‘Cloud’ may have become an overused buzzword in business today, but there’s a reason for that: it’s an increasingly important part of any company, large or small. It’s not just your website and social media channels that are on the web anymore; with cloud tools, you can access all of your work and collaborate with people around the world from any computer.
How Can the Cloud Help Me?
65% of respondents to an InformationWeek poll said that ”the ability to quickly meet business demands is a very important driver for cloud computing.” What are these business demands that can be met with the cloud? First is cost. Most cloud services are free or subscription-based. This means they have low initial costs, cheaper overall costs, and you have the ability to drop out at any time if you’re not happy or need something different.
Another is convenience. This can come in many forms. For example, you don’t need to worry about storage space or backups (which also factor into cost!). You have your files accessible wherever you go, on whatever device you wish. It’s easy to organize and track items. There are plenty of ways something can be convenient in your specific situation, and there’s surely a cloud-based program out there that will make your life and business easier.
Finally, this ease of accessibility leads to greater collaboration. 73% of workers work with others in different time zones or regions, and 67% work with people in other companies. In a field like content marketing, working with clients and companies means you probably face similar statistics. That’s a lot of collaboration with people you’ll rarely, if ever, see face-to-face. Cloud services make this a non-issue since anyone with an Internet connection can view and edit any file you give them access to.
Can the cloud help your business? The answer is almost undoubtedly ‘yes,’ whether it’s by saving you time, money, or hassle. As cloud options have become more numerable and complex, there are still a few basic staples you can use to jumpstart your cloud business. Getting started with cloud services for writing, collaboration, and file storage is a simple task that can reap immediate results.
Writing is a huge part of any content marketing strategy, whether it’s blog posts, newsletters, social media updates, or more. You’ll write, revise, and revise again before finally settling on a finished copy. That’s not even counting everything that goes into it before and after publication: doing research, taking notes, planning a publication schedule, repurposing content, promoting it, and so on. Gone are the days when you had to schedule your writing around when you were at whatever computer had the Microsoft Word document saved to it or until you could get to a printer for a hard copy to make edits.
Google accounts are fairly ubiquitous these days, and if you have a Gmail account you also have access to Google Drive. Google Docs is just like your favorite word processor, with the convenience of online access from anywhere. It also has a handy research function, allowing you to use Google’s search engine to look up words and phrases you’re using for some last-second notes. Google Sheets is a powerful spreadsheet program if you ever have the need; as a writer you might not think spreadsheets are for you, but you can make a great editorial calendar in a pinch and share it with your team so everyone is on the same page. Finally, Google Slides is just what it sounds like: a PowerPoint-like slideshow creator that you can use for a presentation or to repurpose written content. Integrated chat and revision history makes collaboration simple when you’re working with a team.
Another popular choice is Evernote – so popular, in fact, that it recently surpassed a whopping 100 million users. Evernote goes beyond simple word processing to become a super tool for any writing project. The chat function lets you share work with someone and discuss it on the fly. The web clipper tool lets you save and reference articles and websites right in Evernote for easy access; notebooks and tags let you organize your work so everything stays in its correct place; you can link related notes to one another; and you can store business cards, recipes, and more.
Whether you’re working with yourself or as part of a team, it’s important to keep track of what you’re doing. Content marketing – where you’re creating different content in different formats on different platforms to be published at different times, sometimes by different people – can get complicated. That’s why a project management platform that you’re able to access from anywhere is a must-have.
Take Trello, for instance. Trello breaks things down by boards, lists, and tasks (or ‘cards’). Let’s use your company as an example. The Greatest Company, Inc. board helps you manage your content marketing for the Greatest Company, Inc. Each list in that board is a different step: Planning, In Progress, Review, and Published. Different cards will represent blog posts, interviews, infographics, and more content that you’re working on at any given time. Cards can be labeled and color-coded, be broken down even further into subtasks, and can be directly assigned to different (or multiple) members of your team. Once a task is ready to move on, it’s as simple as dragging it to the appropriate list.
Depending on how old you are, you’ll remember carrying your work around on floppy disks, CDs, thumb drives, or, heaven forbid, as hard copies in folders and binders. Maybe you just keep everything stored on your laptop, opening it and working on documents when needed. But what if you don’t have access to whatever device it’s kept on, or you need to share the work with someone but don’t want to go through the hassle of emailing it or finding a storage device on which to transfer it?
Luckily, file storage was one of the first cloud-based services to really take off, so your options are robust and varied. It’s an embarrassment of riches, so take your pick: Google Drive, Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, Amazon Cloud Drive, and more are all available.
Cloud storage has some obvious benefits. It’s incredibly easy to share files amongst coworkers and clients. You should be careful about who has access to what accounts and files, of course, but it’s simple enough to share individual files as needed. It’s also instantaneous; once you’ve uploaded something to the cloud it can be accessed right away for quick feedback, rather than needing to wait to deliver a USB drive to someone. Then there’s the storage aspect: you can have a large number of files that you don’t need to worry about filling your hard drive with, and files are backed up so losing them in a hard drive crash isn’t a concern.
There are a few things to consider when you’re choosing a storage service. First is the cost. Many are free, with options to pay for extra features or more storage, as is the case with most cloud services. Another consideration should be what ecosystem you use most in your daily task. iCloud, for example, is seamless with other Apple products while, as previously mentioned, having a Google account means you already have access to Drive, and your Amazon accounts gives you access to the lowest tier of Cloud Drive. Programs like Dropbox, meanwhile, can be installed to any operating system or accessed directly through the web.
Keep in mind that these aren’t the only tools out there! The products here were chosen for one main common feature: they’re free to get started. There may be some paid benefits, like extra storage or upgraded features, but there’s nothing to stop you from jumping in at no cost. If you like a platform and want to pay more for bells and whistles, then great! If you decide one or more aren’t for you, then you’re no worse for the wear.
There are also platforms that are pay-only, usually by subscription. They might be more robust and worth the money if that’s what you’re looking for, but make sure you know what you’re paying for so you aren’t wasting money on a whole host of things you don’t need.
The most important thing to recognize, regardless of the provider or the cost or the functionality, is knowing what works for you. What sort of work are you going to be using these for? What’s your budget? Are you using them by yourself, or as a team? Only you know exactly what will be best, even if it takes some trial and error to figure it out.
Do you have a favorite cloud-based platform that you use for your work? Any comments about the ones mentioned here? Leave them in the comments!
Header image used under Creative Commons license courtesy of Perspecsys Photos.