How to save time and improve your team’s productivity using cloud automation software.
In July’s INTHEBLACK, we looked at why you might not want to keep your business data online and how to create a cloud-like setup in your office, but real cloud applications have their own advantages.
One is their ability to connect with other cloud applications, enabling you to automate previously time-consuming tasks. Cloud software makers have worked out that they can offer users many more functions by cooperating with one another.
Some do this by offering application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow third-party developers to create apps that integrate with their applications. For example, Xero, Shopify and MailChimp not only integrate with each other to automate accounting, e-commerce and email marketing tasks, but also offer large ecosystems of third-party apps.
Cloud automation platforms
Even when cloud applications don’t directly connect to each other, you can often use a third-party platform such as IFTTT, Zapier and OneSaas. All have one thing in common: they integrate with a large selection of cloud applications, working in the background to connect to the apps, access data and automate tasks.
However, there are key differences. IFTTT is a simple tool for automating everyday tasks using largely personal cloud apps, while Zapier and OneSaas offer more advanced automation with supported applications being mostly business-focused. To use IFTTT (which stands for “if this then that”) you simply sign up to the platform, along with the cloud applications that you want to integrate, then select from a large library of pre-existing “applets” – or very small applications – to automate the tasks you want.
It’s pretty easy to create your own applets too, selecting from a wide range of “triggers” and “actions”, although it is limited to using only two cloud apps for each applet.
Zapier works in a similar way, offering a library of pre-existing “zaps” and the ability to create your own – and you can use more than two cloud apps to create more advanced, multi-step “workfows”. OneSaas also offers sophisticated automations using two or more cloud applications, although you have to manually configure its “integrations”.
IFTTT is free, Zapier is free for limited use or US$20 per month to access all its supported apps, while OneSaas starts at A$29 per month with access to limited apps. Here are just some of the many pre-existing IFTTT applets and Zapier zaps that can automate business tasks.
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4 time-saving applets
- Capture email receipts, orders and invoices Using Gmail search, this applet finds and syncs emails with receipts, orders and invoices to a Google Sheet.
- Tell your phone to create a note in Evernote Got a bright idea? Tell it to Siri or Google Assistant which, thanks to these applets, automatically creates a note in Evernote.
- Sync new Dropbox files to Google Drive Why back up to only one cloud service? This applet automatically syncs new files added to Dropbox to a Google Drive account. There’s a similar Dropbox applet for Microsoft OneDrive [A1].
- Add hashed tweets to a spreadsheet Want to keep track of what’s said on Twitter about your company? This applet adds tweets with a specific hashtag to a Google Sheet .
4 zaps to boost productivity
- Turn emails into notes in OneNote By adding a label to a Gmail message, you can turn it into a note in OneNote with this Zapier zap.
- Get a summary of Xero invoices emailed to you This zap sends a digest of new Xero sales invoices to your Gmail account on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule.
- Automatically print emails and send Slack messages Handy if you regularly print purchase orders or other attachments, this zap uses Google Cloud Print to print new emails that match a Gmail search and then sends Slack notifications to let you know.
- Add SurveyMonkey respondents to a MailChimp list Despite the names, these two cloud apps are not related, but this zap allows you to run a survey or competition that will automatically generate leads for your email marketing list .
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