Just What is The Cloud and How Can Contractors Use It?

By Ken Kelly, Kelly Roofing.

The Cloud, a mysterious place heavenly in perception; an invention to make our lives easier.  In reality it’s a confusing concept fragmented by concepts.  But, it’s getting better. To simplify, the cloud is basically hard drive storage, hosted by a company and accessible via the internet. You’re already using it if you have any kind of smart phone running apps.

The most popular use of the cloud is for file storage so that all your files are accessible from multiple devices, anytime, anywhere that internet connectivity exists. Here are the top seven uses of the cloud:

1 – File storage.

Job files usually consist of photos, proposal, contract, purchase orders, invoices, receipts, permits and more.  Scanning any paper documents and adding them to a single storage folder in the cloud allows access from any internet-enabled device.  Services such as OneDrive, DropBox and Google Drive can host your files and offer free plans with generous storage.

2 – Email anywhere

Modern companies use email more than any other form of communication. Some popular cloud-based services include Outlook, Gmail and iCloud. They all offer ample storage and connect to the device of your choice. Outlook and Gmail’s GSuite allow domain masking so you can use free email with your company’s vanity domain (www.YourCompany.com) for a more professional appearance.

3 – Calendar sync

Having the ability to sync your calendar with multiple devices ensure high productivity and prevents missed appointments.  Just about every modern email service includes a calendar sync as well.  However, the key to maximizing performance is calendar delegation; allowing others the ability to view, add, delete appointments from your calendar.  All our field employee appointments are set from the office using this ability.

4 – Shared notes

When bidding a large project, you need input from the safety coordinator, purchasing, estimating and approval from the company’s president.  Since there are many things to discuss try entering notes into a shared note program such as OneNote, Evernote or Asana and sharing it with your collaborators.  Each time a note is made it is tracked with a date/time stamp and the person’s initials so you can gain valuable input and approval when it is convenient to each person involved.

5 – File sharing

File sharing allows you to share the files you have stored in the cloud with customers and production teams. I’m a fan of SharePoint.  It has everything you will ever need and is used by almost all Fortune 500 companies.  OneDrive has the ability to share, but without the automation component.  Google Docs is similar to OneDrive.  iCloud is yet more limited, but a great start for those in the iOS ecosystem.

6 – Document collaboration

This takes file storage and file sharing to the next level. If you upload a proposal to the cloud and share it with your sales manager, bot of you can work on the document simultaneously. Office 365 and Google apps both offer this capability.

7 – The internet

The biggest advantage of the cloud is access to the internet itself.  A virtually endless supply of services, location information, directions, storage, collaboration, communications, search and just about anything else you could need is now available right in your pocket.

This is really just scratching the surface of the cloud.  In the very near future, the “Internet of Things” will make the cloud part of everything we do in life.  I suggest making an effort to incorporate as much of these ideas as possible to stay in line with the new way society communicates.  Your customers will expect it and the level of productivity gained will only help increase profits.

Note: This article was first published in Roofing Contractor magazine and the full article can be viewed here.

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