What I initially seek in online entrepreneurship is freedom. No, I don’t want to make millions of dollar while retiring to the beach, doing nothing everyday – that would be boring 🙂 Instead, I want to build my business around my life, not the other way around. The growing popularity of cloud-based tools has made that possible; I have more choice of tools than ever.
Did you know what’s wonderful with all the cloud-based tools? That’s right – they allow me to work from my laptop, tablet PC and/or smartphone; and yes, I can work anytime I need to, anywhere I go.
The cloud has empowered me to be location independent like I am right now. I enjoy the fact that I can work as much as I want, the way I want it, in my term. I enjoy the responsibility of running my own show. For sure, I wouldn’t trade my freedom with money or anything else!
I use dozens of cloud tools. However, not a single one of them is installed on my laptop. I do have apps installed on my tablet PC and smartphone, but my best tools are available in the cloud, accessible from any possible devices. All I need to do for running my business is a reliable Internet access.
If you are interested in the cloud tools I use, this blog post is for you. I will share 20 cloud tools I use regularly, along with more recommended apps to help you run your business via numerous devices. Read on!
Cloud tools I use
My favourite tools are the following (not in particular order):
Dropbox is my favorite tool to backup my file from my laptop, as well as my websites. You can sync it with your local storage if you want. Simple. Easy. But plays a major role for me.
It’s free up to 18 GB if you actively refer your friends (free 500MB for you for every referred user,) and if you need more space, you can get 100GB and upward starting from $9.99/month.
2. Google Apps
I use Google Calendar, Google Docs and Gmail extensively for getting the job done. Google Calendar helps me manage my hectic schedule, while Google Docs allow me to send draft for my clients and get feedback in real time. Gmail? ‘Nuff said.
As a suite, Google Apps is no longer free – plan is starting from $5/user/month. As of for me, Calendar, Docs and Gmail is all I need from Google – they are free 🙂
Everyone with a mobile device should use Evernote! You can capture almost anything with the app – websites, images, sounds, etc. – tag them for easy search later on. It’s great for brainstorming for ideas – and if you are like me who often gets ideas popping out my head as I see or hear something – and often lose them later on, Evernote is a great tool to record and recall the important things.
I use the free version of Evernote, but if you need more features, you can just upgrade it and pay as you go. Evernote for Business starts from $10/month/user.
It’s free (for calling another Skype user) – what else do you expect when you can converse with your partners, colleagues and clients free of charge, cross-country?
I use it to capture newsletter signups from one of my sites, and will adopt it for more sites of mine. It’s free for a small list (up to 2,000 subscribers,) and affordable anyway when your list has grown well. Delivery rate is wonderful and templates are good-looking and easy-to-setup.
For unlimited number of newsletter sent, pricing starts from $10/month.
I can easily map my mind with this one – free for up to 3 mind maps, I regularly use it to brainstorm ideas and document what I’ve been thinking about those ideas easily.
For unlimited number of mind maps, plan starts from $6/month.
Similar to HootSuite, this service lets you update your social media accounts from a single dashboard. I am a long time user of SocialOomph and can easily switch plan between the free and paid ones on the go, as I need it.
Most features I use available for free, but for more feature, such as scheduling status update on Facebook, posting on LinkedIn, Twitter follower search tools and many more, you need the $18/2-week plan.
8. Backup Box
Using this web-based service let’s me backup ALL my websites, files and everything else to a storage service I want (Dropbox, of course!) If you want to, you can also backup your data from a cloud storage service to another one – in a snap.
It’s free to use, but if you want more features, such as backup scheduling and more transfer capacity, the monthly plan is quite affordable, starting from $20/month.
Paypal, now run on Open Stack cloud platform, lets International business owner like me to do transaction with my clients easily, including receiving payment straight from my websites. There is nothing wrong with checks and bank transfers; my issue is that they are slower and often costlier to process than online payment solution like Paypal.
I go paperless with HelloSign. I just scan and upload the documents I need to sign to the cloud, fill in the blanks as I need it, sign the documents and have them sent to the recipients – all done online, without a single piece of paper used to print anything.
Outright lets you track and see the big picture on your small business finances. It’s secure and simple to use. It’s dubbed as “Mint for small business” as it offers small businesses with features similar to what Mint is offering for personal users.
It’s free! This is my favourite tool for editing images – in the cloud. I typically use Pixlr Editor for comprehensive image editing, but Pixlr-o-Matic is fun to use – great for spicing up your blog images! It’s becoming the ultimate app as it’s now accessible via your tablets or smartphones.
Let’s just say that 90% of my websites are run on WordPress (self-hosted.) You can deploy a website in 5 minutes using WordPress -building a site on the CMS (content management system) means you have access to the powerful plugins widely available on the official Plugin directory – or any third party developers you find. You can build literally everything – blogs, e-store, directories, etc.
WordPress is free – and it’s always free 🙂
I run many WordPress-based websites, and I need a tool that can help me manage all of them, preferably from one single dashboard. ManageWP is a great solution for me – I can access my blogs, update plugins, backup sites, and so on. You can also easily launch new WordPress-powered site with all of your favourite plugins from ManageWP from a push of a button.
It’s free to use for up to 5 sites – if you want more sites with more features, plans start from $12/month.
Cloudflare secures and accelerate your websites using the power of the cloud. Cloudflare also enables you to serve your webpages to your web visitors, even when the site is down due to maintenance or technical issues.
The free plan is sufficient, but if you want more security and acceleration, I suggest you to take the paid plan, starting from $20 for your first website, plus $5 for every additional website.
16. Google Webmaster Tools
To my dismay, many website owners don’t track their performance on Google and other major search engines, like Bing. Tools like Google Webmaster Tools can give you a thorough audit on your sites’ performance – search ranking, web page indexing, errors, link profiling, and so on. It’s a must-do, in my opinion…
If you don’t want to deal with the tech issues, at least have someone take care of it for you.
17. Open Site Explorer
This great tool by SEOMoz can show you how your website is doing; the free tool rates your website’s authority, and tells you need-to-know stats, such as your link counts, link profiles, social shares, and so on. The premium plan will give you much more detailed reports.
As I manage my own websites, I do need to monitor my sites’ SEO and solve on issues I didn’t notice. Woorank lets me know when there’s problem with my SEO and gives me a nice to-do list to improve things. It’s free to use, but you can only do so once in a while.
You can review unlimited number of websites, as well as tracking the progress of your website SEO, starting from $49/month.
When I need some lists to inspire an article – even create some myself – my go-to place is Listly. It’s easy to build a list I can use for my own websites and/or share your list to the world. Some of my Biz Penguin’s posts are utilizing Listly’s lists to help me making my point.
My go-to place for infographics! Whether to find one I want to use for my content, or submitting my own infographic for people to share and benefit from, Visual.ly is THE place. It has a free infographic making tool you can use; web-based and no design skills required to create one.
More tools! 100+ cloud tools for lean startup
13 Smartphone apps for small business
Mainly using your smartphone to run your business? This infographic can show you 13 of the best biz apps for your smartphone…
Cloud commmunication solutions
Running a business from an office? Companies like Allstream offers cloud-based communication solutions for small businesses, such as video conferencing, Sip Trunking, business continuity, IP telephony, and so on.
1,000+ of apps from GetApp
GetApp, one of the leading cloud app marketplaces, boasts 5,000 business apps in the database. If you are interested in trying the apps for free, you can do so via the following…
Cloud tools are great – they can help you to run your business, just like the way it was with installed software. As services are provisioned online, you have the flexibility regarding when and where you use the tools.
With that being said, be sure you use the right tools. A tool with raving reviews and testimonials might not be the right ones for your business – and vice versa. Sign up with the one you badly need to help you run your business; don’t sign up with any tools for the sake of the cloud itself (working and running a business in the cloud seems trendy, don’t you think?)
While you are at it, please share the cloud tool(s) you regularly use in the comment section…