The 50 Best Cloud Services for SMBs
Building an information technology (IT) infrastructure can be incredibly complex and expensive for new and growing businesses. Limited resources, expertise, and time often constrains how much small to midsize businesses (SMBs) are able to accomplish. Thankfully, software companies have taken this into account by building tools that are either specifically designed for SMBs or can be configured to support more modest needs. To help you make better decisions about what to buy, we're listing the best cloud services for SMBs, covering topics from project management (PM) and accounting to customer relationship management (CRM) and data backup. Keep in mind that the tools listed here might not be the best in their respective classes but they are the ones best suited for the small and midsize markets.
Communications and Commerce-Based Tools
1. Asana CollaborationYour company is only as good as its employees' ability to work together to accomplish tasks. Thankfully, collaboration services such as Asana make teamwork easy and more fun. Asana's free version supports up to 15 team members, which is perfect for mom-and-pop shops that don't need more advanced features. It's built on HTML5 so it features rich design functionality and easy, attractive task management.
2. Citrix Grasshopper For many years, Voice over IP (VoIP) solutions were only built for large, hulking companies. But with tools such as Citrix Grasshopper , you'll be able to quickly and easily set up your VoIP tool and gain access to basic phone systems features such as call routing, faxing, and voicemail. While it doesn't have more advanced features such as call recording, a unified communications application, and dial-in conferencing at the lowest price levels, you'll still be able to take advantage of higher call quality and call center features not typically associated with your local telco.
3. ClickMeeting Video Conferencing If you're looking for an easy-to-use video conferencing tool, then ClickMeeting is among the best on the market. It offers a free 30-day trial, low-price plan options, and cool collaboration tools such as shared desktops, whiteboarding tools, and in-app private chat. No, you won't be able to integrate the tool with every social network and you won't get access to operator-assisted meetings, but it's got enough to guarantee that your calls are crisp and clear.
4. MailChimp Email MarketingMailChimp is the most popular and most capable email marketing service regardless of your price level or technological savvy. It offers a rich, free plan; tons of third-party integration (much of which is available at the lowest price levels), and it's got many email templates that help you fire off emails at a rapid clip. You can even take advantage of a decent amount of email analytics to let you know whether or not your messages are falling flat.
5. Campaigner Email MarketingIf you require a bit more flexibility than MailChimp allows, then check out Campaigner . A small business with 2,500 contacts in its marketing database could send an unlimited amount of messages for about $29.95 per month. This isn't a cheap option, but we're talking about a tool that has everything you'll need to run robust and easily-automated email campaigns. Plus, you can test the tool for 30 days for free.
6. Shopify E-CommerceYes, Shopify is the king of all e-commerce platforms. But "best" doesn't always translate to "best for everyone." In Shopify's case, you should be considering this online shopping cart for your web-based storefront regardless of your company's size. That's because it requires very little technological expertise to set up, you can try it for free for 30 days, and it provides an abundance of free templates and tools that will make your online business easier to oversee.
7. Sprout SocialSprout Social is one of the best social media analytics tools available regardless of your company's size. However, for SMBs, you'll love that Sprout Social offers a free 30-day trial, multiple price tiers, and a clean design that makes sorting and discovering data easy.
8. HootsuiteIf you're more interested in managing your social campaigns than you are in measuring them, then try Hootsuite . This tool scales as you grow by letting you pay for extras (rather than bundling everything into one price package). Hootsuite offers the most comprehensive package of listening, publishing, and third-party integration options for businesses of all sizes.
9. Zoho Survey If you need to gauge how well your product is doing with consumers or if you just want to know what people think of your new ad campaign, then you should consider survey management software. Zoho Survey is optimal for SMBs. It has one of the simplest user interfaces (UIs) to manage, offers superb reporting, and is available for about $19 per month. You can also use the free option, which has more than enough to get you the most basic information (but you'll lose some more advanced features such as email notifications and multi-language support).
10. SlackEven if you've never used Slack , you've probably heard all about it. This chat-based communications tool is designed for teams of all sizes to communicate with one another throughout the workday. Slack lets users create chat rooms, private chats with small groups, and one-on-one private chats. You can use the tool to share files, have a laugh with animated GIFs, or connect to other tools via plug-and-play integrations, including Asana and Twitter.
11. Microsoft TeamsIf you want everything that Slack has to offer but you'd also like to be able to video conference and connect your employees to Microsoft's entire ecosystem of apps (i.e., Excel, PowerPoint, and Word), then Microsoft Teams presents an intriguing competitor to Slack. In addition to more organized channel management, Teams offers its users more creative opportunities to interact with colleagues, including in-app meme creation. The only caveat: You must be an Office 365 Business user to gain access to the tool.
12. Zenefits Z2Human resources (HR) software and management system Zenefits offers excellent benefits administration, integration with most of the industry's popular payroll tools, and its own regionally-based payroll tool. It offers a sleek UI and benefits marketplace designed to look like an e-commerce portal, both of which encourage users to take advantage of the tool rather than run away from it (as with other HR tools).
Security and Network Monitoring
13. Spiceworks Network MonitorManaging your technology infrastructure shouldn't be a task exclusive to large enterprises. If you need to understand how your apps, servers, and websites are performing, then Spiceworks Network Monitor offers incredible network monitoring at no cost. It obviously doesn't have the complexity and extensibility of paid tools, but it's serviceable enough to oversee your network processes and alert you to issues before they become disasters.
14. Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus received almost perfect scores in our lab-based antivirus testing. It scans incredibly fast, takes up very little space on your device, and is capable of recovering files encrypted by ransomware. This is a small, fast, and reliable antivirus tool that won't cost much money but doesn't skimp on security.
15. Bitdefender Antivirus PlusBitdefender Antivirus Plus isn't a business tool but it's ideal for small companies that don't require a ton of licenses. For about $40 per seat, you'll be able to manage passwords, secure your browser, "shred" files, and defend against ransomware. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is rated Advanced+ by AV-Comparatives, a company that performs a broad array of tests on antivirus utilities and other security products.
16. Agiloft Contract ManagementAgiloft offers nearly unlimited customizations that bend and twist to how your company typically handles its contract management. There's a free option that's capable of supporting companies with less than five contract administrators. If you need to go bigger, then you'll have to upgrade to the enterprise edition (which is a bit pricier). Either way, you're working with the best contract management solution on the market, one that's limitless in its potential to automate and simplify how you create, manage, and store your contracts.
17. Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus If you know anything at all about cloud-based accounting, then you know Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus is a behemoth in the industry. For small businesses, it's particularly attractive thanks to its comprehensive set of features specifically designed for modest-sized companies. It's got a clean and intuitive UI, is affordably priced, and features flexible contract records, transaction forms, and report templates.
18. SurePayroll You may not have heard about SurePayroll but it's a fantastic tool for anyone who needs to create and manage employee payment records. Although it doesn't have the sexiest UI, it's incredibly easy to set up, excruciatingly detailed, and almost entirely customizable to suit your payroll needs. It wouldn't work well for larger companies as it doesn't provide as many reports as its competitors but it's great for companies with minimal and complex tasks.
19. Xpenditure Small BusinessXpenditure Small Business starts at $7 per month per user, which is extremely friendly pricing for an expense tracking tool that accomplishes so much. Its simplicity, multi-lingual, and administrator-friendly platform will help you build a bridge between your employees, your CFO, and the IRS.
Data and Business Document Management
20. Ascensio System OnlyOffice If you'd like business document management, file sharing, online editing, project management, and email and calendar integration all in one tidy UI, then Ascensio System OnlyOffice is the right tool for you. This isn't a mind-blowing technology; in fact, dozens of companies offer a similar solution. But Ascensio is cheaper, more expansive, and easier to use than the rest of the field.
21. Carbonite Server BackupCarbonite Server Backup is easy to install, it comes with 24/7, US-based support, and it offers unlimited server licenses. What's not to love? Well, it won't be able to help you in a disaster scenario as it can't replicate your virtual infrastructure or deliver a cloud-based data center. For that, you'll need to pick a bigger tool. However, if all you're concerned about is making sure your backup service doesn't let your data vanish, then Carbonite offers a solid tool at a solid price.
22. IDriveIf you only need 1 TB of online backup storage, then check out IDrive . The tool features an easy setup, unlimited device access, continuous backup, disk image backup, file explorer integration, folder syncing, and more. IDrive isn't for everyone but, if you need to preserve only your most valuable data and you'd like to do it for less than $60 per year, then IDrive is an ideal choice.
23. Microsoft Power BIMicrosoft Power BI takes business intelligence—what is normally a very complex and very expensive task—and turns it into something even a tech novice can accomplish. It's a free tool that lets you drag, drop, customize, and analyze data, up to 1 GB. If you need more storage, then you can upgrade for just $10 per month to increase your data tenfold. This will also give you access to custom content packs and the ability to interact with other Microsoft Office 365 users.
24. NutShell CRM You already know about the major CRM vendors. But did you know that NutShell CRM is specifically designed for small businesses and sole proprietors? This tool will help your mom-and-pop shop compete with larger enterprises by automating sales processes, simplifying contact management, and providing a healthy helping of reports and analytics. Unfortunately, you won't be able to modify Nutshell CRM to your liking so it's a take-what-you-get proposition. This should be good enough for small businesses but it might not work for companies that are at the higher end of the SMB spectrum.
25. SiteGround Web HostingSiteGround Web Hosting lets you perform automatic backups and choose your server locations, plus it delivers excellent security. This is a web hosting tool that's extremely friendly for small businesses and new webmasters, especially considering that its limited feature set and storage and data transfer limitations will turn off many larger companies. SiteGround Web Hosting's customer service is second to none so, if you need a web hosting company to walk you through every step of your journey, then SiteGround Web Hosting is the right choice for you.
26. DreamHost Web HostingAnother great web hosting option is DreamHost Web Hosting , our Editors' Choice tool. The Linux server-based tool starts at $10.95 per month or $9.95 per month with a one-year commitment. Dreamhost Web Hosting offers unlimited disk storage space, domains, email, and monthly data transfers. Unfortunately, the tool is not designed for novices, so you'll want someone on staff who knows what they're doing when you begin the installation process.
27. Tarkenton GoSmallBiz If your company is still trying to prove its potential to investors, then you should consider business planning software. None of the tools we rated comes close to Tarketon GoSmallBiz , an easy-to-use solution created by former NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Specifically designed for small companies, it features highly customizable and detailed business planning data fields to help you simplify the plan production process. It also gives you access to business planning experts who can help you improve your proposal. It's also able to generate financial statements and projections without external spreadsheet software.
Content Authoring and Learning Management
28. Rosetta Stone Catalyst Rosetta Stone is the language learning powerhouse. Rosetta Stone Catalyst is the company's latest foray into conquering language learning for business. It's a great but imperfect tool that will help your employees prepare for business trips to, or executive visits from, foreign countries. Unlike consumer-based language learning tools, Catalyst allows administrators to build learning pathways that focus on business-specific lexicons.
29. Articulate Storyline 2 If you're looking for the best eLearning authoring tool on the market, then look no further. Articulate Storyline 2 has it all. Articulate has streamlined the content creation process, anticipating almost every imaginable course-creation use case. Articulate Storyline 2 is a smooth and well-designed tool that makes life easier for course creators and learners alike. It packs more functionality into one system than any other software we reviewed in this category, and it does so deftly, without any overbearing technological or navigational complexity.
30. TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8 If you're only interested in video-based course content, then TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8 is an ideal eLearning authoring tool for you. Although it won't provide the same interactive, text-based, HTML5 course content that Articulate Storyline 2 will, TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8 makes video editing and screen recording easy as pie.
31. DoceboDocebo is the best online learning platform for business on the market. It features intuitive navigation and content creation, the best reporting of any system we've tested, and a host of features that make learning and training fun for everyone on your team. It's got a gorgeous administrator console, a rich feature set, in-depth analytics, and a wide variety of third-party integrations. It even provides administrators with gamification-enabled learning paths.
32. WizIQWizIQ is a feature-rich online learning platform for business that you'll absolutely enjoy. It has most of the bells and whistles you'll find in Docebo's tool but it's priced much lower. You'll be able to easily create live sessions within the console, and you can also take advantage of its proprietary e-commerce website for selling your course content.
33. SurveyGizmoSurveyGizmo helps you build, style, test, and share surveys as well as examine the results. But SurveyGizmo offers more flexibility in how surveys are scored, the kinds of questions you can ask, and how your survey appears to the user. It's this combination of power and ease of use that makes SurveyGizmo (which begins at $25 per month) our Editors' Choice for best online survey tool.
34. Campaign Monitor GetFeedbackCampaign Monitor GetFeedback isn't trying to be a general-purpose survey tool. It's primarily designed to solicit feedback from people who are using mobile devices. It also integrates nicely with Salesforce, which is ideal for companies that conduct a lot of customer research. If those are your company's main goals in adopting an online survey tool, then Campaign Monitor GetFeedback is an ideal choice for your business.
35. HappyFox A combination of intuitive automation and self-service tools, both key components of an efficient help desk, make HappyFox one of your best options for tracking and managing helpdesk tickets. It features a nice combination of automation and self-service tools that reduce ticket workload in order to help provide fast customer service.
36. Vivantio Pro A mature and feature-rich helpdesk solution, Vivantio Pro is a barebones tool designed to keep service tickets moving. For customers with entrenched business processes or specialized equipment, Vivantio Pro supports custom help form creation and process automation. By allowing IT managers to create custom forms and fields in ticket forms, Vivantio Pro lets them better support specialized assets, technologies, and business processes.
37. FreshdeskFreshdesk is simple to use, with an advanced feature set, at an affordable price. Freshdesk excels is in its ticket management, which allows helpdesk tickets to be assigned to individual agents depending upon what work is required. The system itself can do a good job of automatically performing certain tasks based upon what an incoming ticket requires, which means those commonly asked questions can have useful replies automatically generated and delivered by the system.
38. FreshserviceFreshservice isn't the most well-known helpdesk software but it's an ideal tool for small businesses that don't need all of the bells and whistles of better-known tools. What is most appealing about FreshService (especially for SMBs) is that it offers a free plan that's good enough to help you get started. No, this isn't a free trial; it's an actual free service that requires no payment whatsoever. With that, you'll gain access to online help and tutorial videos that will show you how to get started and optimize your service operation.
Automation and Cross-Channel Communications
39. HubSpotIf you're looking to turn your email and CRM practices into long-lasting customer engagements, then HubSpot is an ideal marketing automation tool. HubSpot is easy to use, scales as you grow, and, though not inexpensive, is nevertheless affordable at every experience level. Additionally, HubSpot lets you add basic CRM and sales tools to your marketing automation software at no extra cost. This is a wonderful feature for startups and small companies that are just getting their operations off the ground.
40. InfusionSoftInfusionsoft is designed primarily for small businesses, but its marketing automation features are robust and easy to use. Its gorgeous drag-and-drop UI is ideal for pulling together lengthy and complex marketing workflows that would otherwise be done via long drop-down menus and tabs. You can personalize your own navigation via drag-and-drop functionality to create any look and feel you need to speed up navigation.
41. GetResponseGetResponse delivers a marketing automation suite that's near the top of the class. GetResponse has a ton of neat workflow features that put interactive and responsive email marketing at your fingertips. For example, you can bump contacts from workflow to workflow. You can drag and drop tags into your workflow to label contacts who've dropped off or navigated through different stages of a workflow. This lets you move contact files who've moved through a nurturing campaign into lists for more familiar contacts or lets you tag people as unresponsive if they've not gotten as far along the nurturing campaign as you would have liked. How you determine if someone is unresponsive is up to you, as GetResponse lets you set conditions to wait a certain period of time before you designate someone as unresponsive.
42. ZapierIf your small business isn't very tech-savvy, then you'll love Zapier . This tool is designed to connect disparate apps to let you run automations (or "Zaps") without having to write any code. Although there is a free tier available for very small businesses and freelancers, the company's Work account connects more than 750 apps and lets you run multi-step automations across three or more different tools. So, if you use three or more of the tools in Zapier's roster, then you'll be able to push and pull data from one to the other to build automated processes. For example, when your marketing automation tool's lead form generates a contact, a Zap will push the contact's data into your CRM tool. A second Zap will add the contact's social media credentials to a social listening tool, and a third Zap will push a chat message to a salesperson asking him or her to reach out via Twitter.
43. IFTTTSimilar to Zapier, IFTTT connects 400 apps and services without requiring you to know how to code. IFTTT stands for "if this, then that," which is how the company's "Applets" help you automate actions across software (similar to the scenario I detailed earlier). IFTTT is as capable and as easy to use as Zapier, but it has about 350 fewer tools to connect than Zapier. So, when you're deciding between these two automation powerhouses, make sure you run down their rosters to determine which one contains more of your favorite apps.
44. Expert Software Applications MindomoWith the proliferation of data sources today, it can be difficult for workers to make sense of the information handed to them in spreadsheets. That's why mind mapping tools such as Expert Software Applications Mindomo are perfect for smaller companies that hande complex tasks. The tool lets you build information maps based off of more than 50 themes. Think of Mindomo as a graph-based Google doc that lets you build complex webs to explain linear processes based off of third-party data.
45. Zoho CreatorIf your company is forced to build its own apps but you don't really know how to code and you don't want to pay someone to code for you, then you should try a low-code development tool such as Zoho Creator . Zoho Creator offers a nice selection of prebuilt templates and fields to help guide you through the creation process. Templates such as Order Management, Project Tracker, and Sales Manager let you build your own software without having to poach talent from Facebook and Google. Although some code will still be required for advanced automations and integrations with third-party tools, Zoho Creator takes the complexity out of app building.
46. Abbyy FineScannerMobile scanning is less about document management than it is about pulling data from mobile devices into the cloud. That's why it's incredibly important for mobile scanners to employ optical character recognition (OCR) to turn crumpled, water-stained papers into perfectly viewable digital files and images. Perhaps no mobile scanning tool does this better than Abbyy FineScanner . For less than $20 a year, you'll be able to pull in data in more than 193 languages to the usual suspects of file types and file managers.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
47. SearchmetricsSearchmetrics is a solid search engine optimization (SEO) platform that covers all of the basics when it comes to position and rank tracking, keyword research, and backlinks. Searchmetrics begins at $69 per month for the Essentials plan, the only tier in which a specific price is listed on its website. The Essentials plan gives you 10,000 rankings per report, limited access to the Searchmetrics research database, up to two years of visibility history, and keyword rankings that incorporate the last two weeks' work of data. While most of its Premium features are reserved for Enterprise tiers, Searchmetrics is a capable and worthwhile option for small business needs. But, ultimately, it's is a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none. For SMBs, though, Searchmetrics is reliable and will scal as you grow.
48. Moz ProThe $119-per-month Moz Pro Medium plan is an ideal SEO plan for small businesses. It offers 10 seats and 5,000 full keyword reports plus 30 keyword lists per month. It also offers branded reports and 10 campaigns, keyword rankings, and crawled pages per month. Any of the higher-tiered plans might be a bit too robust for small businesses but, if your SEO needs grow, then you'll be able to scale as high as a Fortune 500 company could ever need.
Employee Time Tracking and Monitoring
49. TSheetsCompanies looking to simplify clocking in and clocking out of work will absolutely love TSheets . TSheets does everything you'll need a time tracking solution to do, including giving you deep customization options, in-depth reporting, user-friendly navigation, and an open API for third-party integrations. Unlike most time tracking tools, TSheets lets you base your attendance records on custom elements (i.e., miles driven) rather than just minutes, hours, and days. This is a solid and easy-to-use tool that your employees will love.
50. HubstaffIf you run a strict, no-nonsense business, then you'll probably want to clamp down on time wasting. No tool that we've reviewed better enables this than Hubstaff . Designed as a time tracking tool, Hubstaff is actually a solid employee monitoring tool that lets you take snapshots of employees's screens, monitoring web and app usage, and even track movements via the mobile app's GPS. Sure, your employees will probably hate you, but they'll be too busy working to focus on their anger.
This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.