Monday, 11 July 2011

Head in The Cloud

Someone summed up one of the great areas of misunderstanding about The Cloud during a stroll in the park at the weekend.

"You see, Apple just don't get it," said the person. "The iPad has no USB port. How can it be used as a serious computer and be secure?"

It's difficult where to start with a comment like that but it appears dragging people into The Cloud is going to be a long hard slog. My retort was that a USB port was not required as you can back up all that you want to The Cloud. Even on my current project, we use Dropbox as a central storage drive which is shared among the project members. It means we can access the shared drive with any device we like, whenever we like. No need to carry around memory sticks with the last but one version of the file on it that could misplaced or stolen.

There is a more serious claim about the iPad's printing ability as it uses WiFi only and I would concede I have yet to find a program that robustly connects to my printer and then prints either at all or at a speed that is acceptable. And that the output looks like what you are printing. This is a far more serious situation than Apple would care to admit.

Interoperability with PCs with the iPad is only limited by the PC world's tree hugging. I can use Google Docs and GoDocs on the iPad and again store all my files in one repository in The Cloud, questioning the inflexibility of Microsoft Office 365 which does not recognise iPad as web device that should be able to just look at the program.

It's a serious weakness in MS 365. Microsoft are taking an age coming to terms with how to design a product that can work in The Cloud and give the benefits of the environment. So much of what the product delivers requires a local version of the Office programs to be resident on the device running the program. That smells of misunderstanding and cop out. It is also highly confusing.

In my trial of MS 365, I have given up using the program on anything but my laptop which runs Office 2007. The only benefit left in the program is the SharePoint repository but it begs the question why you would want that if Dropbox and many others give you 2Gb for free.
For me, my hosted Exchange server is about the best I can get. At least the email is sorted out by someone else and I have a Control Panel to fiddle with adding or subtracting users, password changes etc. But this set up means extra cost.

Meanwhile, out there in Cloud-world there are umpteen solutions for email, messaging and office type products which are low cost and totally Cloud geared. The problem here is that most are no-name brands which will always have a problem getting into Microsoft's world.

It remains that Google is the only serious competitor to Microsoft. But it's interpretations of MS files leave much to the imagination and that interoperability is going to have to get better in order to compete effectively, particularly at anything above SME level.

But as a small businessperson, SOHO and SME, Google remains the viable solution in The Cloud. For now, as I am seeing Microsoft tomorrow, I shall continue on using MS Office and hosted Exchange but I seriously want to jettison any IT issues for the future.

The Cloud is the small business person's friend.

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