I know, everyone wants a cloud. That’s so sexy nowadays.
But most people couldn’t even tell you if they have a cloud – or where it lives or what it really means for their business.
Basically, moving into the cloud means you are freeing yourself of hardware that you have to manage. The business model changes too – instead of buying servers and IT guys, you are paying (usually as a subscription based service) to rent space on someone else’s server that you can access without the trapping of wires, cables, fibers. You access it pretty much through the air – virtually.
It’s not so bizarre when you think about it that way.
Many things change for your business when you begin using cloud based solutions. For one, you access it differently – you can use almost any device, anywhere, and still get to your cloud. Two, you pay for it differently – you budget a monthly expenditure for subscription instead of a big capital expenditure to buy a license and equipment. Third, your risks are different. I outlined this in a presentation to the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Lastly, the quality and quantity of software on your cloud access machine (your computer) reduces and becomes cheaper. Need something advanced? Go lease it in the cloud. Hate it? Cancel it.
To introduce the cloud into your business, consider these critical cloud uses and the technology that can help you:
When is the last time you backed up your computer? Better yet, when is the last time you backed up your 2400 irreplaceable pictures on that 32GB iphone?
For less than $10 a month, you can automatically, easily and painlessly back up all of your devices into the cloud. The anxiety relief that comes with one of these services is well worth the price. I could launch my laptop off the empire state building, go walk into an internet café, login and continue business as usual. Yes, you should do this today.
ZipCloud, like most of their competitors, requires both a download onto the machine that needs to be backed up as well as a credit card for the subscription. They offer standard encryption as well as syncing in the background while you are working on the computer or while it is idle. This can slow down your internet connection so I recommend you get into the habit of leaving your computer on when not in use so that the backup happens while you are doing something else. Similar: JustCloud, Carbonite and mozy
Interested in backing up your social media sites? This is critical if you are in any compliance based industry and desirable to most others. I have found Social Safe to be a nifty little tool for that purpose.
No one sends CDs/DVDs around anymore. No one really uses USB drives either. So please stop assuring me the iPad would be so much better with a USB port. Today, people do their filesharing in the cloud.
If you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment and had a “shared drive” it works exactly the same way.
Dropbox is hard not to love. It is one of the simplest pieces of software to use. Download and install it on your computer and then drag the files you want to share into the new dropbox folder. Download the app on your mobile devices. Access it on the web anytime at the dropbox link. They give out free account with 2GB storage so it’s easy for others to get the files from you. For example, I videoed our company meeting on my phone, upload it via the app and it lives on my collaboration cloud where my marketing team can go in, look at it, change it or download it – while I’m still at the meeting! The only caution I would give you in a dropbox sharing frenzy is that the security level of this folder is not appropriate for you to use it to store sensitive information.
Two of the main hurdles to sharing and archiving is software versioning (what if it’s obsolete?) and eliminating the need for paper altogether (I have to print it out to sign it?). Adobe solves these problems for you and they are good to have in your cloud toolkit.
Echosign is a web-based, fully digital electronic signature solution. There’s nothing to learn or install. Simply click “Send” for an online signature that complies with all legal standards, accepts documents in a variety of formats and attaches a digital signature to secure electronic documents.
Adobe Acrobat Professional makes my top five secret weapons of all time list. It makes PDFs (Portable Document Format) for you, but it also allows you to edit them, compress them, merge them together, add layers of security, create fillable forms, and aggregate information automatically. The site has tons of case studies to give you some inspiration. Yes, it’s worth the investment.
Want to make your life easier in your business? Free yourself from hardware and reduce some of your risk of information loss by moving your files into the cloud. Like any business change, it will feel strange at first, but the benefits of being truly mobile will be most appreciated in a time of crisis. Plus, then you can tell people YOU are doing business in the cloud. Sexy, huh?