The Cloud

A while ago I talked about Online Data Storage (ODS) and referred to Online Data Backup (ODB). In the time since that post I have been testing offerings of both and have a much better understanding of how they work and what benefits they can offer us. But before I get into that I need to explain “The Cloud”.

Firstly a quick explanation and a bit of terminology (sorry about the jargon but you only need a basic understanding of this). You will be hearing a lot more references in the future to something called “The Cloud”. Briefly, The Cloud has been around for a long time and refers to services offered online (on the Internet). In fact if you have been using Microsoft Exchange services online then you have been using The Cloud. These services include data storage & backup and also software applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, email, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and even accounting. The provision of online software services is known as Software as a Service, or SaaS. You can even rent hardware services (Windows servers, etc).

The Cloud, like a lot of technology started off as a corporate strategy but is slowly filtering down to the smaller operators like us. As I mentioned above I already use ODS & ODB, but I am also toying with online applications such as word processing & spreadsheets. So what are the pros and cons?

Cons: most of these services involve a monthly fee; most providers charge a monthly access fee based on the services you use and how much you use them, although some are offered for free (basic services mostly). Also, you need a decent Internet connection, forget dial-up or even the entry-level ADSL, you need it fast and you need a good download limit (this depends on your usage of course). Obviously you need a reliable connection as well (more on that later)!

Pros: many and varied. Data stored online means you have a secure, offsite storage place for your data, so if you are burgled or have a fire and lose all your computers, your data is safe. You have a fixed monthly charge for the services so budgeting is simplified. You no longer have to worry about updating your applications or buying the latest and greatest version of the software, your provider looks after that for you! So management of software is simplified. These are some of the main Pros.

So what is on offer?

    • Dropbox for data storage. Other offerings are Box, OpenDrive & SugarSync. Most of these offer a certain amount of storage for free.
    • Carbonite for backup. Other offerings include iDrive & backup247.
    • Google Docs for documents, email, storage, etc. I am only testing this at present. Microsoft will be offering Office365 next year (Office online), Xero offers accounting software (Australian), MyHostedExchange offer email and OfficeAutoPilot offer CRM (and a lot more).

So, The Cloud is a collection of online services offered to all of us usually with a monthly subscription fee. These services come with a number of pros & cons, and as usual you need to evaluate the benefits they offer to you and your business weighed up against the relative costs. In reference to a comment above, you do need a reliable Internet connection to use these services, they won’t be much use to you if your Internet connection is dropping out frequently. Dropbox the ODS system I am testing actually synchronises my data with an online copy so I have access to it when offline.

I hope I have given you enough information to at least decide if The Cloud has something to offer you, as usual please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Note: The above are examples and HighComm does not endorse any of these products except for Carbonite which we use. We are still testing some of these products and will hopefully be able to recommend others at a later date.

Coming soon: Online Data Storage v Online Data Backup.

PS I am typing this Post utilising the Free Wi-fi offered by Janeks cafe in Bowral!

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