Here are some pretty amazing business-related things you can now do inexpensively online (“in the cloud”) with only (or mostly) just a web browser. Not so long ago, you had to buy expensive software or hardware to do these things… now you can do them online and/or from your tablet / iPad – anywhere!
Small businesses have used Quickbooks and similar applications to do their bookkeeping for many years. And while Intuit does have an online version of Quickbooks, we find the wholly cloud Freshbooks to be the leader and innovator in this area. All your accounting, vendor paying, invoice delivery (and tracking) – from a web interface. Way to go, Freshbooks!
Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point remain staple applications in the business world. But did you know you can create word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations wholly online and collaboratively using Google Docs? If you’re someone who needs your documents on the go – and needs to create them on the go – ditch the thumb drives and take a look at Google Docs, part of the Google Apps platform.
- PDF Editing
I’ve long been annoyed by the steep price one has to pay for the full version of Adobe Acrobat – not the Reader, but the one which can edit PDFs, PDF forms, and so on. Then when you create a form, the end user can’t save it with their filled out contents unless they, too, have ponied up for full Acrobat. Ugh! But then I discovered the cloud app PDFescape, and I’ve never looked back. Not only can I, in a pinch and from anywhere, upload and edit a PDF… but for a modest fee I can even publish/host a PDF form on their server for others to fill out. The form contents get emailed to me when someone fills one out. Nice!
Why is it such a pain to create nice-looking proposals / bids on a budget? After years of working with clunky Word templates, custom software, and other “solutions,” Quote Roller was truly a breath of fresh air. Easy proposal creation, based on templates I can create and reuse. Best of all? The proposals can be delivered online via email, and they can be accepted online! At last, the proposal solution I’ve been hunting for (and even tried to write myself once)… Quote Roller. Bonus: it integrates beautifully with Google Apps.
- Diagrams and Flowcharts
Microsoft Visio is a great application, but it’s not cheap. And collaborative work is out of the question – unless everyone involved has also purchased Visio. Enter LucidChart – the cloud-based answer to Visio. Diagrams and flowcharts can be easily created online, easily shared with other users (with or without collaborative rights), and easily stored in Google Drive. Best of all, because it’s cloud, I don’t have to make sure I’m on the computer / laptop that has Visio installed to work – I can work on a network diagram from anywhere I have Internet access. Beautiful!
- Image Editing
Adobe Photoshop is a world-reknowned image editing application, filled with about ten thousand features I don’t use and a few dozen I do use. Fortunately, the significantly less expensive cloud-based Sumo Paint includes those few dozen editing features I regularly use, I can run it from anywhere, and I don’t have to lay down the price of a small car to get it. If you use the advanced features of Photoshop, you’ll probably want to keep doing so. But for the rest of us, there’s Sumo Paint.
- CAD Drawings
AutoCAD – there’s really no beating it for creating and editing DWG files. Fortunately, Autodesk has stepped up and released AutoCAD WS – a version of their software which runs in a web browser. I’m sure it’s not as full featured as its desktop big brother, but it’s handy, and a relatively new development.
- Package Tracking
Packagetrackr is unique on this list in that it doesn’t really replace a desktop app – not one I’m aware of, anyway. What it does to is consolidate and automate the tracking of your packages across all the major shippers and a couple dozen you’ve probably never even heard of. With Packagetrackr, I’ve been able to train my Gmail to automatically forward copies of vendor shipping notices into their tracking system. After that, I’m notified of all events of importance related to my packages – deliveries, stops, delays, etc. And any time I like, I can login to their site and see info on all packages in transit, shipping history of past deliveries, and so on. It’s been a gigantic timesaver.
- Phone System
Imagine a cloud-based telephone system which you could completely manage from a website interface? No server hardware, no separate vendor for the phone system who you have to call every time you want a change. Can you picture it? What you’re looking at isn’t imaginary – it’s called RingCentral. And it’s probably one of the most impressive innovations of the cloud computing era. Too many features to list here, but you can read more about it here.