With the rapid rise of cloud-based computing, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of companies offering their online solutions. Here we look at a few of the most well-known services and highlight some of the best alternatives.

Storing your files in the cloud

One of the main advantages of using the cloud is the ease with which you can store, share and sync your files across multiple devices and locations. Perhaps the most well-known company offering cloud-based storage is Dropbox. With 2 GB of free space for personal use and different price plans for business users, the key to Dropbox’s success is its ease of use. Simply drag your files from one folder to another and they’ll be available wherever you need them.

Photo Credit: Camdiluv ♥

However, alternative services are available, including JustCloud, which offers similar sharing and syncing to Dropbox, but also adds system restore and back-up options to protect your files. Another service worth looking at is SugarSync, which allows users to sync files from any folder on your computer and also offers a virtual file manager to ensure your data is kept organised.

Another alternative is provided by Box. Also offering sharing and syncing, Box allows users to create and edit documents in the cloud, setting it apart from other file storage services. Box provides 5 GB of space free for individual users, while business accounts are given 1,000 GB for around £7 per month.

Managing your projects

A further advantage of using the cloud is that online project management is made easier, with team members being able to work together from different locations. One of the leading applications in this area is Basecamp, a multi-platform tool that offers to-do lists, time management, file-sharing as well as many other collaborative features.

As well as Basecamp, there are other applications that offer similar tools, including Paymo. With an unlimited free account for single users, or plans starting around £7 per month for small teams, Paymo is significantly cheaper than Basecamp despite providing many of the same features. However, for those working with an extremely tight budgets, there are also free options available, including Mavenlink and Gantter Project.

For collaboration with a graphical emphasis, one other option worth exploring is provided by Twiddla. This is a cloud-based service that allows users to upload pictures or documents and import them into an interactive whiteboard, where you can make notes, sketch out ideas and brainstorm with other members of your team.

Connecting with your customers

For small businesses, one of the biggest benefits of using cloud software is the ability to connect quickly and efficiently with their client-base. Undoubtedly, the biggest player in this field is Salesforce, which allows users to track orders, monitor sales trends and communicate with customers.

However, with the cheapest Salesforce packing costing £17 per month, many may be tempted to look for an alternative. One such option is Capsule CRM, a feature-rich application that costs just £8 per month. Another option is FreeCRM, a completely free cloud-based CRM that offers basic functionality for up to 10 users.

Running Your Website

For emerging startups and technology companies offering internet based services, there are few solutions that rival the flexibility of cloud based servers. Instantly scalable to fit with bespoke requirements, they represent not only technological flexibility but also economic flexibility with users charged for resource use rather than server blocks. Whilst Amazon is well known for their cloud server offering, cloud hosting company ElasticHosts offers similar set up with a range of server configuration options from SSD cloud servers to Windows based servers. The more modestly sized company is also well known for their excellent customer service – something larger operations ironically struggle with…

In conclusion, there are many great cloud-based applications out there, either for personal or business use. However, many of them come at a price and the most popular is not always the best value for money, so it’s always worth exploring the alternatives to ensure you choose the application best suited to your needs.

This article was written by technology evangelist Graham – a lover of all things cloud and internet based!