Much as I think “the cloud” is just another annoying buzz word that doesn’t really represent much; there are now a plethora of online services that can provide a much better, more cost effective solution to problems that traditionally required something physical in the office.
Being a software as a service company ourselves we have always been fully aware of the huge advantages of these solutions and over the last year we have started to use them even more.
So here is a quick summary of what we currently use and why:
Google Apps (www.google.com/apps)
Email for our own domains, using the excellent gmail web interface, that is very cost effective. Tie that in with calendars, Google docs and all the other Google offerings and it really is an excellent solution. Why wouldn’t you? A heavy investment in something like MS Exchange just does not make sense here, IMHO.
An excellent invoice and time tracking solution. Although the time tracking & reporting is not as fully featured as some other solutions, the fact that it is linked directly to invoice generation and the outstanding estimate/invoice/expense management features have been really great for us. Freshbooks also has excellent integration with many other apps (including Highrise & Basecamp) and a good API that we use for the WMS.
Very straightforward CRM. The wonderful 37signals mantra of simplicity here is one of the main advantages for us. It fits easily into our everyday work process; which means we actually use it! This is important as a CRM is only useful if the data is up to date and it is part of your day to day and minute to minute work.
Also has a handy API which allows us to keep contacts in sync with the WMS.
File sharing that is easy and reliable. We use this to make sure that everyone and every PC (for example laptops and desktops) have access to the most up to date documents. This also significantly reduces the need for an office file server and all the admin that comes with that (backups, power & connectivity, VPN’s for remote access etc); it is great when a load of problems just go away!
Dropbox also has good version control of all documents which helps avoid data loss and multiple copies of old documents. I’m also finding the Andriod app very good.
Tender Support (www.tenderapp.com)
An excellent, very straightforward helpdesk application. We use this both with our main product (The WMS) but also for specific client support. Good email integration and a simple web interface with single sign on support make this app an important part of our service.
Once again this is complemented by an API which we use to full effect.
Tender’s integrates closely with a partner product (Lighthouse) for development and issue tracking; which we also use.
This is the newest one for us; hosted source control which includes good collaboration (code review) features. Moving from SVN based on a server in the office was a big decision; but so far it has been great. We got rid of yet another admin task (not that managing SVN & backups is a biggie, still its nice to have one less thing to think about) and gained some productivity by integration with Lighthouse.
Beanstalk was incredibly simple to set up and (once I had tweaked the CruiseControl configs) fitted incredibly smoothly into our development process.
The WMS (www.thewms.co.uk)
And finally, we use our own application, of course! Simple, powerful, web based content management for our every web need. It’s the best there is 😉