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Net Benefits

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It's large, out there somewhere and fuzzy around the edges. Sure, I just described a cloud, but I may as well have been speaking of cloud computing, the buzzword marketing departments all over are leveraging to mean just about anything! At its simplest, cloud computing is all about doing just the tasks you'd do on the computer, only you're doing them online on the Internet. If you use any web-based email, you're already using the cloud! 
 
Only now, there is a new breed of applications that is fast challenging the hegemony of desktop software by delivering very usable functionality over the internet for a fraction of the cost. Oh, and of course, no more being tied down to one device, no more syncing, no more installing and no more backing up!
 
Picnik
What it replaces: Any basic image editor
Why it rocks: Do you really need Photoshop to do basic edits to your photos? Pretty much most of the time, all you need is something basic that can let your crop, resize and rotate your images, and apply a few special effects while you're at it. Picnik lets you do all of this from within your browser, no install required! Best of all, if you've already got your photos on Picasa Web Albums, Flickr or Facebook, picnik can grab your photos from there, fix them and save them right back!
Also try: pixlr.com, photoshop.com
 
Dropbox
What it replaces: USB flash drives, local storage
Why it rocks: If you work across multiple computers, sharing and syncing files is such a pain. That is, if you haven't stumbled upon the effortless file synchronisation that Dropbox offers. Dropbox's basic premise is that you should have easy access to your files no matter what computer or device you have at hand. With versions for every major OS - Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry plus direct web access - Dropbox has you covered for free - at least for the first 2GB (with options for paid plans thereafter).
Also try: Windows Live Skydrive, Box.net
 
Zoho Office Suite
What it replaces: Microsoft Office
Why it rocks: They're your documents, so shouldn't they always be with *you*, instead of sitting on the home PC? That's the idea behind Zoho's Productivity Suite - all your documents available to you, wherever you are. Want to collaborate on that document/spreadsheet/presentation with friends and family? No problem! The offers plugins for Microsoft Office, letting you import Zoho docs into Word or Excel, and save them back online when you're done.
Also try: Office365
 
Evernote
What it replaces: Tons of note-taking apps, pen-and-paper
Why it rocks: Remember Everything. Much like the elephant in Evernote's logo, the app is designed to help you take notes to remember things, whether it's the name of a restaurant, a screen shot of a website, or a song lyric. Its software - available for Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, PC and Mac - lets you even scribble notes and capture images and then store them in the cloud, and by syncing to each of your devices, makes these notes readily available and searchable to you no matter which device you're using. And did I mention it also does handwriting recognition on your notes? Killer idea!
Also try: Springpad, Simplenote
 
Google Apps
What it replaces: Clunky desktop e-mail, office, calendar apps
Why it rocks: I'd be remiss if I didn't underscore the importance of the Google Apps suite to cloud computing and consumers at large. With Gmail, we stopped worrying about e-mail backups and had the world's best search engine sift and search through our email. With the office suite, we could instantly edit a document attached in the email, and share it with collaborators without breaking a sweat. And with the calendar app, we ditched unwieldy corporate-ish scheduling apps in favor of a calendar that only needed a Gmail address to invite others to your events.
 
MozyHome
What it replaces: Backup and Restore (Windows), Time Machine (Mac)
Why it rocks: You diligently backup all your computer data, but what if a bigger catastrophe strikes, like a fire or a burglary? Worry no more if your data insurance policy is a MozyHome account. With MozyHome, you get 2 free GBs of automatic cloud backup, and $4.95 a month gets you unlimited space for worry-free cloud backup. Granted, it takes some time getting your key files up to the Mozy servers, but the peace of mind that follows is well worth it.
 
Wordpress
What it replaces: Dreamweaver and just about any other web-page authoring software
Why it rocks: There used to be a time when making web pages was a tedious job, even for basic needs such as getting a blog up and running. Even the fancy-pants software that would generate the code for you via a visual editor took time to learn. And then Wordpress came along, allowing you to set up a blog for yourself (or your dog) in a matter of minutes… without obfuscating it beyond the reach of the common man. Once you're familiar, there are a ton of themes and plug-ins that can achieve pretty much anything you might need to for an online presence. And it's free.
Also try: tumblr, blogger
 
Hojoki
What it replaces: A ton of collaboration apps
Why it rocks: Forget using different software within a project group and then expecting them to talk to each other. Try Hojoki instead - it's really a messaging system that looks an a mini-CRM software on steroids. All it does is build a stream of people with whom you're already sharing contacts, and lets you organize them into groups for collaborative projects. You can even use it as a task progress monitor, since all the activities that all of you share within that group are pipelined through the Hojoki stream to everyone in that group.

technocool at kanwar dot net
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