Recently, I was reading about how cloud computing is changing the face of small business. It’s definitely true. As an example, businesses are now implementing a learning management system via the cloud to improve the productivity of their workforce. Cloud computing offers endless apps and software for improving any business structure as well as for your own personal world.
So, I decided that I would layout a few of the cloud apps that are must have:
Evernote is absolutely one of my favoritye applications. Since putting the Android version on my smartphone, I use this all the time. You can add notes, take pictures, store audio, and a host of other things. Many call it their brain. Makes a lot of sense when you consider the wealth of information you can store in it. Because it’s in the cloud, the information can be pretty much instantly shared between smartphone, PC, laptop, web, etc. Awesome tool.
I’m not sure why any small business would choose to host their own email anymore. Hosted email is simple, accessible from anywhere, has huge capabilities, and is fairly inexpensive. In the case of GMail, it is very inexpensive, has an awesome spam filter, large storage amounts, and many other excellent features of GMail. When you look at the business site of GMail (Google Apps), you can setup your own professional domain and control most of the features for your business users. GMail is a must have.
3. Google Docs
Google Docs started off as a pretty rudimentary online document and spreadsheet editor. Although it offered online storage of docs and spreadsheets it didn’t have many of the capabilities of installed packages. Well, that is changing very rapidly. Google has added a ton of features to support users. It still isn’t quite MS Office, but it is a very viable free tool for people to use. It makes collaboration very easy through it’s sharing mechanism. In this way people anywhere in world can work together on documents and spreadsheets.
Online calendaring is an excellent tool. Google’s calendar is extremely easy to use. Sends reminders to email. Can be integrated with Outlook and smartphones. You can even publish calendar information to the public over the Internet.
Quickbooks Online provides quite a few of the capabilities of installed Quickbooks. Being hosted in the cloud makes it very easy to use by small business people who need the portability. On top of that, it makes it extremely easy to have your accountant check your work if you need that kind of oversight.
6. Google Voice
Looking for an easy way to disconnect your clients from your mobile phone number? Google Voice is the answer. Simply setup a GV number and then you can specify how it should handle phone calls. You can configure it to ring different phone numbers, send calls to voicemail, and even transcribe voicemails and send them to your email. There are many rumors of additional options that will make the tool even better: fax service, desktop dialer, multiple phone numbers, etc. Here’s some more information about Voice: Finally we have a Voice.
Trying to remember what you have to get done this week? RememberTheMilk is a great tool to help with that. It has integration with smartphones, web browsers, and even Twitter. If you need something to keep those client follow-ups in line… check out RememberTheMilk.
We are constantly hearing how we should back up our computers. Then backups should be stored offsite. Who has time for all the hassle? Mozy does. You can install Mozy on your machines and it will automatically backup your files in an encrypted manner to an online file store. This is absolutely something that is a no brainer for people who don’t want to hassle with this every day.
Okay maybe Pandora isn’t a MUST HAVE for business. Or… maybe it is. It is amazing when you’re sitting in front of that computer trying to get that project done or that estimate out the door. It’s constantly playing music that suits your tastes even though you may not even know that you like that artist. Very cool.
PayPal is an excellent way for small businesses to be able to accept online payment. It’s extremely simple to setup and very affordable. You can simply set it up and add a link to your site for service payments. Then you add your PayPal information to all of your invoices and away you go. Additionally PayPal can be extended to support Shopping Carts and many other more advanced tools if you are interested in those things.
Skype is an amazing tool for communicating with people all over the world. You can simply connect and have discussions with people anytime, anywhere. Skype also allows for video conferencing and whiteboarding so you can show the client your ideas in order to get their approval.
How does FaceBook help your business? FaceBook Pages. The Pages functionality is awesome for communicating with your clients and potential clients. Take a look at the article written earlier: Why your business needs a FaceBook Page.
Drop.io is a tool that everyone needs to try. It is a very simple tool but it is very useful. You go to the site, tell it to create a drop, and share files via the drop. Then all you have to do is send out the unique url for your drop and others can access those files. Now, there are many more advanced features but the basic capability is extremely powerful. Check out this review: Drop Those Files!.
So it’s not necessarily just one app… that is true. Zoho is a suite of apps that is available for your use. They offer CRM, Office suite, Mail, and so many more tools. There is a significant amount of functionality here. Take a look.
15. Google Reader
Trying to keep up with all the industry news? Or maybe with those people that you met at the recent conference that were writing a blog? Google Reader is that tool. It is designed to manage your RSS subscriptions. This will allow you to keep up with all of the new information on the sites that your interested in without having to check every site. Recently, I also learned that it does a great job of archiving content as well from my friend Dave. While your checking out Google Reader, why not subscribe to Refocusing Technology to keep up with our updates?
Well, I have to credit Dave on this find as well. TokBox is a very cool tool. It allows you communicate via video in a few different ways. First, videoconferencing. Simplye chat with a friend or you can setup a video chat room and invite people in to chat with you. On top of that basic feature, you can also send video email. You simply record your message and then tell TokBox who to send the video to. It will then email the person and allow them to watch the video.
LogMeIn is an excellent way to access your home computer remotely. Once you have setup your LogMeIn account and then installed the software, you simply go to the LogMeIn website and select the computer you want to access and voila… there is your computer. No configuring your firewall or having to setup VPN software on your machine.
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