Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What is a Cloud Service and why should You care?

Wikipedia gives a silly technical explanation: “Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like a public utility…”

Why should you Care?

Cloud Services are currently changing the way people, businesses and governments work and live.  Let me give you a few examples:

For Businesses (Small and Large)
  • Cost Savings are Huge.
    Cloud services are designed for sharing of one system between many users and companies. This means that you split the cost between all users. Lets say you company want to use Google Apps (Gmail / Calender / CMS …). This advanced system is used by many companies world wide and therefore the price is as low as 40 Euro per year and user. And you only need to signup on a website, in other words, no servers, no expensive consulting companies (I’m not promoting Google, but this is simply the best example).  You can also watch this nice video by Salesforce.

  • Growth Opportunity is extreme
    - for those who develop their own services.
    Scalability is a button switch away and you can target the entire world with your system.  Google has only been around for 10+ years, Facebook 6 years, YouTube 5 years and  Twitter 4 years. Of course you don’t need to aim for world domination. A good system on Google Marketplace will give you a head start if you are developing business systems.
Basically, Your company might be a victim if you don’t know what Cloud Service is and how it might affect you business.

On the other hand, if you play your cards right and know how Cloud Services might help your business you can be a world leading company in your area.

For Governments (and citizens)

The US government is currently working with NASA in order to transform the entire government IT infrastructure from costly and energi-innefective systems to Cloud services. This transformation is initially a very costly process, but will give US a head start over other countries. Watch this video from NASA and US CTO office.

  • Integration of all information
    Cloud doesn’t mean centralized data, but it means that all data is reachable and can easily be cross-referenced and integrated. This results in great new opportunities and some challenges. All technology progress couses some new problems, but it resolves more issues. Integrated information will eventually lead to better organization, less corruption, improved democracy, security, efficiency and more comfort.
Basically, Your job might be in risk if you are working with activities that will be replaced by integrated Cloud systems.

On the other hand, if you know how Cloud Services might help your career you may be a very valuable resource for the next 20 years.

For Consumers
Your life is slowly changing and you will not think about the term “Cloud Services”, but rather “Web based applications” or just “Web services”. You are problably today using some of the Cloud Services like: Gmail, Gtalk, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Spotify, Picasa, LinkedIn, Blogger, Dropbox, Delicious etc. Your data is spread around the web and you are not too considered about it.
Here is why you should care:
  • Profile yourself and be in Control
    Information (video, photo, comments, documents) you put online, on facebook, linkedIn, twitter, discussion forums etc. is stored, logged, processed and integrated. It can work for you or against you. It can help you get your dream job (LinkedIn), it can get you fired (Facebook). It can even get you imprisoned. It can help you get elected as president (Obama). It can spread your news in minutes around the world and international media (YouTube and Twitter). 

    Be present online with information you control (you own blog, domain, linkedIn, faceboo, twitter) in order to avoid trouble and get the benefits. If you are not present online you will not get any benefits, but you might get into trouble. Other will publish information including you (comments, photos, documents, videos). Since you are not the publisher you will not be in control of the information and that information will be on top of the Google search result when someone (a company, friend, acquaintance) Googles your name.

  • Your time is limited. Love efficiency.
    By using Cloud Services you avoid many trouble you are today having with your computer. You don’t have to install any software, transfer files and care about backup. Cloud Services work at home, at work, at friends, on the road. You only need a Browser and Internet connection. It is available on your Desktop, Laptop, Media Center, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Your data (Documents, Music, Files, Bookmarks, CV, Photos, Videos, Email and Contact) and applications are following you.

  • The Innovation in new services
    The examples and benefits described above are really only the beginning of Cloud Services. More Services and more integration between them will lead to very innovative consumer services. For example, context aware services will take into consideration your geographical location and other parameters about your current context in order to present valuable information and options. Here is another innovative example by Microsoft Research:

Follow me on Twitter for relevant news and solutions about Cloud Services and future Blog posts.
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Friday, April 2, 2010

Sync LinkedIn, Facebook, Outlook, CRM and iPhone Connections to Google Contacts (including the Profile Photo)

All your contacts (e.g. from LinkedIn, Outlook etc.) should be automatically synchronized and stored in one place in the cloud (Google Contacts) that enables easy access from any computer or mobile device.

Google Contacts (http://www.google.com/contacts) is a very important part of Google Apps suite since its connected to Gmail.

Follow these simple steps to have all your contact synchronized between your LinkedIn, Facebook, iPhone, Outlook and Gmail / Google Contacts:
Step 1 – Outlook to Google synchronization
This step is optional. Outlook can be synchronized using Google Sync tool available at tools.google.com/dlpage/gappssync.
Step 2 – iPhone to Google synchronization
This step is most essential in the process. Use these instructions exactly to setup the interaction between iPhone and Google http://bit.ly/bklwL8.
Step 3 – Facebook to iPhone synchronization
This step will add missing contacts from Facebook and update the profile photo of existing contacts (only of your Facebook friends).

Download the Facebook application from the AppStore on your iPhone and follow these instructions http://bit.ly/bS2dPo.
Step 4 – LinkedIn to iPhone synchronization
This step will add missing contacts from LinkedIn together with their profile photo (if they have one in LinkedIn). This step is very important since most of the business contacts are on LinkedIn.

Download the LinkedIn application from the AppStore on your iPhone and then download all contacts to your iPhone address book. See http://bit.ly/d4sZXM for more info.

I recommend completely rebooting your iPhone before synchronizing the LinkedIn contact since the application uses a lot of memory and can crash if you have to many contacts to synchronize the first time.
Step 5 – Congratulations! All contact are now synchronized to Google Contacts.
Visit Google Contacts (http://www.google.com/contacts) and see that all your contacts, including profile photos (for most of them are included). Use the Google Contact "Find Duplicates" button to merge any duplicates.

Keep using the LinkedIn and Facebook app on your iPhone in order to sync them to Google. If you update any contact on Google, they will automatically get updated on your iPhone as well.
Want more synchronization? Enable Contact sharing
If you are using Google Apps it easy to share contacts between all users in your domain and to achieve a global addressbook. Follow these instructions to enable contact sharing: http://www.google.com/support/a/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=47926 

You can also add Google Apps contacts from your Dashboard. All contacts will then be available on URL: https://www.google.com/contacts/a/_YOUR_DOMAIN_

Note! These steps are tested and worked 1st April 2010. Google offers Contact API (http://code.google.com/apis/contacts/)  that will enable you to integrate and use all your contacts in other systems e.g. a CRM tool.

Another option is to export the contact from Google and use them with Excel or other application that supports importing of Comma Separated Value files (CSV).

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