Editor’s note: This post comes from our Constant Contact UK office. You can view all the posts from our UK team here. Or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

What is this cloud thing anyway?

Running your business ‘in the cloud’ sounds a bit weird to most people, as it doesn’t really mean anything.

However, if you ask small business owners if they use any online tools, people are ready to chip in with their favourites – and that’s really all that ‘cloud based’ means.

Constant Contact is an online tool provider. You log in to your Constant Contact account on the internet, set up your email or event there, and then what you’ve done ‘lives’ online and we send out your messages, invitations, campaigns etc. for you, and collect all the results too.

Of course, cloud-based tools are hugely varied and you can now run almost your whole business online if you want to! From in-person communications (Skype or webinar tools), to accounting & invoicing, project management, file sharing, promotions review sites, and even good old e-commerce (online shops), there’s a lot going on.

So, why would you want to do a lot of this stuff online and in the ‘cloud’?

There are a number of benefits to managing your business with online tools, but for me there are three really big ones:

  1. They are the best tools for the job. Online systems are constantly being improved, and you don’t have to worry about paying extra for upgrades etc., as you normally pay for cloud-based tools on a subscription or pay-as-you-go system.
  2. Your data is looked after by someone else. We all know that backing up data is important, but most of us don’t do it, or don’t do it well enough. With a cloud-based tool, it’s the tool provider who holds all your data for you, and I can vouch for the fact that we are VERY careful about that. We do NOT want your stuff to go missing – no-siree!
  3. Integrations save time. Lots of cloud-based tools integrate with each other (if it makes sense to do so). What this means is that one of your tools can ‘talk’ to another of your tools and the appropriate information gets swapped between them automatically. For example, Constant Contact has an app integration with Facebook, which means that on your Facebook Page you can collect email addresses, and these go straight into your Constant Contact account, so that the new subscriber gets an automatic welcome email from you – and you didn’t have to do a thing!

How can cloud-based tools change my business?

Ultimately, cloud based tools can make you more effective, save you time, and do some things you weren’t even doing at all before (like sending out email newsletters).

There is also the added benefit that you look more professional, and can even have team members working for you with the help of your tools from different locations. It’s not like everything has to be written in a single notebook, diary, or on one whiteboard any more.

Cloud-based tools should also help you with your cash-flow and ultimately save you money too. So instead of having to find a chunk of cash to buy a software license once every year or two, you can pay a small amount every month – and because the tools are better, with built-in bells and whistles, they should help you to make more money too.

Have questions about using the cloud to your advantage? Let us know in the comments.