What is the recommended SaaS stack for SMBs?
In recent times, software for your business had to be installed locally on a server or individual computers. But thanks to the rise of cloud services and reliable, fast broadband connections, it’s now possible to run your business from the cloud.
Programs delivered in this way are known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The software can be accessed through a web browser or on mobile devices by downloading a small app. Businesses pay for the software on a subscription basis, reducing the worries of licensing costs and unused copies. Additionally, because the software is in the cloud, you can be sure that you are always using the most up to date version.
Stack it up
You can opt for individual SaaS solutions, but an increasingly common alternative is to select several tools to put together in a ‘stack’. A SaaS stack is effectively your business software suite which in the past would have been on your in-house servers but now resides entirely online.
For smaller businesses, a SaaS stack offers many advantages. Firstly there’s the price; some applications are free, while others are a far lower cost than installing a premium package on your own machines. Overheads are lower too as businesses are not paying to maintain the software and install updates.
Implementation is faster because, again, companies don’t have to install programs, and package can be easily adjusted to take on more people as a business expands. Technical support is also available from the service provider, usually 24 hours a day.
SaaS applications can be accessed from anywhere there’s an internet connection, which can lead to increased productivity. Staff can work from home or on the road and still have access to the same tools and information.
Finally, using a SaaS stack can give firms an edge over competitors. It allows smaller companies to use the same tools as larger ones; something that would have been unaffordable with older delivery methods.
Building your stack
So, what goes into the software stack for a business? There are two things that most companies need regardless as to the sector in which they operate. These are an office package and the ability to store and share files.
Some tools are likely to be more specific to certain types of business. These can include resource planning, customer relationship management (CRM), accounting, communication tools, and so forth. There are also increasing numbers of SaaS tools aimed at precise business models, such as recruitment companies or lawyers, for example.
There are several popular office tools available in the cloud. Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite are some of the most commonly known. These provide all of the day-to-day tools including word processing, calendars and spreadsheets.
An office suite is one of the core elements of a business SaaS stack. Office packages will usually be linked closely to the same supplier’s online storage offering, so it makes sense to choose items that work together seamlessly.
There are various storage software choices, and many of them are free up to a certain volume of data. Popular choices include Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox and Box. Using cloud storage ensures that company data is readily available, and there is the option to encrypt files to protect sensitive data.
Businesses increasingly have people working in more than one location, making it essential for them to be able to communicate effectively. One of the most popular SaaS offerings here is Slack. The program can be run in a browser or via an installed app. It offers a real-time chat session as well as the ability to share documents, images and more.
It supports the creation of teams as well so it can be used by multiple parts of the business, each with its own data stream but accessible separately too.
If you want to communicate outside of your organisation, there are further options, including Skype and Google Hangouts, plus tools such as Zoom that create virtual meetings.
Business and finance tools
Your choice of business tool is going to depend on your industry sector. However, some of the more general-purpose options are suitable for many types of business. One of the best known is Zoho One, offering a full suite of tools from communication to more specialised areas such as CRM.
For financial tools, there is a wide range of SaaS applications, including full-function accounting software from Xero through to specialised SaaS expense management solutions such as those provided by Soldo, enabling real-time expense capture and administration, detailed expense control through prepaid cards and extensive reporting and accounting system integration.