps being used on enterprise machines--with or without IT's approval--by people or workgroups who need more flexibility than certain monolithic applications provide.