Who Moved my Cloud?
Who Moved my Cloud?
Advantages and Disadvantages to Cloud Computing
Cloud computing isn’t new, but as our society gets more comfortable with Internet technology, working in the “cloud” is becoming a new trend. According to Wikipedia, “cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand”. To put it a bit more succinct, cloud computing occurs when you are using the Internet rather than your local machine to handle a computing task such as storing data, creating documents, or solving a problem. With cloud computing becoming such a prevalent option for productivity, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of working “in the cloud”.
Access from Anywhere
Hosting your data in the cloud offers access to your data from any computer that is connected to the Internet. Technology has provided us with more mobile devices that ever, so the ability to access your data “on the go” is extremely convenient. At my company, we don’t save our email on our computers. Rather, it is all saved on a hosted email service. Why? Because we have almost 20GB of email, all of which we need to be able to reference from different workstations and mobile devices. Having access to those emails gives us the ability to communicate with our clients with specific information from anywhere.
Lower Initial Cost than Software
Many cloud services do the same job as software that you can install on your computer. The advantage to the cloud in this scenario is that it is usually cheaper in the beginning. One example of this is Freshbooks (one of our favorite cloud services). Freshbooks is an invoicing Saas (Software as a Service). If all you need is invoicing, then using Freshbooks is a cheaper option than purchasing Quickbooks because they have free and paid monthly plans that cost less than the purchase of Quickbooks. Another example, is Picnik, a service that allows you to crop, resize, and edit your photos online, rather than paying hundreds of dollars for photo editing software.
When your information is accessible from anywhere, you have the opportunity to collaborate with anyone remotely. Products like Dropbox.com, Box.net, and Amazon’s Jungle Disk allow you to store all your documents on their servers making it easy to not only access your documents from anywhere, but also share them with others.
Maintenance & Security (sort of)
In some cases, cloud computing can provide you with peace of mind. For instance, if you are running an e-commerce website, you may consider using a third party, cloud hosted option such as Shopify or CoreCommerce. These companies charge a monthly fee for hosting your online store. The advantage is that you don’t have to worry about maintaining the store software or keeping up with security standards.
When hosting your data somewhere other than your computer, you do run a few risks. Is the company you are hosting with legitimate? Will they be around for the long haul? What are their security standards? Alt Creative used to use a service called Drop.io for posting print-ready design files that were too large to email so that clients could download them for printing & proofing. We were greatly disappointed when Drop.io was purchased by Facebook in December of 2010. Luckily, we were able to recover our data (we had local copies), but occasionally these cloud services close up shop or have extended service outages which can hamper accessibility.
Internet Connection Required
At Alt Creative, we design websites. Internet is a must for us. Because of this, we have 2 different Internet connections at our offices, just in case of an outage. This is not the case at most companies. If all of your information is in the cloud – like your email – and you suffer an Internet outage, it can spell disaster. Be mindful of what type of data you may need to access offline when considering cloud computing options.
Anytime you put your data on someone else’s server, you run the risk of having that data be viewed by others. Whether it is a potential security breach by hackers or a less than reputable company, it is possible to have your information compromised. Be very careful about what companies you choose to share your data with.
Our Favorite Cloud Services
– We love Yahoo Mail Plus. The interface is so much better than Gmail and unlike Gmail, there have been no significant outages.
Box.net – We use box.net to store large files that our clients need to access. There are many file sharing services out there, but we like to be able to password protect our files for security.
Capsule CRM – We use capsule to track leads and client communication.
CrashPlan – All of our important data is backed up online with CrashPlan in case our local machines are damaged by flood or fire.
So, cloud or no cloud?
What we have learned in our experience with cloud computing is that their are too many advantages to ignore it. When deciding if the cloud computing is an option for you, consider your needs and the service in which you will be working with to determine their viability and security. As more and more information moves to the cloud, our prediction is that cloud computing is here to stay.