Trying to zero in on the cloud apps that fit your needs can be time-consuming and frustrating. Here's a list to get you started in the right direction.
It seems as though for every task that was once tethered to the desktop, there's a cloud-based app to handle it. In fact, there are so many cloud tools out there now, it's almost impossible to know where to start looking. If you're searching for useful, business-friendly cloud apps, I have a solid list of possibilities for you. Some you may have heard of, some maybe not. These apps range from the single-minded to the multi-tasking powerhouse and from free to fee-based.
UbuntuOne is my cloud-sync tool of choice. It not only works like most other cloud-sync tools (giving you in-sync access to your data from Windows, Mac, Ubuntu Linux, Android, iPhone/iPad), it also automatically syncs any music you have purchased from the UbuntuOne Music Store. Of all the cloud-based storage apps/services I've used, UbuntuOne has always been the easiest and most reliable. You get 5GB for free and can tack on 20 GB increments for $2.99 per month.
SpiderOak is that cloud-based sync tool to use if the standard solution isn't enough. SpiderOak isn't one of those app/services that syncs a single parent folder (and its children). SpiderOak can pretty much sync anything you want. But it's not happy just syncing your folders. You can also use SpiderOak as a backup tool and as a quick means of sharing files and folders. SpiderOak gives you 2GB free and has pricing for businesses ($600.00 per TB and $5.00 per user) as well as partners (call for pricing).
3: Google Apps
Google Apps is what you need if you're looking for an alternative to Microsoft Office 365. With the business edition of Google Apps, you get 25 GB inbox, 5 GB storage, custom email, unlimited users, video chat, a full-blown office suite, 24/7 customer support, 99.9 % uptime, data archiving, data retrieval, data discover/export, and much more. All of this comes at a cost of $5.00 per user. And since this is cloud-based, you can use it from anywhere. Also, plenty of desktop apps are available that integrate with Google Apps.
Backupify is a service that will back up nearly any of your SaaS accounts. It can back up Google Docs, Salesforce data, social networking posts, and more. All backups use 256-bit encryption and are stored on Amazon ISO 27001 certified datacenters. Backupify even has free tools to help make the process easier. Google Apps Migrator allows you to transfer data from one Google Apps account to another. Snapshotter for Google Apps lets you download all your Google Apps data. And Snapshot for Salesforce enables you to download all your Salesforce data. Backupify for Google Apps starts at $3.00 per user/per month.
Zoho is an on-demand CRM solution that offers nearly every application your business could need. From collaboration to productivity to business, there's not much left after you look through the apps and services Zoho offers. You can chat, discuss, mail, meet, assist, track bugs, keep books, invoice, offer a help desk, calendar, keep notes, and create documents, among other things. The apps/services are ala Carte, so you can sign up for whatever you need and leave behind what you don't. Some of the apps/services are free and some have a cost associated with them.
6: Google Bookmarks
Google Bookmarks enables you to keep your bookmarks in the cloud. Now you don't have to carry bookmarks around with you on a USB drive or try to remember how to access the plethora of sites you need to access. With Google Bookmarks, you can also tag and label bookmarks for easier managing and searching. Google Bookmarks is a free service and bookmarks can be created manually or by using third-party browser extensions.
Blinksale is a turnkey cloud solution for invoicing and managing clients. With this one-stop invoicing shop, you can create customize invoices, send estimates, work with international currency, automate billing, send reminders and thank you's, tag estimates for easier searching, and even use an additional service (Blinkpay) that makes it easy for your customers to pay their invoices. Blinksale Unlimited costs $15.00 USD per month; Blinksale is $9.00 per month with additional fees (based on payment method and sales amount).
8: IFTTT (If this, then that)
IFTTT is a unique service that triggers actions based on events. You can set up triggers and actions based on channels (such as Evernote, Facebook, Twitter, email, LinkedIn, weather -- there are 59 channels to choose from). Actions include such things as sending texts, creating a status message on Facebook, and uploading email attachments to Dropbox. You can create your own IFTTT recipes or you can use any number of the user-shared ones. The service is free.
GoBook is an online appointment book perfect for salons, spas, and other service-related industries. It allows you to track services, add new customers, retrieve customer information, customize businesses hours of operation, book/confirm/edit appointments, and much more. GoBook offers a user-friendly dashboard, where you can get real-time status of your business. The service is free.
Pingdom gives you a great way to keep tabs on your servers through the cloud. With Pingdom, you can get uptime and response time reports, set up email, get text and Twitter alerts, perform root cause analysis, handle multi-step transactional monitoring, check multiple locations, and more -- all from a single, easy-to-use dashboard. There are two types of accounts you can sign up for: Business (monitor up to 30 sites for $39.95/month) and Basic (monitor five sites for $9.95/month).
Other good cloud tools?
With the mass of cloud services and apps available, recommendations like these can help weed through the cruft to find the gems. What cloud-based tools would you add to this list?
- Executive's Guide to Best Practices in SaaS and the Cloud (PDF)
- Cloud: How to do SaaS right (ZDNet feature page)