“Manage your work load with the cloud”: 18 months ago I thought that was the best bit of advice I got for managing my new company. Now? Except for some accountancy advice which is probably always going to be the most important (and I’m not qualified to post about), I still think managing workload using the cloud is the best piece of good practice I can pass on!

Cloud Services are those which are offered by service providers on the internet. The main software for each service is on the web, and you access it there.

Here’s why I use them (and why you should give them a try!)

1. Cloud services are free – at least in the basic (non-premium) versions, which is all I need to start with

2. Cloud services make it easier and quicker to work with my customers and clients

3. Cloud services are reliable and easy to use

The one I recommend you think about using right away is:

Google Drive – creating and sharing your documents, spreadsheets and slideshows on the web.

Primary benefit: You can work with your partners or clients as if they are in the room with you wherever in the world they are. No more sending and resending versions attached to emails if you don’t want to – cut down on wasted time and confusion!

(NB Google Drive used to be called Google Docs. Since the relaunch in April 2012 Google Drive also allows you to store your videos and photos.)

If you don’t already have a google account (and you probably do), create one at https://accounts.google.com/NewAccount and access google docs at https://docs.google.com . Create a document (you’ll notice how like the MS Office Suite they are), give a colleague access (click “share” in the top right of the screen) and invite them to join you in the document.

You can edit it together wherever you (all) are. Colleagues and I put a bid document together last year even though one was on holiday and the other working in Devon, with me in Northampton.

And there’s a certain amount of fun to be had watching the cursors of your colleagues working away on parts of the document while you edit other parts, or just talk suggestions through with them!

When you’re finished the collaborative drafting bit, you can download it as an MS Office file, or leave it stored up on Google Drive.

The great value of leaving it on Google Drive is that you can then access it from any computer with internet access – through your google account, so it’s thoroughly password protected from anyone else seeing it.

Have a good time with Google Drive. I’d love to know how you get on, so please – post a comment below to let us know and ask me any questions you come up with.

Same time next week I’ll post an article about skype – the second cloud service I recommend and one which will get you free tele-conversations with anywhere in the world with an internet connection!

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