To tie in with our upcoming seminar on Xero bookkeeping we give you our ten favourite business applications in the cloud.

For each application we spotlight, there are dozens, if not more, competitors doing something similar and we recommend to try out a few before choosing.  Each one also deserves a lengthy review in its own right.  That said here is the overview of our favourites:

Google Drive and Docs.  Most of us have grown up using desktop applications such as Word or Excel or similar.  Google’s suite of applications packaged in with an alternative to Dropbox or other cloud storage, is a powerful alternative.  Whilst not all the functionality that we may be used to is matched, the cost and accessibility makes it a very attractive offer to start up businesses,

Xero.  More will be said at our seminar (see below) but this is an outstanding example of how the cloud allows interaction between services we use.

Xero is bookkeeping software but its power comes from using bank data and receipt processesing software such as Receipt Bank to automate some of our bookkeeping.  Simply put manual data entry is no longer required to do bookkeeping.

Basecamp.  One of the cloud’s great strengths is facilitating collaboration.  Basecamp is designed to allow team members to share documents, to do lists, meeting minutes, discussions, whilst adding members seemlessly.

Capsule This software is all about managing a sales pipeline, keeping track of conversations, tasks, emails and more from our existing and potential customers.  Again the ability for many users to access the same data and see all interactions with a particular person is its great attraction.

GoCardless.  Direct Debit from the cloud.  Whilst it is simpler for paying customers to use than Paypal and cheaper than Paypal to business owners (1% of the transaction) probably its greatest advantage lies in the control it gives business owners over collecting money.  Payment plans are agreed in advance with customers.  Once customers agree the payment plan, GoCardless simply collects payment without business owners needing to rely on anyone at the other end remembering and getting around to paying.

WorkflowMax.  Project Management software abounds in the cloud, because of the obvious opportunities for collaboration.  WorkflowMax is our favourite for its integration with Xero, versatility in setting up work plans and use of time sheets reporting functions.

LivePlan.  LivePlan is ostensibly a business planning software but since it integrates with bookkeeping software, it combines business planning with management reporting.  In other words having set a budget, the software sucks in bookkeeping figures and provides a comparison between the two.  This naturally tends to suggest tailoring the plan and transforms business plans from being static documents to being a plan that evolves and grows with the business.

Vend.  Fast becoming a market leader in Point of Sale and inventory software for retailers.  This software is a great example of how cloud computing is well set up to grow with your business, simply requiring new users to be added to existing accounts without having to install new software on new machines as operations expand.

Docusign.  For anyone requiring signatures, Docusign facilitates legally binding electronic signatures through the cloud in an incredibly easy to use way.

Survey Monkey.  Survey Monkey is one of the most established business cloud applications, facilitating customer feedback and market research.  Another of the advantages of the cloud is that it makes software available for a particular niche jobs that would not normally have been affordable to small businesses.   We still love it for the way it can effortlessly collate responses that at one time would have taken hours to combine.