More and more services are moving to the cloud, from faxing to management tools. While many have subscription models, there are also a lot of free versions of cloud services that can help with organization, communication, and productivity. Here’s a look at five of the top free cloud services out there.
Dropbox’s free account comes with 2GB of storage, on the smaller side compared with other free services. But it’s a very solid service that’s widely used. It allows you and your coworkers to access and edit files or documents stored on the cloud, and it will automatically sync files. Launched in 2008 by two MIT students, Dropbox was one of the earlier players in cloud storage.
The storage and sharing service has mobile apps available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Kindle Fire devices, making it very easy to access your account.
There are a lot of productivity and task management tools out there. We like Trello because it’s very visual, very detailed, and very easy to use. It’s a free service, although you can upgrade to Trello Gold for $45 annually, or get it free by inviting new members.
Trello lets you use boards – as many as you want – to organize anything from your kids’ extracurricular activities to product management. Within each board is a set of lists, onto which you can add cards. You can color code those cards, add notes to them, assign them to people or teams, and drag them from one list to another as a task moves through a sequence of events. In print that may sound overwhelming, but the interface is simply-designed and intuitive. Trello also lets you upload files from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive.
Google Drive: backup and collaboration
Google Drive offers an impressive amount of storage and syncing for free. Along with its companion apps Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, it offers an office suite that lets you create documents, edit, save, and collaborate. It offers an impressive 15GB of space for free.
Since it is a Google product, some people are uneasy about data and privacy. If that’s a real concern, it might be better to go with a syncing service or office suite that makes anonymity a priority. You can even build your own cloud with devices like Transporter.
Otherwise, it’s hard to beat the services you get with Google Drive, since it offers significant free space, real-time collaboration, and document creation.
FaxZero works best for individuals or businesses with limited faxing needs. On the plus side, the free service has a simple interface and is easy to set up. It does brand cover pages, but you can opt to pay $1.99 to have a clean cover page. It supports DOC, DOCX, and PDF files, but you can only attach three files at a time. You can send three pages at a time, and up to five faxes per day, for a total of 15 pages per day.
However, you can only send – not receive – faxes with this service.
FreshBooks bills itself as “cloud accounting.” It really shines with invoices, and gives users a lot of flexibility in creating them. An invoice list shows you the status of every invoice, and you can personalize invoices with tear-off stubs, a logo, and customer messages.
FreshBooks also lets you track time and expenses. One nice feature is that you can take pictures of receipts with your smartphone and attach them into your expenses. You can also assign categories, and import expenses by connecting to your bank or PayPal. Time-tracking can work for individuals, or for teams.
FreshBooks does not let you do account tracking or payroll, however, so it’s probably best for smaller businesses.
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