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Using Technology To Change The Way You Work

Aug17

Written by:
2009/08/17 09:47 AM RssIcon

An article about cloud computing from Author Kevin Tea

Cloud Computing and Web 2.0

Before we go into more detail we need to remove some confusion over the difference between cloud computing and Web 2.0 applications.The latter deals predominantly with social media such as Facebook, Friendfeed, Twitter, Flickr, etc. Just to muddy the water a little there is some overlap in that businesses are increasingly using Web 2.0 services to promote their company and its products but by and large Web 2.0 apps are primarily are online channels for social interactions between friends.

image Cloud computing essentially takes traditional desktop computer applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, accounts and the like and transfers them onto a server on the Internet or "up there is the clouds."  What's the point? Well, if you are self employed or run a small to medium sized enterprise (SME) you can save a substantial amount of money. While this in itself is one heck of an incentive, there are other benefits such as the ability to access data from wherever you are in the world and being able to work collaboratively with colleagues across the planet. So with your data nestling in the cloud providing you have a computer you can access it and work from your office, home, a bar or a beach in Mali.

The Costs

Let's examine costs. I just looked at PC World and discovered that Ms Office 2007 Standard Edition would set you back £329.99 and the Ultimate Edition would mug your credit card for £549.99. I took a quick whirl through the small print and it looks as though these are for single licences so to set up your ten man team with Office you are looking at over £3k. Now you can see why cloud computing has a silver lining! I don't know about you but if I had the choice of coughing up a large sum of money for Bill Gates' pension fund or using the alternative of a tried and tested, robust cloud based service, I know which I'd go for!

Also, if you want to avoid emptying your wallet for the privilege of having a Microsoft Exchange server winking at you from the corner, it is cheaper to subscribe to Google Apps which comes in at a fraction of this and the package includes email accounts with 25gb of storage per user, instant messaging and voice and video chat, group calendaring,  mobile access, spam and virus filtering (Gmail’s spam filtering is the best I have experienced) and web based Google Docs, Sites and Video for Business.

Google isn't the only company out there to offer this sort of online office service. Zoho provides a comprehensive suite of services, some free some fee based, which have the advantage of having a rich interface very similar to Microsoft Office so users will hardly notice the difference.

Scalability

Scalability is an important factor with cloud computing services - also known as SaaS or software as a service, it hardly rolls off the tongue does it? If you are starting up a company with a small number of people and choose a cost effective cloud based package you need to know that it can grow with your company. Most online services offer a scalable facility whereby they charge by user bands which again works out a lot cheaper than buying individual software licences in the traditional manner. Scalability also works in the other direction. If for whatever reason you have to release staff you can downgrade to a lower level of service for a cheaper price and not have boxes of expensive software sitting on bookshelves.

Flexibility

Cloud services are also considerably more flexible when it comes to collaborative working. I have recently been involved in writing a substantial report with two colleagues, one of whom was in America for much of the project. The old style of working would have required me to write the initial draft and then email copies to my colleagues. They in turn would insert their input and comments in red, blue or twinkling lights highlights and email that back to me to try and beat it into shape. My project worked by using Google Docs whereby I created the draft and shared that document with my colleagues who could access it online and make their changes and add bits without me having to double up on effort. In some respects cloud computing equals couch potato computing!

Sustainability

Before investing in any cloud based service you should investigate the sustainability of whatever package you are buying into. There's a wide world of new services being developed, many of whom are competing with each other and some will inevitably fall by the wayside. Beware the cheap options. The old adage that if someone appears to good to be true it probably is applies to the cloud as well as conventional businesses.

Security

The last thing we need to look at is security. Security – or rather the lack of it – is the black beast that stalks all online facilities and even the big boys like Twitter can be caught out. The micro-blogging service has been hacked twice and on a third occasion some cyber-vagabond gained access to confidential information regarding Twitter’s future plans after slipping through an employee’s weak password, purloined secret papers in Google Apps and gave them to TechCrunch!

Always ensure that you have robust passwords in place. Twice I have been able to hack into colleague’s accounts when they have forgotten their passwords based on a casual conversation about dogs!  Also do not use easy to guess variations of passwords such as fredstwitter1234, fredsfacebook1234, etc. There are random password generators available that do the electronic equivalent of throwing chicken giblets at the wall and working out the patterns if you cannot work one out for yourself!   Never assume but check that your chosen online package works through an encrypted connection.

Packages

Cloud computing packages to investigate.

Most of these services have been reviewed on http://web2andmore.net which also contains news, reviews and interviews with some of the leading industry players.

About the Author:

image Kevin Tea is a journalist and marketing communications specialist of more years than he cares to remember.  He has worked with some of the leading blue chip companies in the UK and Europe. His website and blog: http://web2andmore.net. You can find him on Twitter on @kevincumbria

 

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Re: Using Technology To Change The Way You Work

Robert, Kevin, I enjoyed reading this post. I think the one thing possibly missing for me was the inclusion of Ultra Thin Client devices growing in popularity as the cloud starts growing. As more and more services move into the cloud, you will have less and less need to have a device with anything on it at all. I see the model moving to hopefully, and I say hopefully because I hope we don't get caught up the mobile and Mobile Data billing models here. I hope to see a Micro billing pay per usage model in this realm in the not too distant future.
Hopefully one day I will be able to plug a smart card into any Device with an internet connection and simply have access to my secure virtual data store, and then pull applications in for usage as and when required off of the cloud. My vision is to see a connected world coupled with the demise of the OS Driven PC, in favour ultra thin clients all over the place.

By Markoel on  2009/08/17 08:03 PM
 
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