The first part of this series provided some basic information about cloud computing. This time, we'll look at some sample cloud products / services.
Box.net is a cloud service that provides on line access to all your files and content. Essentially, box.net is a solution for cloud data storage. Box.net can not only store files and data, it has other services including document management, project management, plus FTP and other file transfers.
Box.net has a free personal option for 1GB of online storage. To store 10GB of data is $9.99/month, and 15GB is $19.99/month. Businesses can take a 14 day free spin for up to 3 users and 45GB of data. After that, products include a $15/mo/user product for storing up to 15GB of data per user. There is also an Enterprise product with unlimited storage, but you’ll have to talk to a salesperson for pricing.
Apple’s MobileMe service is a cloud computing product as well. One of its key features is to store your email, contacts, and calendar and sync them to your iPhone, PC, and iPad. MobileMe also provides on-line file storage and sharing with iDisk. Other services include photo storage and sharing, as well as a locator feature to find a lost iPhone or iPad.
With MobileMe, all your files are stored in the cloud, so there is no hardware for you to worry about. There is a free 60 day trial that Apple hopes will get you hooked on the product. After 60 days, MobileMe will run you $99/year.
A subset of cloud computing is SaaS, or software as a service. Instead of purchasing software licenses and installing it on PCs in your home or business network, there are providers that enable you to use their software over the Internet.
One of the most common providers of online software that you may not even consider a cloud provider is Google. In addition to providing free email for single users (gmail), Google hosts email services for companies worldwide. Cloud software services include Google Apps, Google Docs, Google Sites, and Google App Engine.
Of course, Google has a bunch of free software and applications for personal use as you can see listed here. We all know that Google isn’t providing all these free services out of the kindness of their heart. Google is able to determine your product likes and dislikes through the use of their free software. Google then uses this information to sell services to advertisers allowing companies to target their marketing at customers who are more likely to buy their products.
The GoogleApps suite for business provides email, calendaring, documents and other software for $50 per user per year. Using Google Apps eliminates the need for installing and maintaining office applications like Outlook, Excel, Power Point and Word, and provides on line storage for emails and files.
GoogleApps also includes Google Sites for simplified Intranet Web pages as well as video hosting and streaming. Google App Engine is an additional service where Google will host your company’s web based applications for $8 per user per month.
Salesforce.com provides cloud Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software solutions. Businesses spend thousands, even millions of dollars on CRM software solutions. For the small business wanting to get started without the overhead of the servers and software needed to grow the business, Salesforce.com offers on line software solutions with the same capabilities.
I’m a big fan of free, and Salesforce.com offers a free 30 day trial of their most popular CRM application. This application, called Sales Cloud 2, has a huge amount of features, including a customer database, sales lead tools, workflow, integration to desktop applications (like Office), search tools, reporting, and access to other cloud applications. Sales Cloud 2 is priced at $5 to $250 per user per month depending on the features selected.
Another Salesforce.com product is Service Cloud 2. This application, which also has a free 30 day trial, provides a cloud based customer service software solution. Included are customer trouble reporting and management tools, integration to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and numerous other services to care for your customers. Service Cloud 2 is priced at $65 to $265 per user per month, also depending on the features selected.
37signals is another cloud software provider. 37signals provides web based software called Basecamp for project and collaboration, Highrise for contact management, Backpack for online file sharing, and Campfire for chat and team communication.
37Signals is all web based, so its software will work on PCs, Macs, and Linux. It’s also flexible from a pricing standpoint, running from $12 per month to $149 per month, with no contracts or commitments. Of interest, the “sole investor” in 37Signals is Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com. I’m going to touch on Amazon.com Public Cloud solutions next.