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Best free cloud apps for business in 2020

Best free cloud apps for business
(Image credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock)

The rise in cloud apps for business has been made possible by the provision of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms running through cloud services. The result is a profusion of business apps, most of them paid-for services. 

Most cloud apps are paid for platforms, but a number of these offer a free service tier which offer significant features, which means they are perfectly fine to use for the smallest of businesses.

These free cloud-based apps also offer the advantage of being able to offer cloud storage, which means you can sync and save your documents online. This also means being able to switch between using your desktop cmoputer and mobile device. And because all you need is a browser to run these services, it doesn't matter which operating system you're using, whether Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and so on.

The range of service areas covered by these free apps is also quite impressive, and can include anything from collaboration software and project management tools for general business use, as well as accounting software and credit card payment processors.

Here then we'll feature some of the best business apps that are either free, or else offer free tiers that are actually useful.

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Best free cloud apps for business - at a glance

  1. Bitrix24
  2. Paypal
  3. Slack
  4. Wave
  5. Google Drive

(Image credit: Bitrix24)

1. Bitrix24

Collaborate with the best of them using Bitrix’s free tier

Personalized invoices
Generous free tier
Some support issues

Bitrix24 is a collaboration platform which was founded in 2012. It provides a suite of social collaboration, communication and management tools.

The solution has a huge variety of functions. It is geared towards any size business. Bitrix 24 centralizes all collaboration and communications from its user dashboard. From here users can organize and track customer interactions, log all store lead data, generate sales reports and perform segmentation of target audiences.

Bitrix24 allows users to create personalized invoices for clients. This is done through automatically inserting all client data.

Users can create a name for their Britrix24 system upon registering. This will immediately display your ‘Activity Stream’. Users have the option of adding a message at the top of the stream for the rest of the network to view.

Files, events and processes can be uploaded to share with your colleagues. Adding new users to Bitrix24 CRM is straightforward and hassle free. Admins can assign departments and groups to each user.

Bitrix 24 free tier includes 12 users, 1 admin and 5GB of online storage.

There are paid versions which provide more features and online capacity, starting from $19 for two or more users, with increasingly expensive tiers according to the range of features and storage limits required.

(Image credit: Paypal )

2. Paypal

Free and easy online payment processor

No monthly fees
Flexible payments
Global currencies

Paypal is one of the simplest and easiest to use online payment process. Whether you're looking to sell through a retail website, charge for services, or send money internationally, Paypal provides a really accessible service.

Sign up is easy enough, though expect to have to go through basic money-laundering checks at the beginning, which means Paypal adding a couple of small amounts to your business bank account and you let them know what these were, to prove you are connected to that account. The process takes a few days, but once done you're ready to take payments.

If you're looking to charge for services, such as for consulting or through freelancing, you can send one-off charges via email through Paypal, or set up a subscription system that allows you to take regular payments according to whichever parameters you use.

For retail, it you're using any of the common shopping cart software platforms, such as Woocommerce, Magento, or similar, then Paypal is usually available as a plugin option, though there may be a small charge from the developer to provide this. 

The basic service level of Paypal is free, with a service charge of around 2.7% which is both common and reasonable. Paid tiers are available at a monthly costs for higher volume merchants which can reduce payment processing fees, with additional offline processing options available.

Overall, Paypal is one of the most popular online payment processors because it's so simple and easy to use. It's also flexible and able to work with most currencies, making it an excellent choice for global selling.

(Image credit: Slack)

3. Slack

Never slack off again thanks to this amazing collaboration tool

Video features
Integration with Dropbox and Google Drive
Tricky to master

Slack (Searchable Log of all Conversation and Knowledge) is a handy cloud-based tool that keeps all messaging and files in one place. This application is available for all mobile devices and can also be accessed via the web.

Slack was originally brought to life to be used as an online tool for the game Glitch, which is now defunct. It was officially launched in 2013 as a way of helping people collaborate online.

The Slack channel system enables businesses to divide up work based upon teams, clients or in whatever way you need. Employees can join and leave the chats as they see fit. It also has a handy video feature where you can speak to members of your team face to face.

The Slack directory integrates with over 1000 apps which include Dropbox and Google Drive. You can drag and drop files, images and videos directly into Slack if needs be. The app also includes a handy screen sharing tool.

Slack has three tiers. The first tier is free and includes search for up to 10,000 messages, 10 apps and integrations and 1-to-1 video calls. This might be too limited depending on the size of your team.

Paid plans start with the Standard, priced from $6.67 per user per month, which adds secure collaboration as well as communications with video conferencing. The Professional plan from $12.50 per user per month adds advanced compliance with identity management, including SSO, as well as dedicated support. An Enterprise package offers a custom quote according to features required. 

(Image credit: Wave)

4. Wave

The best free accounting and invoicing tool

Dedicated invoice tool
PayPal and Credit Card processing
Mainly for small businesses

Wave provides a suite of financial services and online software for small businesses. It was founded in 2009.

The platforms accounting features are free of charge. It is geared not only towards small business but it also suitable for the freelance sector. 

Wave has a dedicated setup feature. From here users can decide what applications to access first: general bookkeeping, invoicing or payroll. Although users have to pay to access Wave’s payroll services.

Users can utilize the bank reconciliation feature. Businesses can also link their bank accounts, PayPal accounts and other relevant data sources for transaction records.

Wave has a dedicated invoicing tool where users can choose from a variety of templates. Invoices can be sent via email and credit cards can be processed through the platform.

Overall, it makes for an easy and accessible tool for running business accounts, but it's almost certainly aimed at small companies rather than large ones.

(Image credit: Google)

5. Google Drive

Whether you need to word process, create spreadsheets or display presentations Google Drive can hold them all

Truly cross platform
15GB Free
Some UI issues

Google Drive is a cloud file storage service provider launched by Google in 2012. It encompasses all of Google’s own office suite such as Docs, Sheets and Slides. 

It is not just a cloud storage provider, Google Drive also allows users to create, edit and collaborate on documents online. It is a first choice for most Android users as it comes pre-installed on most Android smartphones and tablets. However, it can be easily integrated to use with iOS devices and has a web interface, which can be used across all platforms.

Google Drive very rarely has any issues with compatibility and you can upload and edit files in most formats such as RTF, PDF and DOC.  The service recently introduced a Microsoft Office plugin which now allows users to edit and store files from Microsoft apps they have installed without worrying about any incompatibility issues. 

Google Account users get 15GB of storage free which can be used by Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos. This means you can not only save and back-up your files but you can also save emails and photos on the drive. Google are currently launching Google One which will allow users to pay a certain rate per month in order to increase their storage.

Some users have noted that the Google Drive interface isn’t always intuitive.

Cloud business apps

Other free cloud apps for business to consider

There is a wide variety of free software available for business use. Some is completely free, while others offer free-tiers with limited features. Here we'll cover some of the other free software apps you can run from the cloud to help with the running of your business:

Evernote is most famous for being a note-taking app, but really it can be so much more. Aside from the basic note-taking functions, it can be treated more like a personal organiser, storing documents, images, video and audio together. Additionally, there is also the option to include document scanning which can be incredibly useful to run from a cell phone or other mobile device, especially when it comes to digitizing documents. The basic Evernote package is free, but there are paid upgrades available to unlock more features.

Trello is a great piece of productivity software that allows teams to work together collaboratively on projects. The team might include staff or co-workers, but could also include freelancers and suppliers. It's a great way to see who is working on which projects and what needs prioritizing. It may not be a top-level project management suite, but it's a great starter that's simple and easy to use. While there are paid plans that open up the features and limits, the basic free tier provides full-functionality for many needs.

Zapier is a neat little app that works with many other apps to automate processes between them. For example, if you receive a business email with an attachment, Zapier could then automatically save it to Dropbox, then alert you about this on Slack. It can also be used to cross post social media to different platforms and automate CRM tasks. It's a neat little app that can be a real time saver, and while there are paid versions to work with premium apps, the free version is worth playing with to get an idea of how it can work for you.

Square's Point of Sale (POS) software is worth taking a look at if you run your own mom and pop shop and want an easy way to process sales. Although Square sell hardware such as tills and car readers, their POS software can turn your cell or mobile into a cash till for taking orders. Even better, it's free to use, with no monthly fees, and the transaction fees are some of the best on the market.

Google Analytics is probably one of the best tools you can use for growing your online business, because it shows where your customers are coming from, where they are going, and how many end up buying a product or service. You can set up goals to get a better idea of your sales funnel, and combined with Google's Adwords marketing program you can develop a clear sales and marketing strategy, that allows you to keep track of your Return on Investment (ROI) in real-time.