The Cloud has proven to have revolutionised the way we work. Even the smallest of businesses now have access to enterprise-grade technologies and applications, while larger enterprises have an even greater scale of technology to work with.
Because the Cloud market has become so saturated, it can be difficult to determine what is worth the investment. It is especially important for small businesses with limited resources to consider what investments are made into the Cloud, as it’s easy to get carried away and invest too much with little return to the business. With that in mind, below are a few of the most useful – and therefore essential – Cloud-based tools and applications.
Using the Cloud for business
One of the greatest advantages of the Cloud is that it allows workers to be more mobile. They’re able to attend more remote meetings, travel to more clients, and still have access to a corporate network in order to collaborate with their teams.
For a mobile strategy to work, however, your sales team are going to need their most critical application – the organisation’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system – in the Cloud. A good Cloud-based CRM application needs to work across any device (and so can be accessed from laptop, tablet, or mobile phone), be highly secure, and be customisable. SugarCRM is a popular choice for these reasons.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of using the Cloud for storage is that it allows for document sharing, as an internal server would, from anywhere in the world. Cloud-based storage is also incredibly cheap, with a small monthly fee replacing the need to continuously buy and upgrade servers.
But be wary – not all Cloud storage solutions are created equal, and many of the consumer tools out there are simply not of an adequate standard for business use. Dropbox, a popular Cloud storage service, for example, is notoriously insecure for business even with two-factor authentication enabled. So if you are working with especially sensitive data, be sure to invest a little more in an enterprise storage solution. It could save a lot of headaches down the track. Microsoft’s storage option, OneDrive, and New Zealand startup, Mega, are both good examples of much more secure storage solutions.
When your workforce is more mobile, it can be difficult to keep everyone on track. For this reason, many organisations that leverage the Cloud also find it useful to invest in a robust collaboration tool. This allows workers to remain on the same page even when they are not physically sitting together in an office.
Microsoft SharePoint is a popular choice for collaboration as it comes with a full suite of communication tools. Sharepoint also integrates closely with Microsoft’s spreadsheet, presentation, and document tools, which are still the most popular productivity software applications out there.
The Cloud can help individuals, too
Of course the Cloud doesn’t need to be all about business. There are many Cloud applications out there designed to help people live happier, healthier lives. It’s important to remember that things could get expensive if you choose to sign up for every Cloud service you encounter. For this reason, we’ve compiled some key Cloud services for individuals that provide maximum bang for the buck.
Protect your home
There are now Cloud-based security devices and services, such as what iVideon offers. It’s easy to set up – you simply connect a camera (even something as cheap as a webcam) to the network, and then you’re able to watch its feed from anywhere, off any device. It’s a great way to give yourself peace of mind that everything at home is in order, especially if you’re going to be away from home for a while.
There are an almost endless series of Cloud-based entertainment services. Spotify, for example, gives you access to as much music as you’d like for a small monthly fee. Netflix, which is launching in Australia in 2015, allows you to stream your favourite movies over any device, from any location, also for a monthly subscription fee. There are also more specialised Cloud services. If you’re a fan of photography, you can buy a specialised memory card and never have to worry about losing a photograph again. With eyefi Mobi, each photo you take will be automatically sent to either your mobile device or laptop, or if you’re in Wi-Fi range, to a Cloud storage service. Regardless of your hobby, it’s very likely that there’s a Cloud-based app for it.
Stay fit and healthy
With the advent of wearable technology, there are now Cloud-based applications that allow you to collect vital data about your health and keep track of your fitness. For example, most fit bands can collect and send data to your mobile phone, from how far you ran on your morning jog, to how much sleep you had the night before. Wearable technology is a great way to learn interesting information about your lifestyle, health, and fitness, and this convenience will only improve. Future innovations will allow this collected data to be stored in the Cloud where it can later be accessed by your doctor, who can in turn provide better health guidance tailored specifically to you.
Regardless of which applications you may choose to use, it is important to source Cloud programs that are worth the investment, whether it is for business or personal use. With such a diverse range of applications, the Cloud is a real hotbed of innovation that is making people happier and more productive.