If you’re searching for efficiency strategies for your small business, take a look at cloud computing options. Cloud computing lets you run business applications via the Internet on another company’s network, reducing your own hardware and software demands.  The number of cloud computing applications is steadily growing and gaining popularity amongst small businesses.

With cloud computing, you can run everything remotely including email, word processing software, and video games.  Cloud computing refers to the use of a network of remote servers, computers and data storage systems to store, manage and process data. The name is derived from the cloud shape often used in system diagrams.

Is Cloud Computing Safe?

You might well wonder how cloud computing affects the security and privacy of your small business. After all, you’re entrusting crucial data to another organization. While reliable privacy and security measures should be top priority for any cloud computing business, be sure to use an established, reputable service and research their security measures.

6 Handy Cloud Applications for Small Business

1. Google Drive/Dropbox

Store and access your photos, documents and videos on the web, on your computer and on your phone. Once you install Google Drive or Dropbox on your computers and devices, any changes you make to a file will be updated across the board. You can also share access to files with co-workers. Google Drive offers 5 GB of storage for free. More space starts at $2.49 a month. Dropbox provides 2 to 18 GB for free, depending on whether you refer others. Pro and business plans begin at $9.99 a month. Get started with Google Drive here or take a tour of Dropbox.

2. FreshBooks

FreshBooks is “cloud accounting” for small businesses. With tasks like online invoicing and payments, time tracking and on-the-spot expense tracking with your mobile device, you can perform accounting tasks on the road. Information is accessible on all your devices and data is backed up by FreshBooks. Try it for free for 30 days. Plans range from $19.95 to $29.95 a month.

3. MailChimp

Keeping in touch with clients is important for any small business. MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks and track results. Customize everything your subscribers see, from sign-up forms to confirmation emails. Choose from pre-designed templates or build your own. Send up to 12,000 emails per month for free to less than 2,000 subscribers. Paid monthly plans range from $10 to $240.

4. Boxmeup

For any small business dealing with inventory, the Boxmeup app offers an innovative way to organize your containers. Create virtual containers and list their contents. Print out a QR code and stick it on the real container. Recipients can scan the code with a smartphone to see or update the contents of the box. This free web application is specially designed for smartphones and has a dedicated Android app.

5. Mint.com

Mint.com/canada is a free, easy way to manage your finances. Organize your bank, credit card, home loan and investment accounts in one place with only one login. The service supports most Canadian financial institutions and uses bank-level security. It categorizes expenses and creates a budget based on your spending history. Alert emails tell you when you’ve spent more than you planned.

6. Simplepay.ca

This “cloud payroll” platform brings you paperless payroll – from capturing time sheets to posting payroll journal entries with no manual data entry. Work in real time with your accountant and create a full audit trail. Manage your payroll with a few clicks with nothing to install or back up. Simplepay.ca connects with your bank and offers seamless direct deposit and deductions remittance to CRA. Prices start at $1.50 per pay run. Generate a quote here.