Starting a small business can be a daunting experience, and for many entrepreneurs, just the thought of putting together a comprehensive, reliable, and affordable set of software tools and services for your employees can be especially anxiety-inducing. Even just a few short years ago, small business owners and managers would be forced to spend a small fortune on “boxed” software licenses, email servers, and IT consultants, and often these software tools and services would be difficult to scale for businesses who either rapidly grew or contracted.

Many Different Services Have Recently Turned To The Cloud

Small to medium-sized businesses now have multiple options for providing a comprehensive, scalable, and easy-to-use set of software tools to their employees, all for an annual or monthly fee per employee. By utilizing cloud-based technology, just about anyone can transfer, store, and access data off-site. Software as a Service (Saas), or hosting software off-site and providing it as a service over the Internet, has also evolved from cloud-based technologies. While these services may not provide every tool that a business might need, they cover the basics that most businesses require, including email, office productivity software, calendars, and video conferencing. Out of all the available options, which cloud software suite is the right fit for your business? The answer might be more complicated than just which service is the most affordable.

Is An All-In-One Solution The Right One For You?

Most cloud-based software suites try to be an all-in-one solution for most businesses. For an annual or monthly fee per user, these services provide a set of tools that a majority of businesses require on a daily basis. Aside from one very notable exception (Microsoft Office 365), these services are not unique, and it is possible to put together your own set of cloud and SaaS solutions for you and your employees. The primary advantage of choosing a single provider of services is the convenience and the ability to connect all of the services to a single Internet domain, which can be the same domain you use to host your website. Not only will you and your employees be able to have unique email addresses that incorporate your domain, but each email address can be directly tied to an account that can be created, administrated, and revoked easily and conveniently.

Mixing Together Individual Cloud Services

When you choose different services in a piecemeal fashion, it can be harder to administer each service for each employee individually. However, the primary advantage of choosing individual services is the ability to choose the best individual service that fits your specific and sometimes specialized needs for the best price. Also, if you are knowledgeable about IT and the various cloud and SaaS providers, you may have a personal preference when it comes to cloud storage, business productivity software, and other tools. For instance, you may prefer Google Drive for cloud storage but choose Microsoft 365 for the traditional Office applications as a SaaS.

The Benefits Of Microsoft Office Software

While other providers such as Google and Zoho provide SaaS office productivity software, Microsoft Office 365 is the only cloud provider that offers the official Office software suite – including Word, Excel and Powerpoint – as part of their services, either as SaaS or traditional software applications. While it is possible to purchase “boxed” or individually licensed copies of Office, providing Office applications to your employees in this manner requires a significant upfront cost. Of course, there are many other options that provide similar software, including LibreOffice. Yet are these alternative office productivity solutions good enough for your business? It largely depends on the complexity of your files and how often your employees collaborate with third-parties. While Office files can be opened, edited, and saved by software suites, 100% compatibility is not guaranteed, which means that there might be slight differences or errors in your files. If your business primarily creates basic Office files, alternative solutions may be perfectly acceptable. However, if one or more of your employees creates complex Office files or regularly collaborates with clients or partners outside of your company, it would be a good idea to provide official Office applications to ensure 100% compatibility of files.