By Karen Hamilton
For all the hoopla surrounding cloud computing these days, you’d think people were talking about the second coming of Steve Jobs. But cloud computing is easy to understand. It’s just a way to offload a sizeable chunk of computing workload from a local computer, like the one in your office, to network computers that reside “out there” (and just happened to be owned by someone else).
When you think about the pros of working in the cloud, you start to get a glimpse of what all the fuss is about. For one thing, it’s cheaper. Not only can you get lower rates on cloud software, there are many one-time payment and pay-as-you-go options that can bring costs down even further. Another benefit is virtually unlimited storage. And if your stuff is on the cloud, you never have to worry about losing anything because you didn’t get around to backing up your hard drive. If you store your documents on the cloud you can access them from anywhere, even on the jobsite, as long as you have an Internet connection.
If you have a web-based e-mail account like Hotmail or Gmail, you’ve already experienced cloud computing. But don’t stop there. Here’s a sample of cloud applications that, while not specifically designed for the construction industry, lend themselves beautifully to how you work on the job.
1. DropBox There’s nothing worse than showing up at a customer’s place and realizing you’ve forgotten a) the quote you intended to go over with them; b) the client testimonials you like to share with prospects; c) your lunch; d) all of the above. It’s a non-issue if you have a DropBox account. DropBox stores documents, photos and videos in one central spot so, as long as you have a Web browser (like the one on your tablet or phone), you always have your stuff with you. Well, everything except your lunch. For that we’re still waiting for someone to build a food replicator app.
2. Google Docs When it comes to preparing estimates and quotes, a lot of contractors use a spreadsheet like Excel to create it before storing the finished product on their hard drive. That’s great until those guys are on the job and need to double-check something or make a change. Google Docs lets you create and access documents, presentations, spreadsheets and more from anywhere online.
3. Freshbooks Freshbooks specializes in cloud accounting for small businesses, allowing you to track time, log expenses, do invoicing and more. Want to try before you buy? Take advantage of their 30 day free trial.
Oh, and a bonus reason to like the cloud: Rdio If you like to listen to music when you’re on the job, you should know about Rdio, a music subscription service that lets you listen to millions of songs from wherever you are. Sign up for the seven day free trial and see what you think.
Karen Hamilton is part of the team at Hammerati. Hammerati is a professional network exclusively for the construction industry.