Cloud Computing is a real buzzword lately. The idea behind computing in the cloud is that all of the software that you use and all of the storage space would be hosted and protected off of your computer. The most common ways that people and business use cloud computing is through Amazon S3 and more commonly Google apps.
I found this great article about a business moving all apps and storage to Google Web services and Google Apps. And this article is an example of how you can do this, although it is fairly basic.
As a small business we decided to use “Everything Google” to run our website. We are amazed by how much functionality Google provides for small businesses like ours at the ridiculously low price of $50 per year. It’s also incredible as how well the various applications available on Google have been integrated together. If we were a large business and were running these applications in-house, we would have probably spent millions on their purchase, integration and maintenance.
Cloud Computing Using Google Services
On a daily basis we use the following Google services:
- Google Docs – All our documents are held in Google Docs. We no longer have any files stored locally in Microsoft format on our computers (and we got rid of our server). This means that we can access our documents from anywhere (very handy because we often travel between the UK and Italy) and have access to our documents at all times (through our laptops/iPads). Everything is backed up automatically and we no longer need to think about saving of documents. The other brilliant thing about Google Docs is that it is integrated with Google Sites, which means that on our site the product prices are directly driven by spreadsheets that are held in Google Docs and we have a couple of presentations in Google Docs which play automatically on our website.
- Google Sites – The Da Londra website runs under Google Sites (strictly speaking under Apps as opposed to Sites).
- GMail – Our email accounts use GMail although these are mapped on to our own URL.
- Google Analytics – We monitor the traffic on our site on a daily basis and using the data provided, make informed decisions about updating and modifying our sites.
- Google AdWords – Our site is targeted towards Italians who live in northern and central Italy. With the use of AdWords, our message reaches exactly the audience that we want to visit our website.
- Google AdSense – We use a mix of advertising on our site which includes AdSense. Again, AdSense is integrated into Google Sites and we can add or remove adverts at will.
- Google Maps – We have made extensive use of maps on our website. We use the My Maps facility of Google Maps to create our own customised maps (which show the places that we recommend on this website). It’s so easy!
- Picasa – We hold our photos of our products in Picasa which is integrated with our web site.
- Google Webmaster – We use this tool to better understand the performance of our website in relation to Google searches.
As you can see, we are completely converted to the idea of ‘cloud computing’ and can’t understand why anyone would wish to run their applications in-house. We are also fans of Google, because we think Google has got the capability to provide business-class applications but without trying to rip off small businesses like us.
Issues Encountered Using Google Apps
Having said that, it hasn’t always been easy. As we have been building our website, we have come across a number of issues that Google are yet to address. For example, we believe that the Open Office applications available under Google Docs, although functional, are by no means as developed as their Microsoft equivalents and, if you are used to using Microsoft Office applications, then you will find it difficult to adjust to Google Docs.
We have also made many mistakes, mainly because we hadn’t fully understood the technicalities of some aspects of managing our own website. The worst example was when we accidentally took our site off-line because we allocated our URL to an internal user access application. In this case, although Google’s support team provided us with a solution after 24 hours, this was far too slow for our liking.
Cloud Computing Lessons Learned
We believe in sharing. As a small business we have now learnt a lot about the use of Google services and have decided to record the lessons and tricks that we have learnt (and are still learning) on a dedicated part of our website so that others can learn from our experiences.
Fash Darabi is the managing director of Da Londra, an information portal for well-to-do Italians who visit London for shopping and purchase of new cars. Da Londra utilises Google Sites and all the other facilities that Google provides for small businesses. Fash likes to share his experiences of using these facilities with other people who run small businesses on http://www.dalondra.it/google-fans.
For people to use Google apps is quite simple to do. For business there is other issues to worry about and that goes around issues like internet uptime (to have access to apps), and the learning curve of all users used to Microsoft Office apps.
So although there are lots of issues it is very easy to just go to Google and check this concept of cloud computing out.