The winners in the cloud-computing revolution so far have been vendors catering to big business. Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Workday and ServiceNow built multibillion-dollar companies by shifting massive enterprise applications to the Web, uprooting traditional software suppliers in the process.
A new crop of emerging cloud players is creating software for the millions of mom-and-pop shops, pulling some into the digital world for the first time. Goodbye paper spreadsheets and time punch machines.
Tough Pups in Corning, New York, is the quintessential new buyer. Founded a decade ago by Leo Sanders, Tough Pups is a pet day care and training facility with six employees and less than $1 million in revenue.
In the past year, Sanders' job as owner and "top dog" has gotten a lot easier. He's transferred his customer support to an automated offering from Zendesk, moved his physical punch clock to software from Deputy, implemented Bench's bookkeeping program and swapped out payroll tools from Intuit's QuickBooks in favor of ZenPayroll.
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Recently, while on a dog walk, Sanders received an email on his iPhone alerting him that payroll was due. He quickly paid all his employees from his device using one hand, while holding a leash in the other. His provider, ZenPayroll, charges $25 a month, plus a small fee per user. Sanders spends a total of around $300 a month on his cloud suite.
"I don't have a lot of time to sit down and dedicate specific blocks of time to do certain tasks—it can be very disruptive to my day," said Sanders, 38, in an interview between appointments. "When it comes to companies that almost automate tasks like this, it levels the playing field."
Businesses like Tough Pups now have more resources available to discover and use the services that fit their needs. ZenPayroll, a San Francisco-based start-up that's processing more than $1.1 billion in annual payroll by focusing on clients with fewer than 100 employees, announced partnerships Wednesday with more than a dozen companies that are similarly attempting to simplify the back office.
Whether it's payroll (ZenPayroll, Zenefits), expense reports and receipts (Expensify, Receipt Bank), time tracking (TSheets, When I Work), accounting (Xero, FreshBooks) or scheduling (Deputy), this loose consortium of start-ups has built integrations so that data going into one program can sync with the others.