And since the inception of more and more online marketing and social media focussed marketing, the buzzwords seem to have been coming thick and fast: engagement, reach, reputation management, brand building, digital natives, online evangelism … we’ve all heard loads of them.
Cloud computing is the new buzz word of 2010.
And even if you think you know nothing about this new concept, chances are you are already using an application ‘in the cloud’.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand. - Wikipedia.
Given that explanation, platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Slideshare and Skype can reasonably be included in a list of cloud applications – platforms that hold your data (images, video, presentations, voice) and look after it all so you don’t have to worry about them.
However, in this post, I wanted to go through some of the really clever cloud apps that you might be less aware of, but can either save you and your business time, or more importantly, save you and your business money.
In this space, like in so many others online, Google is the major player, with their compilation of cloud platforms known as Google Apps. Wikipedia describes Google Apps as “a service from Google providing independently customizable versions of several Google products under a custom domain name. It features several web applications with similar functionality to traditional office suites, including: Gmail, Google Groups, Google Calendar, Talk, Docs and Sites.”
But, just because they are a major player, doesn’t mean Google has a monopoly on the cloud as you will see below. But let’s start with the Google Apps and the one that is probably the best known, Gmail.
Gmail is a free, advertising-supported [email] serviced provided by Google. Gmail was launched as an invitation-only beta-release on April 1, 2004 and it became available to the general public on February 7, 2007, though still in beta status at the time. As of November 2010, it had 193.3 million users monthly. - Wikipedia.
Gmail is becoming more and more widespread throughout the small business community because it lets small business owners work remotely so much easier. It has increased spam protection, it organises incoming emails from each sender into more of a conversation, rather than just chronologically listing them. Gmail also includes a live chat facility so that you can connect with other Gmail users in real time.
Most importantly, with Gmail you can customise your email address to include your business’ domain name!
Gmail is free.
2. Google Calendar
Google Calendar is a free time-management web application offered by Google. It became available on April 13, 2006, and exited the beta stage in July 2009. Users are required to have a Google account in order to use the software. - Wikipedia.
I use Google Calendar all the time. It is the best way I have found for my V.A.’s to know what I am doing, where I am, and also when they are able to make appointments for clients to meet me and so on. When they make my appointments, they also attach FourSquare details of the meeting point, they can upload images, files and other text including meeting participants’ mobile numbers in case someone gets lost – and best of all – they can share it all among themselves as well as with me!
Google Calendar is free. However, there could be costs from your mobile provider if you choose to use SMS notifications and so on.
3. Google Groups
Google Groups is a service from Google that supports discussion groups … based on common interests. Membership in Google Groups is free of charge and many groups are anonymous. Users can find discussion groups related to their interests and participate in threaded conversations, either through a web interface or by email. They can also start new groups. - Wikipedia.
Google Groups is free.
4. Google Docs
Google Docs is a free, web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, form, and data storage service offered by Google. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users. Data storage of any files up to 1GB each in size was introduced on January 13, 2010. - Wikipedia.
A lot of my web-based and website-based forms are done using Google Docs. The functionality that Docs offers me in being able to integrate, collate and refer to word documents, spreadsheets, presentations and so on is really handy and best of all, stored offsite on Google’s secure servers so I don’t have to worry about space, either in my office or on my computers.
Google Docs is free.
5. Google Sites
Google sites is a structure wiki and web page creation tool offered by Google as part of … Google Apps. [It] started out as Jotspot [and] it was targeted mainly at small-sized and medium-sized businesses. - Wikipedia.
This one was referred to me by a few of my Twitter followers when I was researching this post, but to be honest, I have never used it. I am, however, a massive fan of Wikis like WetPaint, and any application that allows like-minded people (clients or business partners) to collaborate and share information sounds like a good idea to me.
Google Sites is free.
Dropbox is a web-based file hosting service … which uses cloud computing to enable users to store and share files and folders with others across the internet using file synchronization. There are both free and paid services, each with varying options. - Wikipedia.
I love Dropbox and use it all the time. Quite often my small business clients have to send me big files for instance (text, audio or video) and to do that via email is a bit of a nightmare. But they are able to upload the files to Dropbox and I can instantly have access to them, either on my computers or on my phone.
I find it’s also a great way to share images and video that I take as a snapshot on my phone straight to my computer (or someone else’s computer) to then upload to my social media channels and so on.
And the Dropbox on my phone is identical to the Dropbox on my computer which I love.
Dropbox is free but has upgrades to Dropbox Pro 50 which costs $9.99 per month or Dropbox Pro 100 which costs $19.99 per month.
Basecamp is a web-based project management tool launched in 2004. Basecamp primary features are to-do lists, milestone management, forum-like messaging, file sharing, and time tracking. - Wikipedia.
Basecamp has four different plans available starting at $24 per month right up to $149 per month and all accounts have a 30 day free trial.
Highrise is a ‘shared contact management’ web application which supports basic CRM tasks. The application centers around person and company pages, which collate information such as images, notes, and contact detail. - Wikipedia.
Highrise has three different plans available starting at $24 per month right up to $99 per month and all accounts have a 30 day free trial.
Backpack is a web-based personal information manager and intranet for small business. The application has two main functions: user-created pages (which can include text, images and files) and an iCalendar format calendar. Features of the user-created pages include to-do lists, inline photo galleries, notes and file attachments, and page sharing. - Wikipedia.
Backpack has four different plans available starting at $24 per month right up to $149 per month and all accounts have a 30 day free trial.
Campfire is a business-oriented online chat service. The application uses Ajax technology for real time communication. To use the application, users must either create a new chat room or be invited to one. Unless a chat room is specifically chosen to be “off the record”, browsable transcripts of chats and uploaded files are stored for future reference. - Wikipedia.
Campfire has four different plans available starting at $12 per month right up to $99 per month and all accounts have a 30 day free trial.
Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for notetaking and archiving available in a paid version or a more restricted, advertising-supported, ‘free’ version. A ‘note’ can be a piece of formattable text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, a photograph, a voice memo, or a handwritten ‘ink’ note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can then be sorted into folders, tagged, annotated, edited, given comments, and searched. - Wikipedia.
Evernote is my current favourite cloud app. I am always finding new ways to use it in my everyday life both personally and business related.
It allows my usual stream of consciousness to actually be useful instead of just having my thoughts, ideas, research and other random notions escaping to the atmosphere never to return!
I make notes, record video clips, take photos of interesting offers or other blog-worthy ideas and then tag everything on Evernote which thankfully collates and keeps everything in an organised place where I can find and use it all at a later date.
Evernote has, for me, replaced the clunky way I use to have to record everything in the Notes of my phone – usually never looked at again.
Best part is when I put something on Evernote on my phone it automatically puts it onto Evernote on my computer as well (and vice versa) – really handy.
Evernote is free but you can also upgrade to Evernote Premium for $5 per month or $45 for a year.
Xero is an online accounting software product for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as personal finance. [It] allows business owners and their employers, accountants, bookkeepers and other financial advisors access to up-to-date financial records in real-time with the only system requirement being a suitably-configured internet browser. - Wikipedia.
Xero has pricing plans from $29 per month but also has a free trial where you “pay nothing until you’re ready”.
PayCycle Inc. is an online payroll service started in 1999 by Rene Lacerte and Martin Gates. [It] was the first company to introduce a completely internet-based payroll service. - Wikipedia.
PayCycle isn’t free but has a free trial for 30 days and then the first two months after that are just $9.99 each.
WorkflowMax allows you and your staff to track time, manage jobs, create quotes, purchase orders and invoices. Using the advanced reporting, measure how productive your team is, whether you’re on schedule and more importantly how much money you are making on each job. - WorkFlowMax website.
WorkFlowMax has five different pricing plans from $25 per month for solo operators up to $199 per month for unlimited users.
LogMeIn is a suite of software services that provides remote access to computers over the internet. The various product versions are designed for both end users and professional help desk personnel. - Wikipedia.
LogMeIn Free is, obviously, free. LogMeIn Pro is an upgrade that’s available and includes file transferring, remote printing, desktop sharin and more costs $69.99 for 1 computer for a year but also includes a free trial.
Carbonite is an online backup service available to both Windows and Mac users that provides unlimited backup space to consumers and small businesses. It is named after carbonite, the fictional substance used to freeze Han Solo in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. - Wikipedia.
Carbonite has saved me more than once with file recovery and back up issues – most notably, that I am rubbish at backing stuff up. It is definitely worth the yearly fee.
Carbonite costs $54.95 for a year but also has a free trial.
Quickly and easily save ideas and information you want to remember. Springpad automatically categorizes your stuff and enhances it with useful links. Share your stuff, set reminders and get alerts to relevant news, offers and deals. - Springpad Website.
Springpad is free and is available as a web version as well as for iPhone, iPad and Android.
Did you know … that The Bowditch Group can help you with discovering which tasks and projects could be done ‘in the cloud’? We can show you how to work more efficiently and, more importantly, save money by using cloud applications rather than your own servers or – even worse – do stuff on paper!!! If you would like to find out how I might be able to help you with cloud computing, call me TODAY on 02 8006 2498 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cloud computing is this year’s buzz word. What will be the buzz word for 2011?
Which of the above applications do you use regularly and would you recommend them to other small business owners? And which cloud computing applications have I missed?
Please let us know in the comments below. When you leave a comment on this site, it appears straight away – no signing up, no waiting for the comment to be moderated – it will appear below straight after you have posted it.
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