Of course, the cloud in its current manifestation is still a work in progress, and there are a few caveats to consider along the way. To make the most of all that it has to offer, businesses will benefit from developing understanding of how the cloud works. (Check out this cloud computing guide by Xero before jumping in head first. Here, too, are a few pros and cons to consider.
- Seamless Backups If you're like most people, you plan on backing up your data far more than you actually do. Well, forget the forgetting with cloud-backup services, which take several approaches to automation.
One such approach is that of sites like Mozy and Carbonite. For these sites, users choose the files they want backed up at a regularly scheduled time, so they can just set it and forget it. While effective and secure, the one downside with services like these is in restoring documents, which can be an involved process.
More seamless are cloud-sync services like Google Drive and Dropbox, which add folders or a drive right to your hard drive. This makes it easy for users to drop in files for immediate syncing into the cloud. If you also edit Google Documents, Spreadsheets and other projects online, using Google Drive means you'll find them waiting for you in your online dashboard. What's more, with Google Drive you can easily search through web apps even from your desktop, both by file name and by any phrases that might be in the document's text.
No matter which backup route you take, the cloud approach makes the whole process less labor intensive, and, in the case of Google Drive, makes actually working in the cloud that much simpler.
- Work Collaboratively and Remotely Of course, some of the best things about working in the cloud are the collaborative features. Whether it's working with colleagues on one document at the same time or sharing work without having to send files back and forth, cloud-based programs enable sharing right from a project, rather than having users toggle back and forth between a third party email client. What's more, cloud-based services work on a wide range of mobile devices, from laptops to tablets and smartphones, meaning workers worldwide can access the same data and dashboards without a hitch.
Overall, the shift to cloud-based apps is a big cost-saver for small businesses, who no longer have to buy updates and can now gain access to cutting edge software formerly only available to companies with IT departments.
- Integrated Data and a Centralized Workspace While cloud computing has been around in various forms for many years, you can thank the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon for forcing it into the mainstream. With workers insisting that they operate on the platform of their choice, cloud services are one of the only ways businesses can control how they work. Cloud computing services centralize data into well-organized dashboards that can be updated in one fell swoop rather than individually. And because everyone is working on the same files at the same time, the same data integration problems don't occur as when multiple versions of redundant files aren't swapped back and forth. This decreases bottlenecks, as there's no need to update new project versions with edits.
- Needs Better Support for Offline Working While some cloud computing services are better than others, most still rely entirely on an internet connection in order to operate. And when that connection goes down, good luck getting anything done. However many cloud computing services are developing hybrid offline-online versions, so this shouldn't be a problem for much longer.
- SlowBackup The problem with backing up big files online is that they take up a lot of bandwidth and can slow down your internet connection. This can be resolved by scheduling backups for times when traffic will be low, or by sticking with the automatic web sync services.
- Dependent on an External Party The one question that really remains in regards to cloud computing services is that of trust. Can companies hold your data hostage if you don't pay? How much will it cost should you decide to switch services? And what if the company isn't doing their due diligence and a giant hack wipes them out?
Rob Toledo is a Seattleite who matches the usual stereotypes. Loves coffee, the rain, and prefers dogs to cats. When not rambling about marketing and web design, he can be found in the mountains either climbing or hiking.