Using the Power of Cloud Computing with SaaS Services

We recently started documenting the services we use on a day-to-day basis and it struck us just how much we use SaaS and Cloud Computing services. To that end we thought it would be fun / beneficial to share some of these and how and why we use them:

File Server: StorageMadeEasy

We use SkyDrive (25 GB free) in conjunction with Amazon S3 and an in-house PogoPlug installation to store files. We use the Storage Made Easy Cloud File Server to provide a unified view of all of ur files (we are trialling PogoPlug support with them). This also enables us to assign user / file permissions and governance on the consolidated information stores which is very useful. We can also create collaboration groups across the consolidated information stores for sharing with clients and where the files are stored is abstracted (to the client). We also use the service  to managea nd share files on our iPad (tablet) and Windows Phone 7 clients.

CRM: Zoho CRM

Having used several different CRM systems over time, personally we prefer Zoho. For up to 3 users it is free and adding users and services is reasonably priced. It’s also very easy to change the default templates and to use (using the HTML5 mobile App). SalesForce is synonymous with CRM systems and SaaS, but Zoho is good (cheaper) alternative.

Project Management: Basecamp

Basecamp can be a little expensive but if you manage projects and want to collaborate it is hard  to beat as it’s simplicity and easy to use web interface stand the test of time.

Source Code / Bug Tracker: BitBucket

There are many source code and bug tracking systems, many of them free but we like BitBucket. It’s free for up to 3 users and is a solid source code and bug tracker. For source code editing we use Textastic which enables us to hook into specific source files stored on SkyDrive via WebDav using the SMEStorage CloudDav feature which is enabled when the iPad app is purchased.

Analytics: Google

Google Analytics a essential for tracking website statistics. There are alternatives (such as the fantastic Piwik) but it is hard to beat for ease of use. It is not flawless, the lack of ability to track IP addresses (and therefore do a reverse DNS lookup) is frustrating for example. We use AnalyticsPro on the iPad for mobile access/tracking.

Email: Gmail

Google Apps GMail is a great email system. We’ve used it for years and only have good things to say about it. We backup our Gmail to SkyDrive using the SMEStorage Cloud File Server so that it can be indexed and searchable along with our other files, and of course also for resiliency. For offline access on our iPad’s we use a customised version of Remail that we enhanced for the iPad.

Inbound Lead Tracking: Leadlander

LeadLander enables us to track companies visiting our website, how often they visit, and the new people feature enables us to directly contact leads. It’s a great service and great value at a couple of thousand dollars per year.

Server Monitoring: Server Density & Pingdom & WatchMouse & PagerDuty

Server Density is great for monitoring thresholds on Apache, Server Processes, MySQL connections etc. We plug this into PagerDuty so we can be alerted by phone if major thresholds are breached. Server Density also provide an iOS App for push alerts. Pingdom is used an added check for server outages, and WatchMouse is used to check quality of service for times taken to load pages on a site.

MySQL Admin: PHPMyAdmin

We tend to use the command line but if we need to access MySQL graphically we use PHPMyAdmin.

Call Services: e-Receptionist and Skype and TollFreeforwarding

e-Receptionist is great for virtual teams if you want to route calls to Sales / Support etc and you are not physically in the same location. Skype of course needs no explanation, except that we back up our Skype conversations to SkyDrive using the SMEStorage Cloud File Server so they can be indexed and searchable as we do a lot of communication over Skype. TollFreeForwarding is used to give an international number and then route into the e-receptionist infrastructure.

Online Marketing: Google Adwords and BuySellAds.com and LinkedIn Ads

Google Adwords is synonymous with online marketing and can be a great sales tool if used correctly, and BuySellAds is useful to advertise services to targeted sites using banner ads. LinkedIn Ads is a great way to reach a very targeted audience and in our experience is a great way to compliment any online marketing campaign.

Invoicing Services: BlinkSale

Blinksale is a great, simple SaaS invoicing service that is low cost and very easy to use and administer. There are many others but for simplicity you can’t beat BlinkSale.

Blog: WordPress

There are many others, such as Google Sites, and Tumblr, but there are so many ways to use WordPress and so many plug-in’s that there really is nothing else to compete with it.

Social: Twitter and FriendFeed and Identi.ca and Google Plus and Hootsuite

We use a variety of social sites to push out news. There are of course so many now that it would be impossible to list them all but we covered the major ones. If you use multiple Twitter or social accounts then Hootsuite is a must.

……. and there you have it. The types of SaaS cloud services a distributed virtual company can use to run their business.

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