I work in the Cloud. What is “The Cloud”? It is a collection of computing services that you can access from any place and from any device. You can store your data in a virtual storage location and use your phone, a computer, or a tablet to access it. Music, documents, databases are all now accessible in the cloud. I am always being asked about what tools and vendors I recommend for people who want to use the cloud. Here are my top top cloud computing providers recommendations:
My List of the Top Cloud Computing Providers:
Nozbe – A great solution for staying organized and getting things done. I would be lost without this one. I keep track of my Projects, Tasks, and all the various things floating in my mind. Get them out of the mind and into a system. Keeps the brain free for more creative tasks.
Evernote – Capture everything, and I mean everything, in Evernote. Coolest feature is the ability to OCR (recognize writing) on photos of whiteboards. I use it for meeting notes, a place to capture scans, storing restaurant info, web clippings, etc. All searchable, like my own personal Google repository. In fact, it integrates with Google, so it will remind you on a Google search when you have something in your Evernote. You can store documents in Evernote, but I tend to only store reference documents such as manuals, brochures, etc. For working documents, I use Dropbox.
Document and File Storage
Dropbox – I don’t backup anymore. I use Dropbox. Essentially it is a realtime backup of everything on your hard drive (provided you save everything in the dropbox folder) and it allows you to access all your files from the web, or even your smart phone. With Windows 7 you can set your preferred “My Documents” folder. I simply set it to the Dropbox folder. Now all my documents are automatically sync’d to the cloud.
Google Docs – With Google Docs, you can collaborate on documents such as word processing docs, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. These documents are stored in Google Docs, so you do not have to email them around. Every change is immediately saved, so you have complete revision history. People complain that Google Docs is not as feature rich as Microsoft Office applications. I think that Google has included what most people need. I’d say 90% of the time, I do not use the really advanced features of Office apps. I just want to type a letter, do a simple spreadsheet, or save a copy of a Word document I received. These are easily done in Google Docs.
Now Google Docs is transitioning to Google Drive. They are competing with Dropbox, Box.com and others to provide document storage. I still use Dropbox more, but I am starting to use Google Drive with more and more collaborative documents.
LastPass – a great password keeper. Generate secure passwords and keep all of them in one place.
Music and Media in the Cloud
Amazon Cloud Drive – Amazon Cloud drive allows you to store all your music online and when you buy music from Amazon (it is cheaper than iTunes!) you store it on the cloud drive. You can still download, but why?
This holds true for Kindle. You can now carry a ton of textbooks for school in a single device weighing about 6 ounces. All of your media (books) is stored in the Amazon cloud.
Google Music is another cloud-based music system. I am getting to become more of a fan of Google Play and their cloud based services such as Music, Books and Magazines. Also, I find the Google Reader easier to read then Kindle. Although, I have to use my phone or computer to read as I don’t yet have a tablet. The tablet I am planning on buying is the Google Nexus 7. Then I will have a very competitive tablet for reading books and all my media needs.
I personally use Picasa by Google. But I also use Dropbox as my primary storage. Here is how it works for me:
I take photos on my phone. I have the Dropbox autosync setup and my photos are then moved from my phone to Dropbox. I can then organize them when I get home on my computer using the Picasa Desktop application. Then if I want to share, I sync the shared folder to Picasa Web. I can also copy them up to Facebook if I so choose. But now Picasa is intimately integrated into Google+, so you can use G+ to share photos as well. I know most people are now using Facebook as their photo repository, but for some reason, I just don’t want that to be my primary photo storage.
Many people use Flickr, but I have not really used it. I like how I can have everything linked and backed up. Flickr is one more storage that I don’t have a purpose for at this point.
Update: Picasa is now obsolete, so Google+ is now the photo storage location. I have my photos autouploaded from my phone and they are stored in a hidden folder. I can then choose which photos to share and to who they are shared with.
Contact Management/Customer Relationship Management
Salesforce.com – Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m partial to this one as I am a Certified Salesforce.com Consultant, but it is the best tool for CRM and tracking your contacts and sales. It can be used for a lot more too. I have built tools in Salesforce that have nothing to do with CRM. Check it out.
Accessing the Cloud
Of course if you are going to access the cloud, you need a good browser. Here is what I use:
- On my computer: Google Chrome, with Firefox as a backup.
- On my phone: The Dolphin browser, and occasionally Chrome – I lean more towards Dolphin as it is fast and lightweight.
- On a tablet (if I owned one :( ) Same as the phone options at this point.
Bookmark and Share this page, as I will add to the list as I run across new cloud computing providers. Post a comment and let me know what you recommend.