In my final part of the series, “What is the Cloud?” I wanted to list some of the apps I use and some alternatives. This list is finite and I do urge that if you are looking to move to the cloud and do not find what you want here to dig a little deeper via Google or Bing as there are plenty of other offerings.


File Storage and Sharing


Back at the beginning of cloud storage, online backup and cloud storage were two very distinct applications, not so today, you will find many features that cross over between the two. In this section I look at those products built around storage not backup.


Common Features:

  • Synchronised folder(s) with the web.
  • Synchronisation across multiple computers, update one machine all machines updated.
  • Accessible from anywhere with a web connection (inc Smartphones and Tablets)
  • Folders can be shared with co-workers.
  • Dropbox and have team editions where sharing can be managed centrallly.
  • Automatic file versions to allow you to go back to previous versions.
  • Undelete allowing you to undelete accidentally deleted files.

Dropbox is the Grandaddy of online file storage, chances are if you are asked to share a group of files it will be via Dropbox. started off life as a team based place to share files it has moved on to included local device sync’ing.
Just Cloud is a fairly new comer to the service but bringing up the rear very confidently.
Google Drive, Whilst you have been able to store Google created content in the web for a long time it has only been recently that they have bought Google Drive to the table to complete with the likes of Dropbox etc so it can handle any file and syncs with your desktop and other computers.


Things to Consider


  • Cost, don’t be sucked in to ‘offers’ check what the price is outside the offer period.
  • If this is a strategic move and you are not too concerned by cashflow look to buy a year+, this normally equates to a good saving.
  • Are you just going to use it internally or use it with external colleagues, if the latter, then consider what they may already be using and what process they may have to go through to use a different system.
  • Are there security issues you need to deal with.



CRM/ERP is the ideal app to run using a cloud model,  the flexibility and scalability of users lends itself to the sales industry as does the ability to work where ever you have an internet connection (or not more recently!)


Common Features:


  • Full Sales Force Automation (SFA).
  • Workflows, eg Send confirmation and details to accounts of new sales.
  • Accessible from anywhere with a web connection.
  • Accessible from Smartphones and Tablets apps including offline access.
  • Add/Remove users as and when.
  • Phone system integration.


Zoho you can’t get too far researching CRM on the web without tripping over Zoho. Zoho’s portfolio of apps are built entirely around the Cloud and CRM is just one of their offerings. Whilst initially aimed at SME’s looking for a cheaper alternative to Salesforce its functionality has greatly increased meaning it’s a serious contender even against Salesforce.
Salesforce the Original Cloud based CRM used by 1000’s of users across the globe.
CallPro CRM if you are a call Centre this is an app for serious consideration, marketed as a Call Centric CRM its strengths include automatic dial and large scale email marketing and tracking capability fully integrated into the process driven system.
Netsuite When Cloud based CRM was in its infancy and you wanted a comparison to Salesforce you need look no further than Netsuite, however Netsuite goes so much further than Salesforce with full integration into its own e-commerce offering for a front end presence on the web through to the backend of accounting and stock control.
SugarCRM Part commercial part open source (i.e. free) SugarCRM can be run in the Cloud or on your servers, it has a massive following because of the open source version which developers enhance and customise.
SplendidCRM This project initially came into life as a copy of SugarCRM but written in ‘Microsoft’ technology. Like Sugar it has both Commercial and Open Source versions.
CapsuleCRM A very simple CRM system that can be installed as a Google App allowing it to work seamlessly with Google. Capsule is not the only Google App CRM at last count there were 210, whilst most do not need a Google Account and can be used separately using with Google enhances the experience.


Things to Consider


  • Cost.
  • Integration, can it integrate or does it already integrate with existing systems you use?
  • How customisable is it, whilst the initial configuration of the application may not meet your requirements most systems come with great customisation allowing you to closely, if not completely, mimic your work process.
  • Does it fit with your Company’s strategic plan, if not can you move the data successfully later.



Wave Accounting very simple accounting but 100% free its revenue being generated by inconspicuous ads and offers.
Fresh Books
Zoho Books As I have said previously Zoho has a number of Cloud based products, because of this integration between them tends to be high on the priority list.
Netsuite Whilst it has the accounting side its USP is that it also includes CRM, e-Commerce and ERP functionality.


Things to Consider

  • Cost.
  • Integration, can it integrate or does it already integrate with existing systems you use?
  • Security



Most Cloud Based ‘Business Apps’ have elements of Workflow and business logic in them, be it Alerts to inform managers of big deals or full blown processes with a multitude of steps which have to be followed when signing up a new client.  However these workflows are often limited, trying to allow for the most used processes rather than every conceivable workflow. There are however a number of cloud based systems that allow you to create your process and integrate it into your other apps giving you a 100% match to your business logic.


Run My Process


Development / Custom Applications


If you are keen to use the Cloud but cannot find an app that you can customise to the way you work, you could look to build your own, you may find that it’s not as costly as you might think.


Bespoke Software Development, probably the most complex so you would be unlikely to be able to do it yourself and will therefore require capital expenditure for third party developers.


If you are logically minded you may be able to build it yourself. The solutions below give you the the benefit of a monthly cash flow that you would expect from cloud, rather than capital expenditure of bespoke. They also give you the option to DIY or use a developer consultant, any number of which that can be found online.


Zoho Creator
Netsuite SuiteCloud


Things to Consider

  • Cost both the monthly and any support you may require to develop the application itself.
  • Can it integrate with external systems, how easy is the integration?
  • Security
  • Resilience of the platform on which your app is running. Netsuite, Zoho and Salesforce are basically using the underlying infrastructure from their other services to run the development apps. Rollbase and Longjump are using an infrastructure developed specifically for the system they sell, whilst any Cloud supplier’s main weak point is keeping things up and running you would say Netsuite, Zoho and Salesforce have more to lose if things go wrong.




Zoho Projects




Google Talk
Ring Central


Things to Consider

  • Cost.
  • Integration, does it need to integrate into an application you are using, this is more likely to be an issue at the application end but worth considering.
  • Is it purely for internal calls or will you need to call ‘normal’ phone numbers?
  • Do you need an incoming phone number, geographically where should it appear to be?
  • Do you need full PBX functionality i.e. Extensions?
  • How good is your Broadband Connection?

Document Editing


The online document editing functionality is not as ‘rich’ as you would expect working locally with apps such as Microsoft Office etc.  If you are using these docs internally and not for complicated items then these Cloud offerings work well, add complex functions/layouts or the need to interoperate with Offline Formats then you should look at traditional offerings.

Zoho Docs
Office 365 As you would expect of a Microsoft product Office365 gives the best compatibility with MS documents, whilst online editing still may not be as rich you would expect from an offline system you should not lose any of your formatting.

Things to Consider

  • Who your audience is, what format will they require?
  • Ongoing support for things such as patches, on line editors are centrally managed by the supplier. Using Office to access your documents in Office 365 will mean you having to keep local apps up to date.
  • Would a hybrid system work, here we use Google to work on the content of documents with all the benefits of collaboration etc. but when we need to send the final document/sheet out to someone who will use MS to work on it further then we download and format it locally.

 Online Backup


If CRM was not one of the first ‘Cloud’ applications then Online Backup was.  Proprietary software was initially used by large scale enterprise and data centres to keep offsite backups of key data and applications.  When these systems became cloud enabled and cost effective the online backup systems market exploded.  As I said earlier these systems have grown over time and now share a lot of functionality with that of Online storage. You may find either one does the job you require.

Mozy Pro

Things to Consider

  • Cost, you can end up with vastly different costs depending on your requirements now and in the future.
  • Future requirements, can the service you opt for now grow to what it needs to be as the transfer to another supplier in the future could be difficult.
  • Broadband Bandwidth/Restrictions, whilst most online backup systems constantly monitor your system for changes the systems are very clever and the actual data that is transferred during the day is relatively small unless you are creating lots of data (i.e lots of new images).  However all the machines will have to do their first backup, this will lead to lots of traffic initially which could cause problems with internet access during the first few days.

As I said previously these are just a few of the apps and services available in the Cloud covering some of the apps I deemed applicable to most businesses. GetApp is a more comprehensive directory service covering more applications (287 CRM, 122 Project systems) and more types of services (CRM to Marketing, Timesheets to Performance Appraisals).


I hope you now understand, whilst the Cloud is a vast and ever changing topic at its heart it is quite simple (What is the Cloud – Part 1). Whilst Security is always a concern the Cloud is probably more secure than you have with your current systems (What is the Cloud – Part 2). If you want a more mobile workforce using systems that are both flexible and scalable then the Cloud is a cost effective way to get what you want (What is the Cloud – Part 3). However be aware that the Cloud is not always the solution and you should consider what your requirements are now and in the future (What is the Cloud – Part 4). Finally the Cloud offers you great flexibility with 100’s of Cloud based applications covering most if not all the requirements that a business needs, if you want to go to the Cloud I am sure there is a solution for you.


I hope you have enjoyed this series of articles, if you would like to discuss the Cloud in more detail either in general or to your specific needs then please contact us.



Previous What is the Cloud – Part 4 Does it cost more