What is Cloud Computing? Why Web Applications Will Transform The Way You Do Business

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What is Cloud Computing?

The Growth of Cloud Computing

The Growth of Cloud Computing

What is Cloud Computing? It is a revolution that will change your business for the better, letting you work faster, cheaper and better…. and from anywhere, just about.

Cloud Computing is one term for Internet-based software and hardware platforms – basically, instead of installing programs on your own computer, you access them over the Internet – Gmail is cloud computing, in fact most of what Google offers is cloud computing – you access it via a web interface. Are you familiar with Hootsuite, the social networking client? That’s Cloud Computing – also known as a Web Application (Web App). Many of you probably already use Freshbooks (get it free from this link) – one of my favourite apps, that lets you track time and estimate & invoice easily.

It’s cool because it allows for a number of wonderful things – you can access your business information and applications from any internet connected device, so you’re no longer tied to one computer at your desk – PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad etc… You’ve got real-time business information always at your fingertips – which allows you to make decisions based on up-to-date, accurate company data.

Because it’s not tied to one computer, you’re in no danger of losing everything if that computer breaks – your data is stored securely in data centres with backup systems. Plus, you’ve always got your documents to hand, as long as there’s a device with an internet connection nearby.

Because you’re accessing the app over the web, the company that writes the app can quickly correct bugs and introduce new features – so you never have to buy new versions like you do with traditional software. New features to let you do things faster and better are added all the time. Web Apps companies are also very good at supporting their users, in my experience.

Web apps companies also tend to be much friendlier to each other than traditional software companies, even building their systems so your applications can talk to each other, your contact lists are linked to your customer management system, which links to your project system, which also links to your invoicing system which is linked to your accounting system – so you can automate many of your time-consuming tasks, and get a lot more done.

If you have a company, perhaps staff are located in several different locations. Web Apps are great for teams like this, because they easily allow you to collaborate with team members and share documents – you can even work on them in real-time together, despite being miles apart. You can set up and work on projects together, see what’s in the sales funnel, track customer interactions, arrange conferences, training, customer presentations, seminars… in fact any sort of meeting, online. Cloud computing is letting people work together better, faster, cheaper and more profitably.

Ex Ignibus for Cloud ComputingMy company, Ex Ignibus, specialises in web apps (cloud computing) for small businesses – we install Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) as the interface, linked with applications for accounting, invoicing, email marketing, customer relationship management, project management, word processing, spreadsheets – and lots more – for single person businesses up to large, geographically-separate, teams. Web Apps are inexpensive, and can be afforded by any business – it currently costs around $50 per user per year to buy GAPE, and many of the additional Web Apps offered are free as long as they’re integrated with the GAPE solution. Others cost between $10-$25 per month, usually increasing as your requirements increase – so you, as a small business owner, can get a pretty awesome business system for less than $50 per user per month – in comparison to regularly spending hundreds of pounds or dollars buying new software licenses for installable computer-based software. Many Web Apps are also free for micro-businesses (single employee or small team).

So, as you can see, cloud computing offers a new way of working which breaks free of traditional single-computer information and restrictive private networks, offering a secure, simple way for small businesses and teams to enjoy the kind of software that only large corporations could afford previously. The only software tied to my computer these days is Expression Web, Visual Basic and Photoshop – development tools I build sites with that demand higher processing power than most business apps and usually involve large filesizes. To try Web Apps out requires little or no investment, and could have massive positive effects on your business, so why don’t you give ‘em  a try? If you need a bit of help, drop me a line via the contact form at Ex Ignibus.

Take care and have fun out there,

Rob Bell

Living in a Con-Dem Nation – a Bright Future for British Politics?

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Conservatives Take Control
- But on a Lib Dem Leash

Cameron in Power

David Cameron Becomes New Resident at 10 Downing Street

So, it’s official – today, Gordon Brown stepped down as Prime Minister, and resigned as leader of the Labour Party and as one of the few remnants of New Labour. David Cameron is the new British Prime Minister.

The Tory party is forming the next Government of the United Kingdom – I feared this happening. Thatcher closed all the pits around the mining area I’ve lived in since my birth, destroying my father’s business (he was a coalman) and almost killing him, when heart failure as a result very nearly was his end. As a result, I’ve never supported the Tories. As I experienced adversity in my life, I found that they really didn’t represent me – they represented the monied classes – heck 18 of Cameron’s frontbenchers went to Eton with him, that doesn’t suggest that they’re in touch with the real world – rather cocooned, and privileged through their old boy network. I don’t see that they really understand real people – they spend very little time with them.

However, as Lord Ashdown himself expressed earlier – HOORAY!!!

I’m a card-carrying Liberal Democrat and have been for many years. We’ve campaigned for fairer politics and an end to the 2-party system that has kept us in the crap for many decades. Look at these results for the 2010 UK election:

Party Seats Gain Loss Net Votes % +/-%
Conservative 306 100 3 +97 10,706,647 36.1 +3.8
Labour 258 3 94 -91 8,604,358 29.0 -6.2
Liberal Democrat 57 8 13 -5 6,827,938 23.0 +1.0

As you can see, the Lib Dems got 23% of the popular vote but 57 seats – whereas Labout got 29% and 258 seats – how could that every be fair?The old system doesn’t represent the people it’s meant to serve.

Fortunately, no single party could form a majority Government, so Cameron reached out to the Liberals with what he described as “a comprehensive offer”. Cue lots of negotiation behind closed doors – many people had a problem with this – I have no such problem. I was happy to let the Libs talk to any other party for as long as they wanted, to get the best deal for us, and a fairer deal for Society.

Nick Clegg - New Deputy Prime Minister

Nick Clegg - New Deputy Prime Minister

Reach forward to today, and The Lib Dems and the Conservatives are forming a coalition Government. Many online have been very critical about this relationship, likening it to dealing with the Devil. I don’t share their belief. At 12.45 this morning, Nick Clegg announced he’d had overwhelming support from his party, and they would be joining the Conservatives in the coalition.

“It’s an opportunity for what I got into politics to achieve, a new, diverse Government” stated Nick Clegg. I don’t understand how one single true Liberal Democrat can argue with that. We have to trust Nick, he represents our interests – and I’d much rather he was doing that as Deputy Prime Minister than as a front-bencher in opposition. As Lib Dems we now have an ability to temper and work within the Tory Party to influence a more fair Government that serves it’s public instead of dictating to them like the last 13 years of New Labour. Nick got full agreement from the Party – Lib Dem policy is always subject to a democratic process, unique among the 3 main parties, I believe.

Lib Dems in Cabinet/Government Known So Far -

Nick Clegg – Deputy Prime Minister

Vince Cable – In charge of Businesses and Banks (and probably George Osbourne before long!)

Chris Hulme – Health Minister (Not sure if this is right)

A Gent whose name escapes me (will correct when I find it out) – Minister for Scotland (Tories only have 1 seat in Scotland – they came 4th up there!)

The Coalition Document

The document detailing the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition is released later today (Tues 12th May, 2010).It’s going to the most-read document on the planet for the next day or two!

We’ve already heard of some great wins for Nick – the Libs in Cabinet and Government, Vince getting the Banks and Businesses (and get the Banks he will! Kill ‘em Vince!), The no tax until £10k – which will help disabled entrepreneur start-ups like my own to better afford the capital and equipment we need, starting companies on very limited budgets, a referendum on making voting and elections fairer and more representative of the views of more of its’ people.

So, today has been a great day for me. A week ago, I hoped we’d do well – but wasn’t 100 confident we’d win outright… This week, we didn’t win outright in the Election – but we’ve won a far greater prize. The prize of Lib-Dems in senior Government roles, and an opportunity to have a real say in the way the country develops over the next 5 years. Win-Win-WIN!!!!

Take care, and have fun out there,

Rob Bell

p.s. Check back for my ‘What is Cloud Computing and How Can It Grow Your Business?’ post tomorrow

Rob Bell’s Blog Has Been Modernised!

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If you’re a regular visitor to the blog, you’ll notice occasional changes – some more obvious than others. Today, the changes are very obvious! I’ve given the site a major overhaul. Britain’s trying to sort out its’ next government – in the strangest election result that’s every happened in my lifetime – and I’ve been up following the news through the night the past few nights. So while I’ve been up, I’ve updated the site theme – to a more modern, almost minimalist theme that’s inspired by the iPhone’s ‘Notes’ app :) .

You can now enjoy Notes from A Yorkshire Internet Megalomaniac’s closer integration with Facebook and Twitter, clearer access to my social media links, a cutting-edge comment platform, and a few other little tweaks.

Now the blog’s looking nice and fresh, I will once again redouble my efforts to update more often – it’s a constant struggle juggling 3 companies, a social media presence, writing, training, networking, technical work etc… but you probably know that – what’s that you say? Yeah, poor me – I know – grumpy, northern, englishman… it’s due to lack of sleep since Thursday!

Oooh, I almost forgot – I got access to a site that’s not even launched til next week, where I got hold of a copy of Copyblogger‘s as yet unreleased guide to ‘Creating Compelling SEO Content That Ranks Well in Search Engines’. If you want to sneak a copy for yourself before everyone gets hold of it next week, visit this pre-release launch page – you don’t have to leave your email or anything, just download the guide. I’ve printed it out, it’s good stuff.

Take care and have fun doing what you do out there,

Rob

p.s. Let me know what you think of the site updates – leave me a comment below.

Stop The Rot And Build a Fairer Britain Or More of The Same?

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Like most of you, no doubt, I used to take little or no real interest in Politics – even though, everyday, politicians make decisions that affect my life, that of my family and friends – and that of everyone else in our country. As I got into my 30s and experienced much greater adversity than at any point previously, I started to take an interest.

Historically, I had one major political event that’s stuck in my memory from childhood. My Dad was a coalman – he had the biggest round in Wakefield. I used to work with him when I was younger, during the holidays – especially the Winter.  During 1984, Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives took on Arthur Scargill and the National Union of Mineworkers – causing the Miner’s Strike , that ran from 1984-85, and had a pretty devastating affect on Wakefield, where I live still to this day, destroying all the mining communities around – in fact, a big chunk of the country, particularly in the North of England – many places have never fully recovered, I believe the Wakefield area to be one of them.

The miner’s strike was devastating to my father and our family, as it was to so many in the Coal Industry. It seemed like the supply of coal dried up overnight – rationing started, Dad couldn’t get hold of much coal – and any stock he got was as likely to be stolen from his yard as it was to get to the few remaining customers who were able to get a coal ration slip. Dad’s business collapsed, we lost our home, all our savings went into propping things up until they ran out… and Dad nearly died when his heart failed as a result.

Since then, I’ve never felt that politics really represents the real people of Britain. A lot of the politicians we see are career politicians, born into privilege, and somewhat removed from the realities of life in the UK. The corruption within is disgusting – wealthy donors control and shape policy with their wallets, and the recent expenses scandal proved a lot of politicians to be self-serving, prepared to take liberties with money that we, their employers, certainly never intended to be spent expensively renovating up their multiple homes.

For my entire life, either the Conservatives or Labour have been in power – making the same mistakes over and over. Most people I know don’t feel that the Goverments, past and present, really represent them, or look after their interests. They seem to encourage profit at any social cost and looking after the wealthy and influential, while ignoring the needs of the average man or woman on the street. They spend vast amounts of the money we provide them with, in the form of taxes, on propping up banks – who nearly brought our economy to ruin with their maverick attitudes, speculative risks and pursuit of profit at any cost. What have the Labour Government done about it? Well, the banks are still handing out massive bonuses to staff, sticking 2 fingers up at us after we so kindly bailed them out of trouble. The Conservatives wouldn’t be any better – they want to slash Public Spending, causing further unemployment, and potentially causing the end of businesses who provide services to the public sector in the midst of our worst recession in decades. They will make the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. You only have to look at the recent furor over the party funding (millions) contributed by Lord Ashcroft – himself a tax exile from the UK, so where do his loyalties lay? Not to the people of Britain, I’ll wager.

I, personally, have had enough – and I’m not on my own. Some people vote for extremist parties in protest, as they target the common man’s fears – the recent rise of the BNP shows this. I deplore such extremism – I just want to live in a country where people get along and have a Government that looks after their interests rather than the interests of the money men. I feel about it so strongly that I am even standing for council election next month. Who for? The only party I feel represents a real opportunity to make positive changes, and to take 21st Century Great Britain forward – the Liberal Democrats.

A lot of people I talk to say they won’t vote Lib Dem, because they’ll never get into power – so they’re going to vote Conservative or Labour – one in protest at the existing Government and hoping for change, or the other because “It’s better the Devil you know…”.  To you all – the Labservatives – I say “Balderdash! (Actually, my real choice of word was  ‘Bollocks’, but balderdash is so much politer!) You’re perpetuating an ongoing 2-party nightmare that’s held its’ suffocating grip over Britain for 65 years. I want off this sickening ride, I want positive change, and I hope you do to. Things won’t change unless you vote for change. When enough people want change, change happens.

With that in mind, I’m going to sign off this post with an email I got today from Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems.

Stayed tuned – an all new RobBellBlog.com is imminent – with regular posts, news and tips for small business owners and freelancers, Better Living and Better Business Through the Internet, iPhone & iPad, Cloud Computing and Web Applications articles and discussion,  Tech & Gadget news and reviews, and guest bloggers. I’m currently developing the new format, and will keep you abreast of all the improvements.

Rob Bell
- not usually so political, but it’s important!

Here’s the email from Nick:

Dear friend,

Last week, we launched a spoof campaign for the ‘Labservative’ party. You can find the details at www.labservative.com. It’s a funny campaign, but it has a serious point, a point only Liberal Democrats are making in this election.

For 65 years the government of our country has been handed from Labour to the Conservatives and back again like a game of pass the parcel. Red-blue, blue-red politics – and look what it has got us: corrupt politics, recession, inequality, time and again. They just take turns at making the same mistakes. It has to end.

The old politics is not good enough any more. It is time for something different. Our strategy in this election is to make it clear that if you want real change, you have to vote for a party that is different. All you will get from the old parties is more of the same. Just think how much they agree on.
On the economy: the Labservatives have been in thrall to the City of London for decades, neglecting the rest of Britain and letting the banks get away with doing whatever they want. And now the Labservatives are both refusing to come clean about the tough decisions needed to sort out the public finances – it’s a conspiracy of silence.

It’s the same story wherever you look: together David Cameron and Gordon Brown have blocked political reform, including our plan to allow people to sack corrupt MPs. The Labservatives compete to sound tough on crime instead of doing what works to actually catch criminals and stop them committing more crimes. And the Labservatives have made UK foreign policy subservient to the interests of the United States, from the illegal invasion of Iraq to the decision to waste £100bn on replacing, like for like, the Cold War era Trident nuclear submarines.

Labservatism is alive and well in Britain today, and only the Liberal Democrats can change that. A vote for Cameron or Brown is a vote for the corrupt, failed status quo. Only Liberal Democrats offer real change.
So wherever you are out campaigning, from Scotland to Cornwall, from Ceredigion to Norfolk, from inner London to rural Cumbria, remember this:

We are not campaigning against two parties: we are campaigning against one. We are campaigning against the old, failed way of doing things. We are campaigning for real, permanent change to build a fairer Britain. It’s a simple choice between old and new.

So get out campaigning, and take on Labservatism in your area. Say No to more of the same and Yes to real change.

Thank you for all of your hard work,

Nick Clegg

I Am Neglecting My Blog Again!

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Hi everyone, and apologies once more for the lack of attention and love I’ve given the blog…
My web design business in Wakefield, UK – has been so busy, I’ve been unable to keep everything updated -whether my blog, articles, Facebook, Twitter or other social sites – it’s been tough to manage everything, but I’ll get better at it everyday :)

I’m most frequently on Twitter, then Facebook – I check each every day. So if you need to get in touch hit me up at http://www.twitter.com/robbell or http://www.facebook.com/robbell

I will be back writing this blog regularly if it kills me – and it probably will!!!

Rob

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