The cloud is the virtual space in the Internet where documents, images, emails and other data are stored. It’s one of the most important innovations in the IT industry in the last years. With cloud computing systems, any document can be hosted on a grid of remote servers, allowing to access to it any time, anywhere in the world.
Cloud systems simplify the life to any kind of business, large or small. They require less infrastructure so they achieve a reduction of management costs and maintenance of the IT equipment. In this post, we will see the main advantages and risks when working in the cloud, and also some interesting examples of services in the cloud, useful for the professional enviroment:
Advantages of working in the cloud
Working with cloud-based services can achieve significant benefits for our business. Here is a list of the most important:
- The whole information (documents, photos, videos, emails,…) are available anywhere in the world, you only need Internet access.
- You can avoid the dependency of working only with one concrete computer, where the information is saved.
- You don’t need to maintain the storage hardware.
- Scalability: If you require more storage capacity, you just need to ask (and pay) for it.
- The users can share information easily with others team-mates.
- The power consumption is more efficient.
Risks of working in the cloud
Working with our information in a cloud computing based system has many advantages, but it also has some risks, that we must consider, as the following:
- You depend on the Internet connection. If you’re in mobility, maybe the experience working in the cloud is not the best (Example: in a train, where the 3G connection does not always run perfectly).
- You depend on the service level agreement that you have contracted, that includes the amount of down-time estimated for the service.
- The information can be exposed to third parties without your authorisation, if the provider security fails.
- You need a backup of the information stored in the cloud, but sometimes those systems are closed and you can’t make a copy.
- What happens if you want to change your provider? Can you take the data for one site to another? Or are you a captive customer? Check with your suppliers.
- Be aware the possible legal conflicts with the personal data transfer, which must be managed in accordance with the laws in your country.
Services recommended for work in the cloud
There are many cloud-based services that are revolutionizing the IT industry. Here are some interesting examples:
- Google Docs: Google’s office suite, which offers the possibility of working online with text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms and drawings. As easy as opening a Google account and start using the free space and applications available. It offers interesting options for collaborative work in an easy way.
- ZohoDocs: In direct competition with the Google’s office suite, notable for the fact of not needing a specific account to access the service, allowing access with other accounts such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo.
- Office 365: The solution offered by Microsoft, focused to the professionals who work with their Microsoft Office Suite tools. It includes the classical applications as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Sharepoint and One Note, in a web version with the documents available in the cloud. Payment is required to use it.
- iCloud: This is the cloud system recently released by Apple. It can be used by devices based on the iOS 5 and allows to share between an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch the calendar information, documents, pictures and email. Shoot a picture with the iPhone and it will appear automatically in your iPad or iPod touch. It’s the cloud, not magic.
- Dropbox: Hosting service that allows to store files in the cloud and access them from any computer or smartphones. You can also share files or a concrete folder with others. The rumors tells that the founders rejected its acquisition by Apple.
- Box.net: In direct competition with Dropbox, known for offering a lot of space for free to their customers. Currently, they are offering a 50 GB free storage for files, which can be accessed through the browser or a smartphone. Also allows to open Google Docs and MS Office documents.
Image | Klearchos Kapoutsis