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Top 15 Consumer Cloud Services : Page 2

Many of these services are available for free but vary in usability and simplicity.


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Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)

Much like Amazon’s “Simple Storage Service,” its elastic offering is based on a per hour usage and storage will scale as needed. Starting at .12¢ per hour for small amounts to .96¢ for large amounts of data. As with all of Amazon’s offerings, your storage is available through web interfaces. Additionally, you can create custom environments and run multiple instances of your storage simultaneously.

Windows Azure Platform



Azure is actually a series of cloud applications that allow developers to build and program apps in the cloud, rather than on a local server. “Azure” is a scalable hosting and storage platform that also links to SQL Azure and AppFabric. “AppFabric” allows Azure to connect with “on-premises” applications and those developed in the cloud. Other Microsoft programs can also integrate with Azure, such as “Visual Studio” and third-party apps. Azure starts at .15¢ per gigabyte per month.

Salesforce

Customized for both small businesses and enterprise, Salesforce is a great tool for contact management, projects and proposals, sales information and team organization. Starting at just $5 a month to $250 for premium users, Salesforce will keep track of all the emails and phone calls made between you and your customers, it integrates with Lotus Notes, Google apps, Outlook and you can share projects with your teammates through the cloud. Presentations such as Powerpoints can be uploaded to the cloud and accessed by employees or clients.

IBM Storage Solutions

IBM offers three different solutions for enterprise, “Smart Business”, “Smart Business Cloud” and “Smart Business Systems.” The standard “Business” offering is cloud storage on a pay-per-use basis. “Business Cloud” services are built behind your firewall and allow for private virtual servers and applications. “Business Systems” allow you to move applications and collaborate in the cloud.

Skytap

With a subscription model, Skytap is a powerful demonstration and “proof-of-concept” cloud platform. It allows businesses to instantly show its clients an application, software idea or product through a virtual machine accessible by their web browser. Custom environments can be saved and tailored to a specific client’s needs. Multiple environments can also be deployed simultaneously to various customers. While a client explores the virtual machine, the host can have an “over the shoulder” view of everything going on. This powerful tool is perfect for developers who deal with customers across the globe.

Dropbox

Possibly one of the most popular cloud services to date, the ease of use and simplicity make Dropbox a powerful tool for any user. You get 2GB of free storage and can upgrade to 50GB for $10 a month and 100GB for $20 a month. Dropbox works with both Mac and PC and has an app available for all major mobile platforms. Installing Dropbox on your computer creates a folder in a location of your choosing. Everything placed in the folder is synced to Dropbox automatically. You can also access your files through Dropbox.com and share large files with ease. The automatic syncing is great for backing up your important files and documents.

Google Apps

From TV to smart phones to Earth, Google has its hand in just about everything. It’s one of the few companies whose name has become a verb, “just Google it.” Free to use, Gmail alone is worth admission. Its email organization and labeling, contact and calendar syncing works with every major mobile platform and integrates with numerous other cloud services. Google docs allows you to create, edit, upload, download, and collaborate on any number of documents in the cloud. Google reader is arguable one of the best RSS aggregators available and Google maps needs no introduction. While raw file storage is absent from Google apps, the sum of its parts place it ahead of the competition.



Steven S. Warren is a writer in Florida. He is the author of The VMware Workstation 5 Handbook and held the Microsoft MVP award for 8 consecutive years. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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