Cloud computing and my small business

January 7, 2009
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I run a small strategic consulting business, Crucial Point LLC. My core business requires lots of hands on work and time of myself and partners and associates, and like in many other businesses, the less time I spend on admin for myself the more time I can spend being productive. I also need to watch costs and need to be as agile and mobile as possible. One of the approaches I have taken to address those needs is to maximize my use of Google App


I run a small strategic consulting business, Crucial Point LLC.   My core business requires lots of hands on work and time of myself and partners and associates, and like in many other businesses, the less time I spend on admin for myself the more time I can spend being productive.  I also need to watch costs and need to be as agile and mobile as possible.  One of the approaches I have taken to address those needs is to maximize my use of Google Apps and other related Google capabilities.  Here is some more background on how I use them:E-mail to my company is really handled by Google Apps.  If you send a note to contact @ crucialpointllc .com, or any other active address at that domain, it is handled by the Google e-mail servers.  I access the e-mail like you access your gmail.  I get it through a browser and can access it anywhere.  I can also use a client package to download the mail when I want to.   And I use that on my blackberry when I’m on the move (which is just about always). The e-mail for Crucial Point LLC is also well integrated with other capabilities like Google Calendar, and that calendar is also synchronized with my blackberry.   My contacts are also synchronized between my blackberry and my gmail based mail contacts. I use Google Docs at the site as well.  This allows me to create, edit, read and collaborate over spreadsheets, documents and presentations.   On most of my computers I run open office and on a couple I have Microsoft office and both of those packages work pretty well with Google Docs, but I try to default to Google Docs for reasons of mobility, security and sharing.  I also use embedded forms to collect key info and process it in secure spreadsheets on my site.  I get an alert when any of these forms are used.   For example, when a company has a request for a tech assessment I refer them to my tech assessment request form at the bottom of the “what we do” page on my site.At this time I don’t really use Google’s video or chat capabilities.  But maybe in the future?The Google Sites feature is pretty good too and I’ve used it a couple times to establish collaborative environments for topics like developing a strategic plan for a client.   By using sites I was able to invite in just the right folks for collaborative work.   I’m currently working on my new site for my Crucial Point LLC webpage and am doing that in Google Sites, so that will allow an even tighter integration and easier ability for me to edit my main public facing page from anywhere anytime.  [Late Entry: my main site at http://www.crucialpointllc.com is now driven by Google Sites]I can give e-mail addresses and account access to my business partners and can also invite in external folks to collaborate with me. I also use Google’s GrandCentral for key phone services, and I look forward to increasing levels of integration with other Google capabilities there. I use these and many other Google services for many reasons, but the most important reasons have to do with reducing the risk to my small business.  It is a fact of life that all computers fail, eventually, and we all relearn that lesson far too frequently (My almost brand new iMac failed not long ago and had to be totally replaced.  Cleaning up the hard drive was no problem and my business continued ahead full steam since I’m leveraging a cloud).  These services also make me more agile since I can access them anywhere and can rapidly configure/tailor them to meet my changing needs.   They also help me keep the important stuff secure and the sharable stuff shared.   I know I’m also saving energy by leveraging their cost effective/green data centers, but for a small company like mine I really have no idea how much/little I’m saving there. For bigger firms there are far more capabilities, like integrations into Salesforce.com.  I don’t think I’ll be using those capabilities anytime soon.  But I plan on continuing to watch them. (By the way, just as a disclaimer, Google is not a client of mine, but I sure wish they were, that would be cool).
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