The Cloud Office: Complete business solutions for managing a team online

Whether you’re running a team or working solo there are real benefits to storing office essentials in the cloud. First, you can access your data from anywhere, which is useful if you’re out and about a lot, as you can hop onto a free Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop and find everything that you’d usually have at home.

If you work in a team there are huge benefits, allowing you to share and collaborate on projects with colleagues, and even to plan and schedule the workload.

Connected teams don’t need to live close to each other, so you can open up your search for talented staff. These days you can build a dream team across scattered locations and have as many meetings, chats and water-cooler moments as your physical-world counterparts do, the only difference being that you don’t have the massive overheads of running an office building.

SoHoOS 

At SohoOS (which has since been renamed Planet Soho), you’ll find everything you need to process orders on a single dashboard that is clean and uncomplicated. On the right, you access sections covering estimates, invoices, stock, purchase orders and general office documents. The “Timer Tracker” feature lets you manage multiple client timesheets and billable hours, but this is a premium upgrade option, along with several other useful features.

There is nothing fancy about the free tools in this suite but they do the job quite adequately, and once you’ve set up a system the paper trail links seamlessly together through your online hub. Buying stock, keeping track of it and eventually selling it to your customers can be done with just a few simple clicks.

You get a very basic business page but it’s worth filling it out and adding it as another link to your website, and it might just lead the occasional customer to you through a random search query. It’s also worth taking a look at the website’s blog, as it posts regular and very helpful tips and articles to help you run your small business more effectively.

TIP: You can often sign in to web-based services using your Facebook, Twitter or other social accounts. Offering this option is a growing practice amongst website developers, known as ‘social logins’. Not only does it mean that you have few or no further details to add in order to complete your registration, but sharing options are also nicely integrated for future use.

Skylight

Running a chaotic team can be like herding cats, but thankfully there are plenty of tools online to help you throw a net of productivity over them. Skylight is a good all-rounder if you have a project or team to manage and want a central command station. You can assign and track tasks for multiple projects, manage everyone’s calendar, billing and budgets, upload files to share, and keep an eye on resources.

There’s even a messaging system and shared contacts database, so no more bothering each other for Mr So-and-so’s mobile number. A nice, succinct introductory video when you first launch your browser will get you up and running swiftly. The free account has limited storage and handles only two projects with two collaborators, with paid upgrades for more people, projects and storage space.

TIP: Collaboration platforms like this can be the perfect place to start working seriously on a business plan without having to meet up constantly. Seeing each other tick tasks off the to-do list can also really drive momentum, and if you suspect that somebody isn’t pulling their weight it will be plain for all to see.

This is an adapted extract from Kate Russell’s new book, “Working the Cloud: The Ultimate guide to making the internet work for you and your business”. The book is available from Amazon both as paperback and Kindle Edition. Ms Russell is a freelance technology reporter, better known for her Webscape segment on BBC’s technology show, Click.

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