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Useful cloud computing tools

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A STANDARD definition of “cloud” computing from Wiki is that it is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) which are available in a remote location and accessible over a network (typically the Internet).

Google-drive-Gloud-services

The name comes from the common use of a cloud-shaped symbol as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams. Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a user’s data, software and computation.

End users access cloud-based applications through a web browser or a light-weight desktop or mobile application while the business software and user’s data are stored on servers at a remote location.

A simple case will be your office located in Bulawayo accessing an invoice making service that resides on the “cloud” or the Internet to simplify things. This means all your accounting stuff can be done online without you having to buy any software licences.

This means you can focus on what you do best and then outsource other non-core services like accounting to a hosted provider.

You use cloud computing you avoid upfront costs associated with deploying infrastructure, and focus on projects that differentiate their businesses instead of infrastructure.

Cloud computing allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance, and enables information technology to more rapidly adjust resources to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand.

In this article we will look at practical and useful cloud computing applications and tools that your organisation or business can use on a daily basis.

The use of cloud computing assumes that you have to have a decent Internet broadband connection. Internet speeds are improving by day and costs going south wards.

Hosted accounting services
As mentioned above there are websites that offer both paid and free hosted accounting packages. The likes of www.webaccounting.com , www.intuit.com and locally in Zimbabwe there is Sage Pastel has a cloud-based accounting services. The local site would be more advantageous since it will load faster than a site located in the United States — www.sagemybusiness.co.zw

All you have to do is to sign up with the service provider and start doing your books online. Naturally things are safer in the cloud that on your computer or laptop. But of course you must be careful as to whom to entrust your sensitive data with. Most of the reputable and successful US-based companies are above board and the last thing they would want to mess up with is your personal data since it is the very basis upon which their businesses are built. No customers no business.

Hosted telephony services
This means you can have an entire telephone system like a PBX that resides on the cloud. You can have an auto attendant an IVR and a voicemail system that you access by just going to your web browser. This is an excellent service since you don’t need to purchase any PBX equipment and hardware.

And also you can use this service from any part of the world as long as you have an internet connection .This is a pretty disruptive technology for legacy telco operators who have always cashed in on the geographic location of a user to effect billing.

With this service you can have a New York or London or Jo’burg number while you are physically in Zimbabwe.

This means that when you call, say London, the call is no longer an international call, but a local call since it’s originating from a United Kingdom cloud-based switch. Such is the brutality of Internet based telephony called VoIP. You can sign up with any international provider but locally a number of companies do offer this unique service — www.telco.co.zw and www.telesoft.co.zw.

Hosted bulk sms service
This is where you are able to send one alert , reminder or promotion text message to a bulk of subscribers at a fraction of what you could pay using a regular SIM card. This is a business oriented service unlike WhatsApp for chit chatting. The costs of broadcasting text messages over the cloud have nosedived.

You do not need to get any equipment or modem save for your Internet connection and your browser to access this service. Churches use this service to spread the word. Schools use this service to send reminders to students and parents. Restaurants and pubs use this service to send marketing and promotional text messages to their potential customer base.

Soccer clubs use this service to inform their supporters about forth coming promotions etc. Private doctors use this service to send alert and reminder messages to their patients. An HIV non-government organisation based in Harare uses this service to remind its clients on their medications.

One sitting MP is using this service to campaign in his constituency! The list is endless. You can be up and running on this one in 24 hours. A company called NetSuper Communications info@netsuper.co.zw

Hosted CRM services
There is a company called SalesForce.Com based in California, US, that is a market leader in customer relationship management (CRM) and sales management it is best known for its CRM product. Salesforce has two key components the sales and service cloud.

  •  The sales cloud — This includes a real-time sales collaborative tool called “chatter”, provides sales representatives with a customer profile and account history, allows the user to manage marketing campaign spending and performance across a variety of channels from a single application, tracks opportunity-related data including milestones, decision makers, customer communications, and other information unique to the company’s sales process. Automatic email reminders can be scheduled to keep teams up to date.
  •  The service cloud — This provides companies with a call centre-like view that enables them to create and track cases coming in, and automatically route and escalate what’s important. The salesforce CRM-powered customer portal provides customers the ability to track their own cases, includes a social networking plug-in that enables the user to join the conversation about their company on social networking websites, provides analytical tools and other services including email, chat, Google search, and access to customers’ entitlement and contracts.

Storage on the cloud
Yes, I keep all my important documents online in my gmail account. Chances that Google in Mountain View will disappear are next to zero. Not that I have worked there, but its just a fact. Open a gmail account if you don’t have any www.gmail.com and you will see at the top there is a service called drive or just go here after you sign up drive.google.com.

Make sure that you never leave your account logged on at an Internet café or someone’s PC. Also choose a fairly difficult password not your son’s name and age.

Choose something you love eating like isitshwala senyawuthi. Surely not many people will guess that if any at all. The advantage is that with this gmail account you get up to 5G free space of documents that you can create and save online even if you don’t have Microsoft Office. Google drive is one safe place for all your stuff. Upload photos, videos, documents and other files that are important to you. Get going with 5G of storage. Free. The flash drive you are bound to lose is about 4G and you bought it.

More service in next week’s article. Questions and comments are welcome.

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