The other day the hard drive on my main computer collapsed.
For most people this would have been a tragedy (I was not real happy about it either) but I had been thinking about this possibility for sometime now and had moved my working life on to the cloud.
So I dug out an old laptop with windows 98 on it, booted it up and continued. The keys are a bit glarey from years for use, the screen is, for lack of a better description,small.
Let me say that I was not happy about going from my treasured 17″ Mac book Pro (it was about 4 years old) to an old 13″ Dell running Windows 98 but the reality of the situation was that I did not miss a beat in the work I had to do because my head is in the clouds (I just had to use that phrase somewhere, I couldn’t help it).
I did have to update my virus protection and just about everything else and the trip down memory lane with all the apps and images on the old beast was interesting to say the least and allowed me an in-site into my progression and the direction that I had come.
Here is how I do it, I know there are many other online apps out there and I would love to hear from you about what you use, so please let me know in the ‘comments’, below.
My two main resources are Google and Zoho.
For me there is only one and that is Gmail (http://gmail.com)
I have many sites and many email addresses and I redirect them back at my main gmail account. Gmail lets you send and receive via you own mail server, effectively allowing you to appear like you have sent it from the address you are saying you sent it from and with a plugin like, either ‘wise stamp’ or ‘blank canvas’, you can add your fancy signature.
One step further on the evolution of living in the cloud comes Google Apps (http://www.google.com/apps). I use the free edition. Sign up here (http://www.google.com/a/cpanel/domain/new) and it effectively allows you to re brand Gmail and Google Apps with your own logo. Wow, dont you just love the web.
There are a lot of others out there but I like Gmail.
Here I am referring to a MS office alternative. ie. Word and Excel. I go 2 ways with this.
Google Documents – http://docs.google.com
So I talked about Google Apps and how you can use it and re-brand it and this is great. You can share with others who use your domain but for me, I drive everything back to my main Gmail account and work from there so I do not have to be changing screens and about wonder about where I put a document or whatever.
Zoho – http://zoho.com
These Zoho guys are on the ball, they had features out in the wild before Google thought about doing it and the support from Zoho is phenomenal. Yes phenomenal, with all their apps its the same exceptional service, send in a support ticket and they are there for you. If it is not resolved first time they will set up a time and phone you to help you with the issue, that’s what I call phenomenal (I don’t think I have used the ‘phenomenal’ word before and after using it for 3 times, … now its 4, I don’t think I will again … for a while anyway)
Zoho also integrates with Google Apps, they have everything you could want but not all of it is free. Some are like the CRM that allows you to have a limited number of users, or with their accounting package, only send a limited number of invoices per month before you have to fork out for the paid version.
Openoffice by Sun http://openoffice.org
This is not cloud living but it is free and easy to use and is just like MS Office 2004. So if you must have an offline suite for production, as you sit in a cafe that does not have a free wireless setup, do not pay for the bloated MS office that does a zillion things you will never use. Get it for free, its easy to use and the transition is easy.
CRM with Zoho
I need a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and Zoho (http:crm.zoho.com) have one that suits what I have to do.
1. Free for up to 3 users, I always look for the free or open source apps first, I am on a budget and I like to try before I buy or upgrade.
2. Zoho CRM is easy to manipulate once you get to understand the thought process behind it. I think some of the small things could be improved but thats the beauty of ‘living in the cloud’, things do get improved and updated and I don’t have to do it!
3. My emails link in with my contact giving me a great history of conversations that are easy to track.
4 Zoho has a billing, quote functions and everything you can think of for organising your information about your clients.
Here the list is huge with the choices you can make, but for me its simple, as I just want ‘simple’ and ‘free’, so I use Picink (http://www.picnik.com/)
Both Firefox and Chrome have a plugin that allows you to access Picnik to edit from any page on the net, allowing you to grab and modify any page or image.
Billing and Quotations
There are a lot of good living in the cloud apps for this section and although I have tried a few, I stick with Zoho, as it is in the suite that I use everyday and they are currently (according to the info on the site), looking at the integration between their other apps, specifically their CRM and their billing apps.
I use Dropbox (http://dropbox.com) I get 2 gig free and I can sync it between all my computers or access via a browser. I understand that ‘Microsoft Live’ has a 5 gig for free but I dont know much about it at this time. There are many free storage sites out there, go out and see what suits you.
For large format storage there is S3 (https://s3.amazonaws.com)
For your movies this again is huge, YouTube, Google Video, Daily Motion, Vimeo,Veoh, Viddler, Metacafe, Blip.tv, Flickr Video, IFLIM/Spike and MySpace to mention a few
I have covered the main things you need and there are many more applications out there to allow you to be productive. As I type this document in Google Docs I know it will always be there for me to access from anywhere, anytime. So as you can imagine, the tragedy that befell my Mac Book Pro was sad. I did loose a few images that I had been collecting for blogging, but that is no biggy.
I hope this article helps others who are considering ‘living in the cloud’ and stimulates comments on things I haven’t thought of.
Frank Warwick owns and runs Sitemaster.com.au, a website design business, has his head in the clouds and his feet on the ground and is always on a diet to get rid of the bit in between.