What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing has become increasingly popular in businesses across a range of different sizes and industries. This is because it ensures accessibility and therefore increases productivity. No matter where you are or what device you’re currently using, as long as you have Internet access you’ll still be able to pick up exactly where you left off on whatever project you have stored.
It’s certainly a term that is regularly thrown around today and it can mean a lot of different things (albeit similar). To put it plainly, the “cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet (Griffith 2016). Therefore, cloud computing is effectively the act of storing your files on a server accessible via the Internet (rather than your computer’s in-built hard drive). As simple as it sounds, a lot of infrastructure, programming and innovation is required in order for it to work.
One of the main forms of cloud computing used today is online file storage or collaboration tools. There are hundreds of different apps or programs available, some of which perform varying functions. These include:
- Communication apps
- Social networking
- File drives
- Task and workflow management
- To-do list and note-taking software
- All-in-one collaboration
But how does cloud computing help me?
These tools aim to help businesses improve collaboration and productivity. Are you managing a project with several staff contributing? Are any of them freelancers or working from home? Do different departments need access to your work? The right tool can strengthen your team’s communication and improve the quality of your work. It also eliminates the need for back-and-forth emails, helping you to keep track of all the required changes.
Of course, which type of tool you need depends entirely on your projects, the amount of collaborators and the size of your business. Enterprise will have very different requirements compared to small business. A team of five or six might simply need somewhere to access everyone’s work, whereas a large organisation may need records of previous conversations (Griffith 2016).
Below is an example of each of the different collaboration apps available. Each has been tried and tested personally by yours truly.
#1: Google Hangouts – Communication app
Google Hangouts is widely used as a chat client in business. It is accessible either via Gmail, a Chrome browser extension or mobile app and synchronises all your communication. Start one-on-one chats or maintain group conversations with different team members. You can also adjust your settings to avoid notifications on your days off.
#2: Yammer – Social networking
Designed for large companies with multiple departments and locations, Yammer is a social networking site that encourages employees to connect with each other. Accessible via desktop or mobile, you can comment on each other’s posts and create groups for different teams. Most importantly, it provides a secure forum to discuss company-specific news that shouldn’t be shared on a public network.
#3: Dropbox – File drive
Put simply, Dropbox is a virtual hard-drive. It allows you to access all of your documents, images and other files from any device or location. It’s essentially cloud computing in its purest form. Compatible with most operating systems, it also has apps for mobile and desktop computers. Create folders, upload files and share with specific team members. You can also rest assured that your important documents are backed up.
#4: Trello – Workflow and task management
Visually based, Trello makes navigating projects and tasks simple and appealing. It’s accessible via your web browser or mobile. Create boards inside your team area; one for sales, one for operations, one for marketing, etc. Inside each board, you can create cards, which are essentially digital post-it notes. Each card holds specific tasks, where reminders and due dates can be set. You can also add comments and upload files.
#5: ToDoist – To-do lists and note-taking
Similar to Trello, ToDoist helps you to organise your projects and tasks into check-lists. It is accessible via a Chrome extension, your web browser or mobile app. You can set due dates and priorities, tag specific tasks in each project and create recurring tasks. Expand each task to include in-depth notes and comments. Best of all, ToDoist have made completing tasks fun by gamifying the experience with karma points.
#6: Evernote – All-in-one collaboration
Primarily used as a way to take notes and store writing, Evernote allows you to categorise notes, as well as cross-reference with tags, include check-lists, and add reminders and due dates. It also includes more advanced features, such as annotating PDF documents, transcribing text from images and clipping webpages via Chrome extensions. You can also chat with your team within Evernote in real-time. You can download the PC or Mac desktop versions, mobile app, or access your account via your web-browser.
+ + +
As mentioned above, there are hundreds of different collaboration tools available online. This list is only a snapshot. What is right for you and your business depends on your size and what you’re looking to achieve. The possibilities of cloud computing are increasing every day.
For example, at MOVOX we’re developing software to share documents between offices. If you’re in a conference call and want to share a PowerPoint presentation in each location, you’ll be able to transfer it seamlessly during the call. As soon as this feature is fully functional, it will be available on our website!
Do you use cloud computing for personal or business purposes? If so, what tools do you use? If you don’t, let us know if you try out any of the above and share your thoughts!