7 Great Cloud Apps for Businesses and Teams

I recently started a part time, fully online/remote degree in Digital Design & Technology after working in a similar field, unqualified, for nearly 15 years. I thought I knew it all and knew the best tools of the trade. I was wrong.

The fact that my course is 100% online forced the usage of the apps/websites I’m about to detail but I’ll be using these for my own business, collaborative and personal use from here on in. All of the following apps are cloud based and available from any device with internet access. All (Except Coggle) have native app versions for mobile devices too which give a streamlined, better user interface if you’re not at your main desktop or laptop.

You may notice a slight Google bias here! Most are free for personal/lite usage.

1 Gmail


Nothing new or groundbreaking here of course but you can’t beat gmail for reliable, cloud based email communication. Filtering, Labels & Folders and email search are dead handy as is syncing between different device versions.

Standout Feature: Multiple accounts.


2 Google Drive

Google Drive

A file repository and storage system but with document sharing, commenting and integration with Google Docs, Sheets etc.. I love the live editing mode where you can actually see other people typing/editing on screen and commenting within documents is handy too.

Standout Feature: File & Folder access/sharing.


3 Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts

Excellent call conferencing and instant messaging system with good integration with Google Calendar, ie – click the link in a calendar event to join a call.

Standout Feature: Screen sharing to a group.


4 Google Calendar

Google Calendar

Event/task reminder system with event invites and reminder notifications. I can’t live without this in my life. I might forget to breathe without it. Automatic email notifications of event changes to event attendees is handy.

Standout Feature: Add other people to events/Indicate attendance.


5 Google Apps (Docs, Sheets & Slides)

Google Apps

A cloud based alternative to the Microsoft Office suite of office apps. Apps are slightly less functional than the Microsoft versions but all are very capable still. I love that documents are automatically backed up and available across devices.

Standout Feature: Live simultaneous document editing by multiple people.


6 Coggle


Simple collaborative mind mapping and idea generation tool. Initiate an idea in the centre and drag “idea” branches and sub branches out from it. Notifications of changes to branches are emailed to members automatically.

Standout Feature: Mind map exporting.


7 Trello


I’ve saved the best until last. My OCD loves this one! Trello is a collaborative project management tool with “Cards” for each task and To Do, Doing and Done columns. It’s great for an Agile/Scrum environment as task cards can have deadlines etc.. You can organise everything from a major project to your whole life with Trello.

Standout Feature: Board notifications and integration with Google calendar.



What’s the Cost of Owning a Car?

We’ve been buying and selling cars a lot (no choice!) the last few years and have mostly had bad luck with what we’ve bought. All we ever seem to be able to afford are bangers that cause us endless headache and costs. But if nothing else, it’s led me to do a lot of research on how much a car can actually cost day to day. We’ve just invested in a newish car for once and I decided to make a spreadsheet that would calculate the difference in running costs between the old one and this new one just to see if we were going to save any money and if so how much exactly. It’s early days because we havn’t had the new car long but it turns out that the new car might potentially save us around €100 per week!

I’ve decided to modify my spreadsheet slightly for public consumption so you can input your own figures for things like Miles Per Gallon (MPG), Tax, CO2, Servicing/Repair and Insurance and see just how much exactly your car is costing you per year, per month and per week. Hopefully it might help you decide if it’s best to keep your car or invest in a cheaper to run one like it has for us.

Here are some resources you may need to use to get information on your car:

Irish Motor Tax Rates (Private Car Standard Engine size pre 2008 or Private Car CO2 Emissions post 2008) – Motortax.ie

SEAI CO2 Emissions band – Seai.ie

Car Specification & Reviews – Parkers.co.uk

Car Reliability Reviews – Honestjohn.co.uk

Here’s the spreadsheet (.XLSX)

A Short Interview with Gilles Yepremian, Friend of Jim Morrison

About Gilles:

gillesyeGilles Yepremian is known primarily as the man who met and rescued a drunken Jim Morrison in the Paris night club Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus in May 1971, just a couple of months before his death and also the man, along with Alain Ronay who took some of the famous last known photos of Jim Morrison before his death.

Gilles has been a friend of mine on Facebook since he very kindly and unexpectedly purchased a copy of some Doors songs I covered and recorded years ago and agreed to this short interview and to allow me to restore and colour one of his famous photos of Jim (below).

Jim Morrison in Colour

About Me:

I am a Web Designer and Photoshop expert who is also a massive Doors fan. I used to be in a Doors tribute band called “The End” from about 1998 to 2001 and have bought the albums, the T-shirts, read the books, visited the grave and even got a Jim Morrison tattoo!


Leon: What are you up to these days and are you still collecting Doors recordings?

Gilles: Yes I still collect Doors bootlegs, books, magazines etc..

Leon: How big is your collection at this stage and what are some of the best and worst/weirdest recordings you own?

Gilles: I have thousands of CD’s, LP’s etc.. It’s difficult to say which are the best and worst, I like them all!

Leon: What kind of music do you listen to these days?

Gilles: Mostly Classic Rock (1965/1975).

Leon: Were you a big fan of the Doors before meeting Jim Morrison, were they big in Europe at the time?

Gilles: The first time I heard “Light My Fire” in 1967 my brain exploded!  The Doors were not so big in France at that time.

Leon: What were your first impressions of Jim, aside from seeing him drunk!?

Gilles: Jim was a nice guy, not at all like a Rock Star. Very simple.

Leon: Did he discuss music or the Doors much?

Gilles: No, he was paranoid of The Doors. It was impossible to discuss that with him.

Leon: What were your final impressions having met him a few times. Was he as charismatic as people said?

Gilles: He was very intelligent and nice.

Leon: Did he appear to be a troubled soul?

Gilles: Yes.

Leon: How did you feel when he died?

Gilles: I was not in Paris at the time. I read it in the newspaper one week later. It was a very bad surprise to me.

Leon: What did you think of Pamela Courson?

Gilles: Pamela was a very shy girl.

Leon: What did you think of Oliver Stone’s movie The Doors?

Gilles: The film was good for The Doors publicity, but it was a “Hollywood” film. However, a new generation of fans knows of The Doors now because of the film.

Leon: Which book on the Doors do you think is the best you’ve read?

Gilles: “Behind Closed Doors” by Jerry Hopkins.

Leon: Do you keep in touch with another friend of Jim’s from Paris, Herve Muller still?

Gilles: No, Hervé is sick and sees nobody.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions Gilles.


New Stripe V’s PayPal Pricing Calculators for Ireland Euros

Stripe have just (Jan 2016) lowered their standard fees and it’s caused me to go re look their pricing structure compared to my old favourite PayPal! I’d just like to clarify a few things here for people and list some sample amounts and fees as well as provide a downloadable example Microsoft Excel formula/spreadsheet.


The Stripe pricing structure for Ireland (Euros) per transaction is as follows:

*1.4% + 25 cents + VAT @23%

There are no other fees at all, ie – setup, monthly, validation, refund, failed transactions, etc.. Custom/personalised pricing structures are available for high volume clients.

Here’s some sample amounts (Price paid – Money in Bank – Stripe Fee):

  • €1 – €0.68 – 32c
  • €10 – €9.52 – 48c
  • €50 – €48.83 – €1.17
  • €100 – €97.97 – €2.03
  • €250 – €245.39 – €4.61
  • €500 – €491.08 – €8.92
  • €750 – €736.78 – €13.22
  • €1,000 – €982.47 – €17.53
  • €10,000 – €9,827.49 – €172.51

It takes 7 – 9 days for the money to appear in your bank after the transaction and the process is automated.


The PayPal pricing structure for Ireland (Euros) at the ‘Standard Rate’ per transaction is as follows:

*3.4% + 35 cents (Note that PayPal don’t charge VAT unless you tell it to or are VAT registered.)

Like Stripe, there are no other setup, monthly fees etc.. Fees are lower the more monthly income you have. The first threshold is €2,500.

Some sample amounts (Price paid – Money in Bank – PayPal Fee):

  • €1 – €0.62 – 38c
  • €10 – €9.31 – 69c
  • €50 – €47.95 – €2.05
  • €100 – €96.25 – €3.75
  • €250 – €241.15 – €8.85
  • €500 – €482.65 – €17.35
  • €750 – €724.15 – €25.85
  • €1,000 – €965.65 – €34.35
  • €10,000 – €9,659.65 – €340.35

You have to manually transfer money from your PayPal account to your bank but it takes about 1 – 2 days currently for the money to arrive (Bank of Ireland).


Even allowing for PayPal’s no VAT, Stripe is significantly cheaper to use for the average/standard Irish/European user, especially for larger single transaction totals however PayPal is a bigger, more well known brand (for now!) and lots of people have accounts so maybe the best thing to do is give clients the option of how to pay you?

Here’s my Excel spreadsheet I took the above figures from if you want to download it and plug in your own payment amounts. The formulas are all there:

Download Sample Spreadsheet here (.XLS)

*Fees based on standard, low volume transactions. Fee structure may vary.


25 Plus Car and Home Insurance Awful Customer Service

I’m writing this post in an effort to do some kind of brand damage to 25Plus online. It’s the only thing I can think of doing or have the power to do considering insurance companies like 25Plus seem to be a law unto themselves lately.

I’ve been having hassle with a number of insurance companies of late including 123.ie and 25Plus both of which I have had to go through the financial services ombudsman’s office with for previous issues. I got nowhere with either complaint and both companies remained stubborn, arrogant and unapologetic throughout. It seems to me that because these companies know that by law people are required to have insurance (car at least) that they can do pretty much what they like, offering awful customer service along the way. I’m going to single out 25Plus here for a special mention though.

My wife has been with 25Plus for over 6 years now for car insurance and we recently added home insurance to the package to avail of the convenience and discount for having 2 policies with the same company. I’ll quickly outline the issue with them I went to the ombudsman with before I cover the most recent spat.

Last summer we bought a new car. We happened to buy it on a Sunday afternoon in Dublin. We’re from Leitrim so it was a quick hop up to buy the car and return to Leitrim straight away. I rang 25Plus to ensure cover for the journey back in the new car and there was no one available to take the call so I tried out their website, knowing they had an online portal where you could update policy details etc but internet wasn’t great and all we had with us were smart phones. Not really having any choice we drove the new car home presuming that maybe we’d be covered by our existing policy if anything happened because it wasn’t our fault we couldn’t amend the policy there and then.

Unlucky for us the car broke down half way home and we needed to get it towed, a facility that was supposed to be available for free on our 25Plus comprehensive policy but it turned out that because we hadn’t updated the car details, we weren’t covered! I explained all this to them in an official complaint I lodged but 25Plus just hid behind their small print and policies and the tow money remained out of my own wallet. The financial ombudsman’s office told me they couldn’t investigate because 25Plus are actually trading as a UK company.

Also, there was another issue recently where 25Plus, totally out of the blue for no apparent reason requested a “Gap in cover” letter for a 6 year old policy on an old car we no longer had. They said there was a 2 month period around 2010 where we had no insurance and that if the letter wasn’t sent back explaining why then our current 2016 policy on a different car, an active policy we’ve had for a number of years, would be affected! Obviously we struggled to remember what that reason was but my wife was sure it was dealt with from our end at least at the time and why it was only coming up now, we had no clue!?

Fast forward to January 2016 and a new Home insurance policy that we decided to take out with 25Plus. I signed up online, happy to get a better price than 123.ie who I didn’t want to stay with because of other issues with them being tits. 25Plus requested a signed direct debit mandate from me to enable the monthly payments, after I made a deposit payment. I thought this was odd as no other company seems to require this document these days. They all seem to be happy with an online signing? I asked their live chat guy if I could email it or use the online portal on the site and he said yes. I logged in and used the form below to send the mandate back to them after I printed it out and signed it:


The warning text in red is a brand new addition and wasn’t there when I submitted the direct debit mandate document or when I was arguing with them about it on live chat last week! You can all thank me for this after I brought it to their attention! So naturally, seeing the option in the list to upload a direct debit mandate that’s exactly what I done on the 12th Jan and thought no more about it.

So I was pretty surprised then to hear from 25Plus  on 2nd Feb, nearly 3 weeks later that the upload couldn’t be accepted and that a printed version would have to be posted back. And not only that, it would have to be posted back to a UK/Northern Ireland address before the 11th Feb or the policy would be cancelled at a cost to me of €50 + time on cover. So I argued with them on their live chat for a while, mentioning that if the option to upload the mandate was in the list then it was a reasonable assumption that that was one legitimate way to do it!? But no. They said that option was only put in the list because their was a postal strike one weekend and they forgot to remove it. I suggested giving me some time leeway on getting the printed form back to them via post because of this error on their part but they said no, that wouldn’t be fair on other customers!

I also requested a transcript of the live chat I had with them where I was told I could submit the mandate electronically but they said there would be a cost to do that! I also asked about the cost of cancelling the policy manually because I wasn’t happy with their attitude and they sent me a copy of their 23 page policy document expecting me to try find the cost info rather than just telling me straight. I eventually found the section on cancelations and it said the fee was €15 but they later said it would cost €50 + time insured so further confusion ensued.

Here’s a (for FREE) transcript of my live chat with them from last week if you want to make up your own mind:

Live Support
Julie Anne is typing . .
Julie Anne: Hello and welcome to online chat for 25plus.ie. How can we help you today?
Leon joined.
Leon: I’m getting cancellation notices int he post for documents not received. Pretty sure I uploaded tyhem on your portal though.
Leon: Direct debit mandate for Home insurance – *********
Leon: I’m in th eportal now and see no outstanding documents?
Julie Anne: For security purposes can you confirm your full address and date of birth please?
Leon: ******* Leitrim. 21/10/1975
Julie Anne: Can you also confirm the policy holder’s name and date of birth please?
Leon: Eimear Quinn. 18/02/1973
Julie Anne: Thank you
Julie Anne: We have received only a photograph of the direct debit mandate and we cannot accept this. We urgently require the original to be returned in the post.
Julie Anne: The policy is due to cancel 11/02/2016 if this is not received.
Leon: I was told it’s ok to upload it via the online portal?
Julie Anne: I am afraid we do require this to be returned in the post. I advise you send the mandate by swift post directly to our office at 66 Railway Road, Coleraine, Co Londonderry, BT52 1PG to ensure it reaches us within the time frame.
Leon: Can I cancel the policy at this stage and get a refund of my deposit?
Leon: Hello?
Julie Anne: If you wish to cancel the policy the policy holder can upload a hand-signed letter stating this however cancellation charges will apply Leon.
Leon: What are the cancelation charges?
Policy Wording
Julie Anne: I have sent a file containing your cancellation rights.
Julie Anne: I would advise that you return the mandate within the specified time frame as it is still possible to avoid cancellation Leon.
Leon: I’m not happy that I was told it could be done online and today is the first I heard it couldn’t with only a week to get the printed version to you. Why are all your staff not on the same page?
Leon: Also, why can;t you tell me the cancelation charge without me having to read your entire policy document to try find it?
Julie Anne: Who told you the document could be uploaded Leon? This is not the case I am afraid; we always require the original mandate in the post.
Leon: I can;t remember the name. A man. Also, there was a facility to do it online. Why would there be a facility to do it online when it’s not normally done that way?
Julie Anne: I am afraid there is nothing in the notes to suggest this was advised. There is a facility to upload documents as there are documents which we can accept this way however the direct debit mandate must always be returned by post Leon.
Leon: Well direct mandate is in your list of documents that can be uploaded. I’m looking at it right now?
Leon: “Signed direct debit mandate” it says.
Leon: Also. I uploaded it weeks ago. Why am I only hearing now that it wasn;t valid?
Julie Anne: We sent an email 13/01/2016 to advise we required the mandate to be posted Leon.
Leon: That email was sent to me the day I spoke to you on live chat and was told it could be uploaded online. Otherwise I would have posted it. Also, the direct debit mandate form was missing from the original documents you posted when I took out the policy. Thats why I contacted your live chat int he first place.
Leon: I think in light of your misleading me you should at least give me some extra time to post this. I’ll do it this week. If it doesn;t reach you in time or you can;t give me an extra week or so then I’m happy to move to another of the many home insurance companies.
Julie Anne: We both emailed and posted the mandate 12/01/2016 and advised that the mandate must be returned in the post. I am afraid we cannot offer an extension for this as we must give all customers the same time frame to provide documents. If the policy is cancelled our charges are €50 in addition to a charge for your time on risk.
Leon: It says €15 in your policy docuemnt?
Leon: I would like a copy of the live chat transcript from then please. Is that possible?
Leon: I would also like the contact details for an official complaint procedure.
Julie Anne: If you use the print screen option on your computer you will be able to save this chat if you wish Leon. If you do wish to make a formal complaint, our complaints email is complaints@25plus.ie
Leon: Not this chat. The previous one in which you told me the direct debit mandate could be uploaded online?
Julie Anne: You can contact the complaints department if you wish to request a copy of a previous chat transcript Leon. I see you were in live chat 12/01/2016 and an advisor had confirmed your details to have the mandate emailed to you. However, it was not advised that you could upload this document.
Leon: You didn’t address my point about the mandate being an upload option in your onlien portal?
Julie Anne: That option was added due to a recent postal strike however under normal circumstance we do require the mandate to be returned by post as previously advised Leon.
Leon: So you are not going to accept responsibility for that being available to me as an option regardless of the reason?
Julie Anne: As previously advised, we do require the mandate by post Leon. There is still time for the document to be provided in order to avoid cancellation Leon so I advise you return it to the Northern Ireland address which was previously given.
Leon: That’s a no then.
Leon: I will post the documents as quick as I can but if they don’t reach you in time I’ll be making an official complaint. I would like this transcript emailed to me at leonvquinn@gmail.com as the Print Screen option only saves part of it.
Julie Anne: I would advise that you send the mandate by swift post to ensure it does reach us within the specified time frame. If you wish to request a transcript of a live chat this can be done through the claims department. Please be aware there is a charge for these transcripts Leon.
Leon: Are you serious!?
Leon: Your company is totally insane.
Leon: You have obviously never heard of good customer service. I can’t afford to cancel policies with you at the minute but will do as soon as I can. I’m off to tell as many people as I can now about your lunacy.
Leon: Goodbye.
Julie Anne: If you do wish to keep a copy of this chat free of charge, you may scroll up and screen shot the relevant sections Leon.
Julie Anne: Can I help you with anything else today?

I can’t afford to cancel either policy with 25Plus at the min but when they are next up for renewal I’m out of there DAMN quick.