Thursday, July 7, 2011

CRM in the Cloud: Part 1.5 of 3

Just a quick note on CRM (customer relationship management / contact management) and why the cloud (internet based) is better than installing a software based contact database on your computer.

My less than one year old custom built computer from a local computer supplier turned out to be a lemon. (but they are replacing it free of charge).  My computer problems, however, perfectly illustrate the point of cloud based computing.

While my problematic main desktop computer has been constantly crashing, I've been able to easily keep up with things using my laptop because most of my data is now kept in cloud based services.

  • Freshbooks.com - all of my invoicing is cloud based
  • Shoeboxed.com - all of my receipt and expense tracking is cloud based
  • Outright.com - my accounting and reports are cloud based, and pull data from Freshbooks and Shoeboxed.
  • Expenser.com - my mileage trackign is cloud based, and also feeds to Outright accounting
  • Highrise - all of my new customer information and updates are done in this cloud based CRM/contact management system.
  • BidSketch.com - all of my proposals are cloud based
  • Dropbox.com - all of my personal and business files are automatically backed up to the cloud and synced to my laptop
  • IMAP email instead of POP3 email - all of my email (inbox, sent mail, specific folders, outbox, drafts) is perfectly synced no matter where or how I access it.

So, my saving grace in the face of a computer that crashed 2-4 times per day was that just about everything I do now is cloud based using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) internet based business solutions.

By contrast, I still have a lot of old data stuck in my ACT customer database.  I still have to manually sync my laptop and desktop versions of ACT. When I don't sync them for a few weeks, I get a warning that the sync will be disabled unless I synchronize very soon (always a friendly idea to threaten your users with data disruption!).  

And in preparation for swapping my lemon computer for a new one, I had to figure out how best to backup and prepare my ACT customer database.  Well... I found the instructions online and there are 19 steps I have to take.  And most of that was written in techy language not easy for the average user to understand.  Plus, I have to reinstall the ACT software on the new computer and then reestablish the sync with my laptop.  Last time I did this, I ended up having ACT tech support on the phone and doing remote control support for over five hours!  So I'm still prepared for the worst.

But, at least I know that for all of my current and active customers, I have all of their latest information and notes easily available via any web browser on any computer. And I know that all of my business financials and business files are also available to me securely in the cloud.  

So I think it is official... I am divorcing traditional software as much as I can and I'm moving to a virtual life in the  cloud.  I hope you'll join me!



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by Brian Baer, BaerMarketingNetwork.com
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New Arts Access Website

Just launched a new non-profit site: http://www.ArtsAccessInc.com. Please check it out. And take our 5-second test .

This simple design actually packs a lot more punch than meets the eye.

  • Not only can you change the font size for easier reading, you can also change the color scheme / background contrast.  You can change any page from the default white background to a gray scale page or to a black background with white print. Why? The audience for this site has a substantial number of vision impaired people.
     
  • The "join" form integrates with a cloud based CRM database / contact manager. So whenever somebody signs up, all of their data is automatically and immediately entered into the database and classified with various tags depending on which interests they checked.
     
  • Every single page has content management (CMS) built-in so that the site owners can change and update content on any page, any time.

So while this is out of our traditional realm of industrial or building trades contractor websites, it was still an interesting experience.  

By the way, if you believe in their mission of "Making the arts accessible to people with disabilities", then please make a contribution at http://www.artsaccessinc.org/donate.shtml.