You hear it referred to everywhere, “Cloud Computing” – but what on earth are they talking about?

Basically, it’s internet based computing which means that you have no software to install, infrastructure to maintain and you can have access to your documents, files, emails, calendar etc from wherever you are in the world (provided you have access to the internet, of course).

Chances are you are already working “in the cloud” one way or another (think systems like Hotmail, Flickr and YouTube).

As a solo-entrepreneur I use many cloud computing applications and they make my life so much easier.  There’s something reassuring about knowing that all of your files, data and information is securely stored and you can pick them up and access them wherever you happen to be – not to mention the savings in time and money!  They are particularly useful to the travelling business person because you now don’t have to lug everything around with you – just pick up your laptop and off you go.  Everything can be accessed at the click of a button.

So, here I share with you my top eight cloud computing apps:

  1. Google Apps:  Particularly Google Calendar, which I synch with my iPhone (and you could even share it with your VA so she can help keep you on track!) and Google Talk (instant messaging).
  2. Dropbox – A fantastic tool for storing all your documents and files online.  You can add it as a folder inside your ‘My Documents’ and it acts like any other network drive – except all the data is also stored/backed up on line.  You can also share any or all of the files with other people.  Hands down my favourite cloud computing app J
  3. Toggle – For time tracking.  In my business particularly I need to have the best, most reliable time tracking software and Toggle ticks all the boxes for me.  With downloadable apps that work on Mac, PC and iPhone I can track my time wherever I am.
  4. Skype – The cheapest way to make bulk calls.  I particularly love the video calling and screen sharing functions.
  1. Xero – I’ve only recently started using Xero to manage my finances and I’m sure I haven’t yet discovered all of the benefits but I’m loving what I’m seeing so far!  Online accounting, online banking and the ability to create and send invoices automatically and get paid on line = love it.
  2. Remember the Milk – Think of it as an online ‘to do’ list.  I use it to remind me when bill payments are due, to renew domain names – even birthdays!  With the ability to use it from your phone and to share your tasks it’s definitely a keeper (plus it’s free!)
  3. Zoho CRM – a complete customer relationship management system for managing Sales, Marketing, Customer Support, and Inventory activities in a single system. Very easy to use and full of features it allows you to grow your business and have a complete view of your customer interactions.
  4. Evernote – Is like an online scrapbook/notepad/post-it-note – Capture all of your thoughts, ideas, and inspirations, into a single place. These could be text notes, webpage clips, PDFs and more (and it’s free!)

What are your favourite cloud computing apps?  Do you have one that you absolutely swear by – if so, we’d love to hear about it!

Melissa is an online business manager and website designer, who works with fellow rockstar women-in-business, providing support to overhaul their web presence and grow their businesses beyond their wildest dreams!

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