5 Tools That Put The Cloud To Work For Your Business

George Dearing| Forbes

Cloud computing helps companies create and share content, cultivate business relationships and manage the content that drives their businesses.

Here are five of the most useful tools and apps for small businesses:


A slew of tools have grown around Twitter’s ascent, and Tumblr might be the poster child. While it has somewhat of a hipster reputation, driven by its demographics, Tumblr can also be an essential business tool.

In the early days, strong visual characteristics drove brands to Tumblr. Now many businesses are opting to use Tumblr as a blog replacement.

While some find the maintenance associated with traditional blog platforms cumbersome,the beauty of Tumblr is its simplicity. After your design is in place, you can curate in a matter of minutes. With all that content, drumming up visibility is another thing it does pretty well.

That’s because Tumblr uses the “follower” model, just like Twitter. You can easily search for other blogs, and once followed, those posts are easily scroll-able in your dashboard. Once you’ve mastered the basics, many businesses find Tumblr is a great in-between medium — not all business, but not all pleasure either.

Take a page from Crain’s Chicago Business: “Tumblr is our social media playground, where we’re less about business and more about pleasure, dabbling in all things Chicago.”

Google GOOG -0.59% Drive And SkyDrive

One of cloud computing’s biggest advantages: There’s no particular technology needed beyond a fast connection and a browser. But not all that infrastructure is free, especially when the data starts to add up. That means plenty of companies are willing to be your solution for Internet-based storage, among other things. The other things, however, are where the cost, and value lie.

Google Drive and Microsoft MSFT -1.22%‘s SkyDrive are two offerings that deserve a look–both provide plenty of utility and integration with other services.

With Google Drive, you can download the Chrome extension and access any of your files in a few clicks. Moving from device to device is where the cloud kicks in. The iPad app makes GDrive an essential utility. Once you’re accustomed to toggling back and forth between it and your other apps, copying and pasting becomes old habit. Making GDrive the hub for your Web content is a good first step to take as your company moves workflows and content online.

Microsoft’s answer to GDrive is solid too. Few things test the cloud better than prying users away from native applications like Microsoft Office or other locally stored productivity applications. That’s where SkyDrive shines. If you have the Office package, it’s easy to create Word documents with the desktop version. The iPad app is sufficient, though it lacks the Office integration that the desktop version brings. Just like GDrive, users can upload documents and photos, with 7GB currently provided free of charge. Both apps are easy ways to share, sync and backup all kinds of information critical to your business.


CanWeNetwork sits atop LinkedIn LNKD -0.44% and combines the company’s own algorithms and proximity technologies to match you up with other professionals, most likely ones you should meet.

It says businesses of all sizes are testing the service for internal and external networks to accelerate customer engagement and business development activities. Take a minute to pilot it with a few of your sales reps or customer-facing employees. You might find it’s an easy way to break the ice or move beyond the cold call.


Any tool that creates a more paperless environment should grab your attention. CardMunch provides the simple utility of digitally storing business cards. Point your smartphone’s camera at the card, snap a photo, and soon after the image is synced with LinkedIn’s database.

For heavy LinkedIn users, it seems like a logical step. For lighter users, you’ll understand why LinkedIn bought CardMunch: Your usage will increase, along with the likelihood it’ll become your overall contacts repository.

Before you try out some of these tools, remember to always put your business needs ahead of the spark and sizzle of technology. Focus on evolving your business, and use technology that supports your goals.


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