Working in the cloud can feel like you're disconnected from reality. You don't have a desk or an office, so even those minor accouterments of business (say, paper clips and a stapler) are not available.
Yet, the benefits of working in the cloud often outweigh this weightlessness: being able to write up a Google Doc report from your own living room or finishing up your accounting while waiting in the lobby of a hotel. Mobility means freedom.
For smart mobile workers, having the right tools can make all of the difference. You can replicate that real cubicle setting and still work at your local coffee shop. Here are a few of my recent discoveries, along with a few reasons why they help you stay productive.
What I like most about the doc-sharing app OfficeScope is that it is designed for real business. We're not just living on an island, sharing documents with co-workers. You can set up a central repository and let vendors, partners, and contractors share docs. There are scanning features that help you move paper documents to the cloud as well.
Some advocates of working only at the office (I'm looking at you, Yahoo) say it is hard to stay productive otherwise. They probably don't use Producteev, a social task management app for teams. The app runs on multiple browsers, major mobile operating systems, and even as a Mac app. For those in a hurry, you can check an activity stream to find out who is working on what.
That old-school knowledge-base that runs only on your corporate server? It's not exactly accessible from your phone when you're at the mall. SweetProcess addresses the problem. You can capture company knowledge in the cloud, then tap in from anywhere. Say you need to fill out an HR form properly--SweetProcess works on the Web, tablets, and as a phone app. You can check training and procedures for your particular job.
4. MailBox App
Hardcore e-mail apps like Outlook are great--if you're in the office or using a computer. Mailbox App is different because it speeds up your workflow. (You do know you are working when you check e-mail, right? It's one of the most repetitive things we do.) You can tap to snooze on an unimportant e-mail, or swipe to archive messages.
5. Blue Jeans
No, I'm not talking about a new pair of Levis. This videoconferencing app, which lets you chat with up to 25 people, knows how entrepreneurs operate. It runs without as many distracting features--you just see someone talking and can interact as a team. The "one-click" meeting saves times because you get the same spontaneous chats as you would in the office.
I'm a big fan of Google Voice and use it for recording interviews. But for more serious business phone management, eVoice is a smarter way to go. It runs on your iPad and you can route calls to another employee, hold a quick conference call, and get voice-to-text voice e-mail. But the best part is the appearance of having a brick-and-mortar office. You can set up an attendant that routes callers through a departmental tree, just like a PBX.
This oddly named app--maybe all the good ones were taken--is designed to help you stay productive from anywhere, even if you have to manage your inventory. You can process orders and credit cards, set up deliveries (with direct ties to FedEx and UPS), and keep track of what is in your warehouse. The app even integrates with e-commerce tools like Shopify.
Quick, name the number one problem of working in the cloud? That's right: getting access to your work computer. There are plenty of remote access tools, but hopTo is one of the easiest to use. You punch up the app on your iPad and can see your desktop in seconds. The app also lets you search for files stored on your remote PC.