7 Great Cloud Apps for Businesses and Teams

I recently started a part time, fully online/remote degree in Digital Design & Technology after working in a similar field, unqualified, for nearly 15 years. I thought I knew it all and knew the best tools of the trade. I was wrong.

The fact that my course is 100% online forced the usage of the apps/websites I’m about to detail but I’ll be using these for my own business, collaborative and personal use from here on in. All of the following apps are cloud based and available from any device with internet access. All (Except Coggle) have native app versions for mobile devices too which give a streamlined, better user interface if you’re not at your main desktop or laptop.

You may notice a slight Google bias here! Most are free for personal/lite usage.

1 Gmail

Gmail

Nothing new or groundbreaking here of course but you can’t beat gmail for reliable, cloud based email communication. Filtering, Labels & Folders and email search are dead handy as is syncing between different device versions.

Standout Feature: Multiple accounts.

https://www.google.com/gmail/

2 Google Drive

Google Drive

A file repository and storage system but with document sharing, commenting and integration with Google Docs, Sheets etc.. I love the live editing mode where you can actually see other people typing/editing on screen and commenting within documents is handy too.

Standout Feature: File & Folder access/sharing.

https://www.google.com/drive/

3 Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts

Excellent call conferencing and instant messaging system with good integration with Google Calendar, ie – click the link in a calendar event to join a call.

Standout Feature: Screen sharing to a group.

https://hangouts.google.com/

4 Google Calendar

Google Calendar

Event/task reminder system with event invites and reminder notifications. I can’t live without this in my life. I might forget to breathe without it. Automatic email notifications of event changes to event attendees is handy.

Standout Feature: Add other people to events/Indicate attendance.

https://www.google.com/calendar/

5 Google Apps (Docs, Sheets & Slides)

Google Apps

A cloud based alternative to the Microsoft Office suite of office apps. Apps are slightly less functional than the Microsoft versions but all are very capable still. I love that documents are automatically backed up and available across devices.

Standout Feature: Live simultaneous document editing by multiple people.

https://gsuite.google.com/

6 Coggle

Coggle

Simple collaborative mind mapping and idea generation tool. Initiate an idea in the centre and drag “idea” branches and sub branches out from it. Notifications of changes to branches are emailed to members automatically.

Standout Feature: Mind map exporting.

https://coggle.it/

7 Trello

Trello

I’ve saved the best until last. My OCD loves this one! Trello is a collaborative project management tool with “Cards” for each task and To Do, Doing and Done columns. It’s great for an Agile/Scrum environment as task cards can have deadlines etc.. You can organise everything from a major project to your whole life with Trello.

Standout Feature: Board notifications and integration with Google calendar.

https://trello.com/

Add Rich Snippets to your WordPress Site and Improve Visibility in Google

The Rich Snippets thing has passed me by a bit recently and I only decided to look into it when a client of mine asked about it after having done some kind of SEO course. Here’s a full description of what Rich Snippets are on the Google site but basically it’s a way of controlling how you appear in Google search results.

You can have your result stand out from the rest and therefore have a better chance of being clicked simply by adding extra information to the result. In the example below, I’ve set my WordPress blog post to use the “Review” rich snippet which means there’s a star rating on my result in Google. It also includes breadcrumb links to different sections of my site under the main link “www.reverbstudios.ie > Blog > Reviews” as well as adding links to my Google + profile at the bottom. Catches the eye a bit more eh!?

Rich Snippets To set this up on your WordPress based website, first install the “All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets” plugin, activate it then go to Posts – Add New. You’ll see a new box on the post editing screen called “Configure Rich Snippet” which allows you to fill out the info that appears in your Google result. You can currently choose from the following formats:

  • Item Review
  • Event
  • People
  • Product
  • Recipe
  • Software Application
  • Video
  • Article

Whichever format you choose will show a different set of options to be filled in. Simple!

To test if it’s working correctly, use Google’s own Rich Snippet testing tool at – Google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets or just Google yourself in a few days!

Leon

How To Add Your Google + Profile URL & Image in Search Results

Google have just started recognising the ‘rel=author’ tag on sites which means you can use it to show your Google + profile photo and url on any google search results showing pages/posts from your site. I think it’s a cool thing because it kinda highlights your result among others..at least until everyone starts doing it! It also gives your result/business a personal edge or a bit of branding right in the results page:

Google+

Here’s how to set it up, not rocket science: Add the following line to the ‘Head’ section of your website html:

[html]<link rel="author" href="<a href="https://plus.google.com/xxx/posts">https://plus.google.com/xxx/posts</a>"/>%5B/html%5D

Where the ‘href’ url is the url to your Google + profile. Next, make sure you have a link pointing back to the site you’ve added this tag to, in your Google + profile. It should go in the About – ‘Other Profiles’ or ‘Contributor’ Section. Finally, make sure your Plus one’s are public in the Google + profile settings and that you have chosen a suitable Google + profile pic! You can test whether it’s set up right or not here – Rich snippet test. Leon

Cloud Computing??

Everyone’s got an opinion or definition as to what cloud computing is all about and why it might be beneficial so here’s mine.

First of all the standard definition:

“Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).” – Wikipedia

And in English:

“Rather than access software on your computer, you access it through a website.” – Leon

Why Cloud Compute? The Benefits:

  • Cheaper or FREE,
  • More secure,
  • Easy access via any internet enabled device,
  • Data backed up automatically,
  • Syncing between devices,
  • Flexibility,
  • More Scalable.
The Downsides:
  • Requires good internet,
  • Less capable software (but maybe not for long!).
I’m personally switching as much stuff to the cloud as I can, here’s what I’ve switched so far:
I’m hoping to buy a Google Chrome notebook soon which is a laptop that pretty much only runs an internet browser (Chrome). That’s all I really need to run my business these days. In fact I could probably do it all from my phone too!
Leon

 

Ireland IT Capital of the World with Twitter Move?

I write this on a day when it was announced that massively popular Social Networking site Twitter will be setting up an international base in Ireland. There had been murmurings that it might happen from months back but there was stiff competition from a number of other cities including London but Dublin has won out in the end probably because of it’s low corporation tax rate and possibly because of the existing presence of a number of very high profile companies here.

Ireland pretty much has a clean sweep of the top IT companies in the world now including Facebook, Google, Paypal, eBay, Linkedin, Microsoft, Intel, Yahoo, Zynga, IBM, Apple and HP – an incredible list and surely one that puts us firmly on the international business map.

Here’s hoping the government will now throw everything it has at IT support in Ireland from Education to Broadband infrastructure and guarantee we lose the twee image of Ireland and replace it with one of innovation, modernity, hi-tech and progression, leading us out of recession and showing the world how it’s done.

Ole, ole, ole..

Leon