January 27, 2012
The title might sound a bit presumptuous, but the writers at Cloud Nation worked hard to compile a list of cloud applications that most folks who don’t spend time in the cloud aren’t familiar with. All of these cloud hosted applications are free, but some of them do use the freemium mode of app distribution. In other words, the apps’ core features function forever for free, but extra premium features are available with subscription or other pay-as-you go plan.
Mail Chimp: Are services like Constant Contact becoming too expensive? Then MailChimp might be for you. The “forever free” service from MailChimp allows customers to store up to 2,000 email addresses and distribute as many as 12,000 emails per month – no contracts, no fees, no credit cards, no trial expirations. MailChimp also offers inexpensive monthly, pay-as-you-go, and high volume services.
Cloudo, eyeOS: These are two independent companies offering essentially the same service: Host your computer in the cloud and access it from any Internet-ready computer or phone. That’s right; both of these free services allow you to create and customize a virtual computer and host it on their cloud servers. Manage files, run applications, and do whatever you normally would do on your computer – all within a web browser. The main difference between these competing solutions is that CloudO is free while in beta, whereas eyeOS is a dedicated open source project with both free and professional versions and a partner program.
Pixlr: This graphics editing cloud app rocks. I used to tote around a flash drive with a portable
version of Photoshop saved on it. No longer! Thanks to Pixlr. (Seriously, and I’m not being paid by Pixlr to write this – nor am I in any way associated with them.) Pixlr’s web-based photo editor is one of the most responsive cloud hosted applications I’ve ever seen. Given a decent Internet connection, there’s essentially no lag at all. It’s like Photoshop lite, with many of the same image adjustment, layer, and filter features that I use all the time with Photoshop. They also offer a free Android and iOS app.
Picnik: Another free web hosted photo editing app similar to Pixlr, the chief difference between the two is Picnik’s premium offerings that add even more powerful functionality. Picnik also offers a “Chrome App” which worked great on an otherwise underwhelming Lenovo x120e notebook.
HootSuite: While becoming increasingly popular, it’s possible you haven’t heard of HootSuite yet. This software-as-a-service solution allows you to manage all of your social media profiles from a single easy-to-use dashboard. I actually prefer HootSuite’s interface to Facebook’s own native one. With HootSuite, IT consultants could tiptoe into the online identity or brand management sectors, offering profile management services for SMB owners who lack the time to deal with it themselves.
Mint: It’s no QuickBooks replacement, but Mint’s accounting software is a great Quicken alternative. It provides investment management and personal finance functions that allow for simple budgeting and investment planning. While it can’t deal with the accounting needs of an SMB with significant inventory, a high volume of transactions, or employees, it could work well for an independent contractor.
SoundCloud: Comparable to web-hosted music streaming services like GrooveShark, SoundCloud goes a step farther and allows you to stream and share any sound. It has simple voice and sound recording features and allows for the upload of virtually any sound file. For businesses needing to share audio files on their websites, SoundCloud is a perfect match. The service also offers a widget that makes streaming audio files on your website easy-breezy.
Hitman Pro: Despite the name, this app from Holland is actually intended for users’ security. This software is a malware eradication tool that scans users’ computers, uploads suspicious files to the cloud, and takes advantage of the capabilities of a significant number of other security companies’ software to identify and clean threats. I’ve seen Hitman Pro remove run-of-the-mill malware, rootkits, and even bootkits. The application has a 30-day free full functionality period, but will identify (without removing) threatening objects forever.
Joseph Walker is a staff writer for Cloud Nation – a community for IT professionals focused on cloud computing. Cloud Nation is a property of SMB Nation, an IT media and events hosting company that has been serving the SMB IT sector since 1999. SMB Nation established Cloud Nation in 2011 as a destination for IT professionals to learn about and discuss popular trends in cloud computing.