We’ve all heard about the cloud and how the cloud will help make us more productive, but how many of us are really leveraging the cloud to do just that? Well, to help you along with your quest to success in 2014 I wanted to share my 5 must have cloud tools that I think every business/tech person should be leveraging as part of their daily life.
1. LastPass – The Last Password You’ll Ever Need
LastPass is an online password management service that’s available in a freemium model. You can get 90% of the features for free but if you want that extra special 10% you need to buy the premium solution, but it’s extremely inexpensive. I’ve been using LastPass for a number of years now and am able to use unique strong passwords for every online service I subscribe to. That way if one service is compromised they don’t get access to all of your other accounts because that account had a unique and random password. Now LastPass had their own data breach a while back but their encryption and my master password to their system is extremely strong as well so the likelihood of my data being compromised there is extremely low.
2. Evernote – All your notes available all the time on all your devices
Evernote is a great service that also is available in a similar Freemium Model and allows you to try out 90% of the solution for free. The nice thing about Evernote is you can upload images, pdfs and just about anything and it will read the text and make it searchable. Plus it integrates with a number of 3rd party services.
3. LiveScribe – The (cloud) Connected SmartPen
It’s hard to believe it but I’ve been fanatically using a LiveScribe pen since 2009. LiveScribe is a digital pen that captures your handwritten notes as well as records the audio that goes along with those notes allowing you to not only read your important notes but also play back the audio from your meeting so you know exactly why you wrote what you did. This has been instrumental in helping my planning and keeping track of my meetings. I’m currently using the LiveScribe SKY which is a wi-fi enabled smart pen that automatically syncs my handwritten notes to Evernote. Then Evernote’s handwriting recognition kicks in and makes my notes searchable. So after a meeting I can sync my notes and now I instantly have my notes anywhere I go and available on any device I use. LiveScribe also has a new pen that automatically syncs with your iOS device so you can store your notes to your ipad or iphone automatically. Again with full handwriting recognition. Think about it, You want to review all of your notes related to a specific project. So you search for that project name and instantly all of your meetings related to that project are available to you and not only your handwritten notes but the audio as well.
4. Pocket – All my online reading scrubbed clean and archived
I’ve just started using Pocket but it’s quickly become one of my go to services. I tend to read a lot of information on the Web as you can imagine and often these articles are proliferated with advertisements and even some are multipage articles. This can be tiresome to read. What more, if I want to print these out to read offline that too can be problematic. Pocket takes these online articles scrubs all the fluff like ads and such and gives you just the raw article, with the article graphics intact. Pocket is also searchable and you can tag your articles as you send them over. You can email articles to pocket, you can tag articles into pocket using their browser plugin and you can even leverage a number of third party services to send over articles to pocket. The only thing Pocket hasn’t been able to handle well for me is PDFs. If I could get PDFs, Word Documents and maybe PowerPoints over to Pocket I’d be pretty happy. Today I use Dropbox for those items though but pocket for everything else. Pocket is great for archiving great web articles (like this one) for future reference as well. You can even email urls to pockets by sending the url in an email to email@example.com
5. IFTTT – If This Then That
You’ve probably heard of IFTTT.com before, if not it’s pretty cool. You can thing of IFTTT as the programmable glue between multiple services allowing you to trigger certain events. Here’s a couple ways I use IFTTT:
- Archiving URLs from an RSS feed – I have a recipe for a couple newsletters and blogs that I follow regularly that have their own RSS feeds. When a new item is added to the RSS feed it automatically gets added to pocket for me. I don’t use this a lot because it can generate noise but I do tag the articles so they are sortable and delete those that aren’t relevant.
- Emailing Attachments to Dropbox – As I mentioned earlier I use Dropbox to share office documents (word, ppt, etc) as well as PDF’s. I get my attachments into a special folder in dropbox by emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org and then it’s instantly accessible on any mobile device I’m using. Do you use SkyDrive instead of DropBox? They support that too. In fact there’s thousands of recipes for IFTTT already created and shared out there that you can wire together any two services you use pretty quickly.
Not sold on those recipes for IFTTT? Here’s the top recipes used in 2013: http://blog.ifttt.com/post/72784335665/top-recipes-of-2013
To Success in 2014
Those are my 5 go-to services I use today and I’d love to hear what cloud powered tools and services you use on a daily basis. Each of these tools on their own is pretty powerful but when you start combining some of them together you get the real power of the cloud and what is truly meant to happen with the cloud. You see, the cloud isn’t about just moving services out to the Internet and hosting it outside your office, it’s about bringing multiple services together to do something that was otherwise not possible. The idea that I can have all of my meeting notes fully searchable and available to me at any time, anywhere is pretty powerful. Or that I can archive my ‘online reading list’ for later viewing at any time on any device or that I can make even office documents and pdf’s available to any device at any time. This really starts to show the power of the cloud and just what 2014 has in store for us. Here’s wishing you a joyous new year of wealth, prosperity and (cloud powered) productivity!