5 Cloud Tools to Boost Your Productivity

Do you think of the Web as procrastination central? It can be, but there are also tons of tools out there that can actually help you get things done.

Rebecca Ciaburri, a nurse manager in North Haven, Conn., for example, is a big fan of making lists. “My desk is covered with Post-it notes,” she says. But as an iPhone user, Ciaburri wanted a list-making application that would allow her to access her to to-do’s whether she was sitting at her desk at work or out running errands.

Thanks to cloud computing — where applications are run from the Internet (the cloud) rather than by downloading software — it was easy for Ciaburri to find just what she was looking for. An app called Remember the Milk  allows her to type in an item on her to-do list from her iPhone as well as her Gmail account. The app even syncs with her Google Calendar. “I could be in a meeting and remember that I needed to go to the post office tomorrow, and I could just type it in and then forget about it, because I knew it would be right on my phone,” she says.

Countless cloud tools and services like Ciaburri’s preferred one allow you to access your files and collaborate with others from just about any device or computer. Here are five cloud tools that will help you get more done today:

  1. Google Apps. From email to calendar to document sharing, Google Apps offers a range of free tools that don’t equal you having to install fancy software on your computer or devices. “Google Apps is a real game changer. It’s easy to use, it’s free and/or cheap, and Google Docs allows you to share and makes changes to documents throughout an organization,” says Selvidge.
  1. Dropbox. This cloud service lets you create a folder on your computer or device, then every time you make a change to a document in that folder, the information gets synchronized up to the cloud, and then synchronized back down to your machine. “I don’t even have to think anymore about where a file is,” says Stever Robbins, author of Get It Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More. “I know I can just go to my laptop or desktop and know that the file is waiting for me.” Dropbox also allows you to share files with other users.
  1. Mozy. This online file storage system allows you to store up to 2G of photos, music and files for free. Backup is automatic and unobtrusive, says Selvidge, who signed up for an account after she lost her laptop — along with a month and a half’s worth of work. “It’s not convenient to manually hook up your external hard drive all the time. Mozy does it automatically while you work,” says Selvidge.
  1. GoToMeeting. If you’ve ever had to walk someone through a document or PowerPoint over the phone, you know how frustrating and labored it can be. With GoToMeeting, the difference is that you can share your entire computer screen, talk and IM all via the Web — no software is needed. The site offers a free trial for 30 days to host an online conference for up to 15 people. “Our company does all of our product demos on GoToMeeting,” says Selvedge. “It’s low-cost and a great productivity tool.”
  1. Skype. If you don’t want to spend money on a cloud-based conferencing tool — and want to be able to video chat on top of it — check out Skype. The free service enables live video chats with up to nine people. And Skype is already popular among the less tech-savvy Web users out there. “The quality is good,” says Selvidge. “Plus they keep adding powerful features … now you can exchange documents through Skype.” If you’re not able to use video, Robbins adds that “it’s also great for multi-way audio conference, which I use all the time for my business.”

As for Ciaburri, whether she needs to be more productive at the office or home, with her cloud-based to-do list and other tools, she’s glad to say that now at least she never forgets her top priorities — like getting milk.