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It's Cloudy Out There

  |  September 5, 2011   |  Comments   |  

Trust the Cloud and the force will be with you. Here's how to get started.

A tech buzz word that has recently gone mainstream is "the cloud" - the concept of having everything on the Internet, or the Cloud, so that all you need is an Internet connection to do anything you want... anything. Cloud has gone mainstream because it has evolved from a technical topic among IT professionals to a business topic that entrepreneurs can appreciate.

Before I go any further, and if there is one thing that I would like you to take away from the Cloud: when technology is so easily accessible from a cost and technical perspective, there really is no valid excuse not to embrace it. Saying you are not tech savvy is no longer an option. Accepting and using this technology can do wonders to your business.

Now back to The Cloud. It is not new (sounds familiar?). I guarantee you have already been touched by it - your web email, your online photo album, your 5GB of free storage, these are all some form of cloud computing - i.e. online applications that take the burden of storage and processing power off you.

Trust the Cloud, and the force will be with you.

From our experience working with clients in the past two years, we have leveraged many of these online applications to provide cost-effective solutions to them and alleviate the working team from the intricacies of technology, allowing us to focus on the business.

Email You need serious email management platform to do serious email marketing. A platform that allows you to send, track and analyse your email messages and contact lists is critical for ongoing success. We've used ConstantContact and iContact. They are both great with only slight differences in user interface and reporting format.

Content Management System This scary word is no longer complicated or expensive. WordPress.com is a great platform with a big community of designers creating very nice looking templates that are highly customisable for all to use. It is not an enterprise level solution, but it is very good and it's free. Although Wordpress is supposedly made for blogs, but when the line between a blog and a website as you usually understand is blurring, does the distinction matter anymore?

CRM Another intimidating and ambiguous word. Customer relationship management systems are more accessible than ever. Salesforce and SugarCRM both offer advance CRM solutions at a monthly fee that is very small compared to a full installation.

eCommerce The eCommerce world has taken a great leap forward in the past 2 years. You can get everything you need to start selling online by paying a small monthly fee. Solutions like Big Commerce provide online tools to easily set up your professional eCommerce site.

Shipping Even third-party fulfillment can be done through the cloud nowadays. Ship them your products, connect it to your eCommerce site and voila, you have an automated fulfillment service. Shipwire and Fulfillment by Amazon offer similar services. Unfortunately this is not yet popular in Asia.

Intranet When we started our business 3 years ago, we bought all these book shelves thinking we would be filling them with all the documents you would expect to have running a business. These shelves are still quite empty. We use Basecamp to manage our projects, Dropbox to share our files, Google's business solution to manage our email and calendars and Skype to do calls. We don't even see a need to go to the office, let alone using the shelves.

Have a Cloudy day!

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Patrick Tam

Patrick is the principal advisor of 3 Screens Strategic Advisors, a digital marketing consultancy that specialises in developing holistic digital strategy by providing digital auditing, planning, and dash-boarding services to clients. He has a deep and holistic understanding of the myriad of digital channels, and the ability to strike a balance between its art and science. Patrick worked on a variety of digital and integrated assignments with clients in the region from various industries including air travel, financial services, fashion, fast food chains, FMCG, hospitality, jewelry, property, telecommunication, and toys. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Canada, Patrick graduated as an electrical engineer from the University of Waterloo in Canada.

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