Our offices are whereever we want them to be – right?
It’s easier than ever now, and best of all, it doesn’t need to cost the earth. In fact, the real problem is choosing which productivity tools and services are best and won’t cost an arm and a leg.
The Cloud and Software as a Service
The biggest advance of the past few years has been The Cloud. There’s a nice big space somewhere ‘out there’, where the work is really going on. What it means in practice is that:
a) We have lots and lots of storage space for documents and stuff, securely held, and that means lighter more nimble devices. Meaning less backache for us nomads with our laptop bags.
b) We can buy software to provide services that would have been complicated and expensive back in the day. Now, it is quite normal to subscribe to the software that you need on a rolling monthly contract.
Here are our Top 10 Cloud based tools and Software as a Service (SaaS).
1. By far the most popular digital tool must be Dropbox. You just install Dropbox on each of your devices, set yourself up with a free account (you get at least 3GBs of storage free) and off you go. You can share your folder with anyone via email, making it easy to work in virtual teams. In fact, we’re not sure how we ever did without Dropbox. It costs around £6 per month ($9.99) to upgrade to 100 GB – handy if you store a lot of photos or rich media.
2. Google Apps. This free suite gives you some of the basic tools you need to get going as an independent, and best of all – you can map your Google Apps account to your own domain. It just doesn’t do to have a @gmail.com as your business email. No. No. Google Apps comes free at the basic level although the amount of space you have available is limited. It only costs £5 per month per user to upgrade giving you much more flexibility.
Google Apps includes Calandar, 5 email accounts, Google Drive (their document storage and sharing platform) and Google Docs (the older version).
3. If you’re an Apple user, there’s iCloud, backing up all your data across all your iDevices. ‘Nuff said.
4. Prezi. Sometimes something comes along and it has serious impact. For those of us who have been cursing the dreaded Powerpoint forever, here’s a presentation tool that was build for the collaborative and online world. It’s totally designed for use on tablets, recognising the fact that many of us are creating and changing presentations on the move. We LOVE it!
5. Get Skype for your Business – free conference calls and video calling. Free calls and Low rate local calls. Another excuse not to have an office. Skype is the best known video calling , voice over IP service. Skype not only means that you can have a meeting in your bedroom, but you can reduce the cost of your landlines calls too. You can even use your own number. We bought the premium service which allows us to call several people at the same time, which is great for the virtual team meetings you sometimes need to have when working in associate groups.
6. GoToMeeting. This great online meeting tool allows you to share your screen with others, meaning that it’s better for presentations than Skype is. There is a sister product, GoToWebinar, which you may have used if you joined an online training course.
7. Square. A creation of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Square turns your smartphone or tablet into a credit card reader. For 2.75% of every transaction, you have the ability to accept credit card payments for your business. No card reader, no credit check. But relatively slow takeup here in Europe, so you might need to wait a while longer to see most retailers using it.
8. Expensify. Expenses are the bane of the freelancers’ life. This makes a tedious job quite bearable.
9. Hootsuite. Sometimes, social media can feel like it’s taking over your life. Especially if you are managing your personal and business social media feeds. Hootsuite is really helpful in that respect as it gives you a lot more control and a common dashboard.
10. Rememberthemilk.com. It’s a fabulous task manager, an absolute must for those of us who are juggling a million things at once.