The cloud offers so much more than I realized just a few short years ago. I was an early adopter of cloud storage because I have to be able to work on the go. If I can’t access information and collaborate effectively with colleagues and clients, then I’m far less efficient than I need to be. What I’m realizing more every day, though, is there’s virtually no limit to the ways in which I can use the cloud to work better, smarter and more creatively. What creative ways have I used the cloud recently?
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2. Bids and Proposals
You can set up a dedicated Web page or directory for use with prospective clients. When you can’t make a visit in person, the very next best thing is a phone call during which you can both see the proposal and even edit it in real time during the call. Talk about efficient!
3. Printing and Scanning
Picture a sales rep in the field who enters an order and can send it to the warehouse printer to be packed and shipped. That rep can also send the order to billing department’s printer so the invoice can go out in the mail the very same day. We’re just now beginning to see all the efficiencies we’ll soon take for granted that rely on printing across the cloud.
4. Virtual Jukebox
Okay, this use is a little more personal, but it’s hard to wrap your mind around the limitless storage offered by the cloud. Google Music, for example, has a free service that can store 10,000 songs. That should get you started. Listen to your music anytime, anywhere you need motivation or inspiration.
You can get as fancy or as simple as you like with applications designed to capture your thoughts. Evernote is a common and awesome cloud solution that captures it all—words, music, photos, audio, links. If you want to remember it, Evernote stores it. A ridiculously simple option that you probably haven’t heard of is Writer by Big Huge Labs. It brings writing back to the basics—think monochrome screen, no formatting and no distractions. Pick your style, and whether you want bells and whistles or a simple virtual scratch pad, your solution exists.
6. Phone Systems
I still marvel at this one from time to time, and I’ll share an example from just last week. I was in a tiny—and I do mean tiny—regional airport in Riverton, Wyoming, using the airport Wi-Fi to knock out some work before my flight. My mobile phone rang, and I could tell from the incoming number that the call had been transferred from my office in New Jersey via our VoIP PBX.
Let me break that down: We use a Private Box Exchange facilitated by Voice over Internet Protocol. That is, we have extensions set up in the office that are all coordinated and routed by a cloud-based phone system. That lets me route a call that would have gone to my office in New Jersey to my cell phone in Wyoming, or Italy or Thailand. The client who was calling had no idea that I was in an airport. All she cared about was that I’m a professional and always responsive to her needs.
7. Remote Support
Remember the days when you had to have a clunky, expensive network set up so the computers in your office could talk to one another? The cloud now facilitates shared access in ways we’d only ever dreamed of. I can connect to my support team when I have a problem and give them access to my laptop from anywhere. They can work directly on my machine, and I can get back to work in minutes.
8. Real World Navigation
One of the reasons the cloud is so powerful is that each user is a point of connection and a source of information. The Waze GPS application harnesses the power of individual, real-time reports to map things like isolated traffic problems and even the restaurants that are busiest right at that minute.
9. Language Translation
It’s becoming increasingly easy to use cloud-based solutions for translating not just text, but speech, in real time. The cloud has almost become a lingua franca—our workaround when we need to get business done without a common language. I wonder if the next generations will actually speak Cloud.
The cloud holds innovative solutions for nearly every business scenario, and I suspect that right this very second, developers are busily working on new applications and solutions to problems we haven’t even encountered yet.
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