31/10/2011

By Phil Sainter, Senior Academic at Westminster Business School

In recent years, a number of companies have developed a range of cloud services, ranging from storage for photos and videos, to data and running online applications, such as Google Docs. However how many of us make full use of these services, especially now we tend to lead time poor lives.

I have been experimenting with various cloud services over the last few years and I have drawn up a list of points to consider when selecting whether to use a service or not:

• Does it make my life easier to use the cloud service?
• If I start to use the service, is there a way I can get my data out again once it has been uploaded in an easy fashion?
• What are the limitations to the service and are these limitations acceptable to me?
• Do I trust the cloud service to keep my data safely?

If the answer is yes to most of these points, I normally proceed and start to use the cloud service. I am going to share with you; two cloud services that I have been using for a number of years. Both service I believe answer positively to the above points and how to manage my time and information in an effective fashion.


Time Management
If you are anything like me, you have problems arranging meetings with multiple people and it normally ends up with a series of email/telephone conversations that can take a longer than it should. I have discovered a handy cloud service to help organise meetings and can also be used to manage your calendar. The service is called Doodle.com, and it has been around since 2007 and has increased in ability as the years have passed.

This cloud service can help you to arrange meetings with providing a number of suitable dates, then it will contact all of the people invited to the meeting to determine which times and dates are the most suitable for the meeting to take place. As you can imagine this can reduce the amount of email and phone conversation it normally takes to arrange a meeting when there are more than couple of attendees. Therefore taking the stress out of arranging a meeting.

Just this alone can make a potential time saving for you, but imagine a situation where you could allow people to see when you are free/busy (no matter which calendar systems you use or they use), Doodle also offers this ability. Doodle also allows people to request appointments when you are free, if you decide to accept the appointment, the appointment is automatically added to your calendar and an email confirmation is sent to the appointment initiator.

As you can imagine this cloud service can take the pain out of managing your calendar and hopefully making your life easier and reducing the amount of time it normally takes to do these activities.


Document & Information Management
Have you ever looked for a Business Card or a note, but can never find it. Like some of you I needed to have a place to store important pieces of information and documents, but I wanted to be able to access this location wherever I was and therefore a cloud service was a natural choice to investigate.

One of the services I found and use is Evernote.com, this service is an ideal service for those of us with multiple devices and who make notes on the go. You can upload notes from your phone or computer and equally you can search and download notes to the device that you are currently using. It has a very robust synchronization service, which means that only the latest version of any note is downloaded to your devices. I know in the past synchronization services to multiple devices was a high risk operation, but in over three years of use this service has never deleted or miss-stored a single note.

The Evernote service allows you to share specific pieces of information or complete folders of information with ease; if you upgrade the service you can also enable other selected people to upload information to your Evernote account. You can also email notes directly into your Evernote account, therefore providing a very useful and powerful information management tool.

The Evernote service also automatically indexes your notes for text, even if your notes are handwritten and therefore you can search through your information very quickly.

As you can imagine having a single location of notes and information is a powerful tool, saving you time in terms of searching for the information and it can also be used in many ways that makes the users life easier.

However the wonderful thing with cloud services, there are many services out there and after some research/searching you are bound to find a service that is suitable for your needs. However remember my four points when looking at these services, and if the service does not make your life easier and does not reduce the time you spend on a task, then the service is most likely not suitable to you.


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