Unfortunately for older systems, cloud computing services have become a small entrepreneur’s best friend. With rapid innovation, the cloud continues to break down IT barriers, giving users the usability, mobility, flexibility, acceleration and overall cool vibe associated with high technology. Here are some cloud-based tools that are radically changing the way we do business:
Google Drive – Free storage in the cloud
Better late than never might be the perfect tagline for Google Drive, which experts say comes too late in a market currently dominated by Dropbox and Windows SkyDrive. But Google’s foray into cloud storage is a big game changer. Both Dropbox and Windows SkyDrive have stepped up their service following Google Drive’s massive offering of up to 16TB of storage, the equivalent of more than 4,000 two-hour movies encoded in 720p HD resolution. Drive users pay on an increasing scale — a monthly fee of $2.49 for 25GB, $4.99 for 100GB, $49.99 for 1TB, or $799.99 for 16TB — but initially offered 5GB free. Other drive features are optical character recognition (OCR) technology and image recognition.
OCR recognizes text in scanned documents and lets you, for example, search for keywords in scanned old newspaper clippings. On the other hand, image recognition lets you search Drive for a specific photo you uploaded, making that photo pop up on the screen. Also, a paid Google Drive account will automatically upgrade your Gmail to 25GB. Blind users can also access Drive with a screen reader. Playing catch-up, Dropbox allows non-members access to emailed file links and SkyDrive integrates with Windows Explorer and Apple Finder.
RingCentral Cloud Touch– Phone system reimagined
The San Mateo-based company impressed its audience at this year’s DEMO conference when it announced the launch of its new Cloud Touch platform. Now, end users can set up, manage and use their phone systems on their handy mobile devices without the help of an IT department.
RingCentral Cloud Touch is the first phone system that allows you to set up a fully functional office IT and telecom desk anytime and anywhere with an Internet connection. One of its other power features is Cloud Presence, which lets you see which colleagues are currently on the call, regardless of location or device they’re using.
RingCentral is rolling out this year. Just before Cloud Touch, the company also announced Internet Fax integration with Dropbox, Box, and Google Docs. If your company wants the convenience of implementing the features of a large enterprise phone system at small business prices, RingCentral is a service provider to consider.
Microsoft Intune – PC Management and Security in the Cloud
The new version of Microsoft Intune was pre-released in April 2012, with analysts predicting an announcement would be made during the Microsoft Management Summit 2012 conference in Las Vegas. The cloud-based PC Management service provides on-site Windows management tools and helps users perform security and management tasks remotely from a web-based console. Duties include managing security and firewall policies, providing IT support to offsite users, and tracking software licenses.
It’s unclear when the full release will be, but SME will have something to look out for. As part of its BYOD (bring your own device) vision, the new Intune will provide support for mobile devices, including Windows Phone 7-based devices, iPhone, iTouch, iPad, and Android. Other updates include “automatic discovery of mobile devices accessing Exchange Server”, a simplified Windows Intune account portal, and the ability to sync with Windows Azure Active Directory.
Cloud services are proving increasingly profitable for businesses. With today’s innovations and updates being done in the cloud, it makes sense for small businesses to migrate to cloud-based solutions.
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