Best Business Apps: Getting Started in the Cloud

Best Business Apps: Getting Started in the Cloud

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082211SOCIAL.jpgI run a small business, Write Technology, where I specialize in training people (and designing training) on social media. My business is just me, though, so I need to be continuously connected. I’m often on the road, and even when I’m home, you can often find me camped out in the Groove Coffee House in Covington.


Because of my need for mobility, I work from a small and light 11-inch Macbook Air. When WiFi isn’t available, I use a Verizon Mifi, which is a credit-card-sized gadget that taps into Verizon’s 4G service to provide a rather fast and reliable Internet connection. And my world? It exists in the Cloud.


Cloud apps are becoming more and more common. The Cloud itself, while it sounds light and fluffy and fun, is really a series of giant data centers, with giant air conditioners, spread across the U.S. and owned by companies such as Facebook, Dell, Yahoo and Google. Yes, if you’re on Facebook – and who isn’t? – you’re already in the Cloud. When you can access your data from anywhere, and it no longer lives exclusively on your hard drive, you’re using the Cloud. Although anywhere access is a definite plus, the downside to the Cloud is that you are no longer in complete control of your own data. Regardless, I entrust most of my life to the Cloud.


I use Dropbox to easily trade files between my Macbook Pro, which sits on my desk, and my Air. Dropbox lets you share files and folders with anyone. You can have 2 GB for free or upgrade to larger amounts and paid plans. I use a 50 GB account without a problem. The selective sync option on Dropbox also lets me control what documents and folders I can see from which computer. Additionally, Dropbox is available on my Android phone, my iPod Touch and my iPad. No matter which gadget I’m using, I can access files in my Dropbox. This cross-device functionality has proven rather important to me. Recently, at a client interview, I didn’t have a paper copy of my résumé. But I was able to pull it up from Dropbox on my iPad and reference it that way.


Another cross-device, Cloud-based app that has changed how I work is Evernote. Again, you can have a free account or access more bandwidth by upgrading to a premium account. I have Evernote on all of my devices, and I use it for just about everything. I take notes in Evernote, send important, must-be-saved emails to it, send photos to it and scan and upload receipts to it. Evernote allows me to send to specific Notebooks (like folders) via email. For conferences, I often record audio or video, and I can attach those to the Notebooks as well, essentially keeping all of my notes and media together for each event. Being able to call up these notes and files on a moment’s notice from my laptop, phone or iPad has come in handy countless times.


Last year, I started putting 90 percent of my invoices and documents into Google Docs. Google Docs is completely free. You can use it to store your Microsoft Office and PDF documents. You can also create new documents. I often work on presentations and documents with people on the West Coast. Instead of sending documents back and forth, we simply work on the document simultaneously. Google Docs lets you comment on changes, or you can watch the edits happen in real time, as you and your colleague modify the document. This real-time collaboration has changed the way I work. Because Google Docs is web-based, it is accessible from any of my Internet-enabled devices.


These Cloud-based apps have made my work processes easier, making it simpler for me to work from anywhere and instantly collaborate with colleagues located thousands of miles away. There are many more Cloud-based apps I depend on, but hopefully this served as a useful guide to get you started in the Cloud.