Top 10 ways to use the cloud

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No doubt there were countless entrepreneurs glued to their computer screens this week when Apple chief executive Steve Jobs took to the stage to announce new software for the iPhone, iPad and Mac platforms.

 

By far the biggest announcement this week was the new iCloud service, which will allow businesses to back-up and share content across a number of devices, including documents and media.

 

The announcement underlines just how popular cloud computing is becoming – both Google and Amazon have released their own cloud music services in the past few months, and the latter runs its own dedicated cloud computing division.

 

There’s a reason for this – cloud computing is cheaper, more efficient and can save businesses a lot of hassle when developing IT systems. As IDC analyst Vanessa Thompson said earlier this week on SmartCompany, “Mid-market enterprises have some form of public cloud applications now, and we think that percentage is going to grow.”

 

If you haven’t been considering cloud computing, then you should be. It’s cheap, and the

innovation in tech over the past few years means cloud is more powerful than ever before.

 

Here’s 10 ways you should be using the cloud:

File sharing – never send attachments again


Sharing attachments back and forth can be a real pain, especially if your office team members need to collaborate on the same file multiple times a day, or week. Cloud-based file sharing systems can solve that for you.

 

The default system here is DropBox. This software allows you to drop-in files, which then sync across other users’ DropBox folders as well. You can collaborate and edit files, and there won’t be multiple copies of anything flying around.

Of course, the service only comes with a 2GB limit, but you can pay to expand that. It’s worth the cost if you want to save on expensive server infrastructure.

 

Software


Anyone who’s ever tried setting up a new office IT system would know it’s not an easy task. Not only are their seemingly endless infrastructure battles but the price of software alone can be crippling – Windows Office is hardly cheap.

 

This is where cloud computing comes in. There are plenty of alternatives now that allow businesses to manage everyday tasks like creating text documents, spreadsheets, slideshow presentations and other types of media as well.

 

One of the best methods here is Google Apps, which essentially does everything Microsoft Office can do at a basic level, and also allows you to create custom apps of your own. There are other systems as well, such as Huddle and Zoho, but Google Apps will probably give you the most comprehensive solution.

 

Email

 

You probably aren’t aware of just how much space your email system can take up. Particularly if you’re using an archived system, every message you send, receive or draft will be saved somewhere.

 

This may not be a problem for you now, but if you want to save on space then you definitely need to put your messages in the cloud.

 

Gmail is your best bet. It’s a professional service with plenty of space, and works well with third-party clients like Thunderbird. Of course, there are other alternatives, such as VMWare, Panterra, Cisco and Yahoo, which all provide a decent service as well.

Put your voice in the cloud

 

Phone systems can be incredibly expensive, especially when you’re a start-up and are making all those calls to prospective customers and clients. It adds up quickly.

 

Putting all of your voice systems in the cloud is one of the better ways to go about setting up telephone networks. If you’re opening a new office, there’s no reason why you can’t use a scheme like Skype Enterprise to power your phones.

 

You’ll have to use an internet plan with plenty of bandwidth, but with the cost-per-gigabyte of connections coming down seemingly every month, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

 

Host your website

 

This one is pretty obvious – after all, who wants to go through the hassle of buying infrastructure to host their own web page in their office. But you’d be surprised.

 

There are some start-ups who think they need to manage it all, that leaving a website to a hosting company will just mean more hassle – don’t make this mistake. Find a reputable hosting company, and get a website up and running. Depending on the size of your business, it will cost you barely anything.

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Since 2010 StartupSmart has been Australia’s no.1 publication for the startup community and those interested in the startup movement globally. Publishing news, information and advice daily, and placing itself squarely at the centre of the government’s national innovation agenda, StartupSmart is a leading participant in the momentum that surrounds the world’s focus on technology, creativity and entrepreneurialism.
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