Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (both hardware and software) that are delivered to the user over a network (usually over the Internet). The name comes from the common use of a cloud-shaped symbol as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams. Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a user's data, software and computation.
End users access cloud-based applications through web browser (such as Opera, Firefox, Internet Explorer etc.) while the software and hardware you are using is stored on servers at a remote location.
In the business model of using software as a service, users are provided access to application software and databases. Cloud providers manage the infrastructure and platforms that run the applications. SaaS is sometimes referred to as "on-demand software" and is usually priced on a pay-per-use basis. SaaS providers generally price applications using a subscription fee.
Proponents claim that the SaaS allows a business the potential to reduce IT operational costs by outsourcing hardware and software maintenance and support to the cloud provider. This enables the business to reallocate IT operations costs away from hardware/software spending and personnel expenses, towards meeting other IT goals. In addition, with applications hosted centrally, updates can be released without the need for users to install new software. One drawback of SaaS is that the users' data are stored on the cloud provider's server. As a result, there could be unauthorized access to the data.
If your company decided to use Google Apps you might be tempted to use a myriad of applications available (free and pay) in the Google Apps Marketplace. The choice is overwhelming so you could start off by checking the apps that have been downloaded by other businesses. In order to get you started I made a list of 10 must have apps you should install.
- MailChimp - A newsletter service that can be integrated with a bunch of other popular small business cloud apps, including Rapportive, Batchbook CRM, Zendesk and Freshbooks. It also connects with e-commerce software including Shopify and Magento.
- FlashPanel - Management and security capabilities, including the ability to manage passwords, control user access, manage email usage and consumption, or create (and delete) shared contacts.
- Do by Salesforce - A projects and tasks manager; you can share items with people on your Google Contacts list.
- Accounting tools by Wave - A small-business accounting system that includes invoicing and reporting features.
- Mavenlink - A workforce and project management system that shows time sheets, budgets and costs related to ongoing projects, accounts receivable aging reeports and other information that will help with resource utilization and planning.
- Gantter Project - An application for handling scheduling of complex projects, which integrates with Google Drive for sharing and collaboration. It can import files from Microsoft Project.
- Insightly - A basic application for tracking customer interactions.
- Draw.io - An app for producing graphical diagrams using predefined objects.
- Zoho CRM - As with the other CRM tools mentioned, this service is for tracking leads and customer prospects. But it can also be used for customer support management and marketing automation.
- Capsule CRM - A customer relationship management (CRM) tool that integrates with Google Apps, and with cloud accounting and financial management software including Freshbooks and Xero.