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    Leveraging the Cloud to Boost Your Bottom Line

    By Adrienne Burke | Yahoo Small Business

    Looking for ways to whittle away some of your fixed costs of doing business? Leave it to a tech company to tell you there’s an app for that.

    Mike Pugh, VP of marketing at J2 Global, is helping his customers bring down their expenses now to prepare themselves for the day minimum wages rise. And he says small businesses can really simplify and streamline their operations by getting rid of the hardware and software that impose fixed costs. He recommends moving any front- or back-office function that is not adding value onto the cloud where companies [like J2] provide services to manage them professionally.

    Here’s his advice for engaging the latest cloud-based apps to save dollars.

    Ditch your fax. “Faxes are key to commerce,” Pugh says. “Accountants, lawyers, real estate agents, and loan officers love them.” But cloud-based fax services mean that no startup company ever need invest in a fax machine again.

    Do a Yahoo search for “cloud based fax services” to find the plethora of offerings—some of them even free—that enable small businesses to send paperwork to a client’s fax machine (or receive faxes from one) without ever touching an antiquated facsimile machine.

    Pugh says mobile apps can also allow a small business owner to use a smartphone camera to take a picture of a document and send it to a fax machine. Or, if your lawyer prefers faxing contracts to you, you can receive them on your phone and sign them with finger.

    Cut the cord on old-school phone systems. Hardware-based office phone systems are not long for this world, Pugh says. “Small businesses spend thousands of bucks on installing phone systems, and they don’t fit the modern model of distributed work.”

    Instead, he says, cloud-based systems let businesses create numbers with area codes in any city—“If you’re a Los Angeles-based coffee roaster but you want a Colombian phone number for your South American partners, you can get it”—and the cloud-based systems even offer menu trees, such as “press one for Mike, 2 for Esmerelda,” and other options that help customers get to where they belong the same way the old-school systems do.

    Pugh says calls can be routed anywhere in the world, and the system can be programmed so that calls, for instance, are routed to staffs' mobile phones between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, or to voicemail after hours, where they can be transcribed and forwarded via text. “Calls regarding purchases can get forwarded to your fulfillment department, legal issues can be forwarded directly to your lawyer, and call screening features let you chose whether to answer or send a call to voicemail." It's all about saving the small business owner time and effort.

    Pugh says his company’s mission is to make it so simple to set up an office infrastructure that “if you had a brilliant startup idea, you could go home and, in an hour or two sitting on your couch with your credit card, set up a fully configured business suite off your personal technology.” Just don’t quit your day job till you know how you will pay that credit card bill.

    Yahoo Small Business Services