How do firms communicate on the road with the cloud?

The cloud brings flexibility to small business '“ especially for mobile workers. So how do employees take advantage of its capabilities when on the road?
Shackleton Technologies managing director Steve Ross. Picture: ContributedShackleton Technologies managing director Steve Ross. Picture: Contributed
Shackleton Technologies managing director Steve Ross. Picture: Contributed

If you are a small business owner or manager, chances are you travel as part of your role in one way or another.

From client meetings to doorstep deliveries, working on the road is nothing new, but travel used to involve annoying downtime for anyone wanting to communicate effectively with colleagues back in the office. For a small business, any dip in productivity can be a big issue.

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Cloud computing is solving that problem by delivering a comprehensive set of remote productivity tools for smartphones, laptops and tablets.

These apps and software platforms mean that even on the road, employees can remain in close communication with colleagues and clients – co-ordinating, collaborating and progressing projects wherever they are.

How are SMEs using cloud communication?

Innovative tools: For travelling employees to communicate with the office and each other, they first need the right tools – which means equipping them with personal devices and the right software. Small businesses have plenty of innovative options both for software and hardware: browse platforms like Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs for a comprehensive catalogue of work apps available for Android and iOS devices.

Collaboration and work: Ensuring employees can work together effectively is crucial to small business success. Platforms like Office 365, Google and Dropbox enable SME employees to collaborate productively and effectively on the road, with capabilities to not only create and edit project documents via personal devices, but comment on them in real time.

Discussion and meetings: Work meetings can take place within the cloud. Platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts enable travelling employees to attend meetings or contact clients virtually, while informal work chat is also possible. Instant messaging apps like Slack and Openfire represent easy and affordable ways to keep work conversations going out of the office.

Deliveries and drivers: Small businesses with delivery routes or other regular transport needs benefit greatly from cloud communication. While drivers may not need to chat constantly with the office, their progress can be tracked in the cloud with platforms like Salesforce1 – with information sent back and forth to customers and colleagues in real time. In practice, this means keeping customers updated on deliveries and helps increase your business’ transport efficiency.

Remote work: While not necessarily an “on the road” concern, the cloud delivers unprecedented remote work capabilities to small businesses – vital when employees are unable to reach their premises. Last year, businesses in and around Edinburgh were disrupted by the closure of the Forth Road Bridge and remote-work capabilities helped limit the impact for hundreds of companies. You never know when disaster may strike – the cloud is a safety net to keep the wheels of your business turning on and off the road.

• Steve Ross is managing director of Shackleton Technologies