Cloud Apps – the practical aspect

With the rapidly increasing maturity of the Cloud, the ever growing advantages of the concept become more obvious. There are now so many Cloud based applications available that if required a business could be run without ever needing to resort to the basic Windows type PC software.

I have been experimenting with a suite of applications from Zoho.com which include word processing, spreadsheets, Power Point type presentations and almost every type of application that couild be used in daily business operations. It also enables the setting up of your own Wiki and CRM applications.

I used the word processing and spread sheet recently on a client’s project on which I was working and which, due to certain circumstances, involved working from various locations and using different laptops at certain times. The flexibility of logging on from anywhere and accessing the project summed up one of the principal advantages of the Cloud.

The software provided by Zoho, whilst not as feature rich as Microsoft, is , nevertheless, growing in functionality. Word documents and spreadsheets can be imported and exported to and from Zoho which enables portability and integration. All in all it was a trouble free exercise and greatly facilitated the completion of the project.

There are other similar suites available – notably Google Docs, but I haven’t yet come across anything quite so comprehensive.

The big question, of course, is that with the ever increasing sophistication of Cloud applications, why would anyone want to restrict themselves to one location – one PC?

The Cloud – clouding the issue?

I have just returned from Softworld. I went this year as, for the first time, it was highlighting Cloud Computing and there was obviously a great deal of interest in the topic.

There were a number of Masterclass presentations and it was good to see that the main one I attended – entitled Cloud computing: Where are the business benefits? – was extremely popular.

All good stuff, but….

There is a line in an old Carpenters song (I know that dates me!) which goes:”…we tried to talk it over but the words got in the way…”. Listening to the panel of eminent speakers at this particular seminar brought that line very much to mind.

The subject was simple enough – what are the business benefits of Cloud Computing. However, left to the main Vendors that were speaking, the subject could just as easily been “Quantum physics for beginners”. There were so many acronyms and jargon speak used that to the unitiated the topic was the most complicated issue.

And this, surely, is the point. Cloud Computing is on the cusp of something major, I am sure, and in a few years time most of us will probably be amazed that we ever used anything else. But the majority of potential users are not technically minded and are not really that interested in what is under the bonnet. They want to get in the car and drive knowing that it is going to get them from A to B safely.

The advantages of Cloud computing are really very simple and can be summed up thus:

1. It is more flexible
2. It enables 24/7 access – anytime anywhere.
3. It is generally cheaper
4. It reduces internal infrastructure costs and requirements
5. It facilitates collaboration and
6. It’s greener.

If we leave “selling the cloud” to the vendors, the advantages will get lost in the jargon.

..The concept is basically very simple.. keep it that way.

Reach for the Cloud

I met with a new client the other day. He is setting up a new business and had been introduced to me by an investor. Once we had dealt with the formal aspects of the meeting, the type of vehicle, tax issues and the like, we got to talking about his technology needs and the sort of IT infrastructure, software etc he was going to need.

“There are two of us in the office”, he said, “so we are both going to need laptops. I can get a Sage accounting package, Microsoft Office and then I am going to need some sort of server set up so that we can share files etc”. I could see him doing the mental arithmetic and mentally spending our investor’s initial funds.

“You could do it that way, of course” I pronounced, trying to sound as wise and knowledgeable as my seniority required, “but there is an alternative, which is going to be considerably less expensive and a lot more efficient”.

“Tell me, oh wise one” his expression said, urging me to expand on my words of wisdom..(OK I elaborate a bit here, but you get the sense..)

“Firstly, forget Sage (if only we could!). I suggest you use an online accounting package such as e-conomic. You, of course, don’t need any specific software as long as you have Internet access (as his business was going to be internet based, this last bit was somewhat superfluous, but I wanted to emphasise the point) and it will make life a lot easier for both of us when it comes to working on the management accounts and VAT returns etc.

And as file sharing goes, you don’t need your own server. Use someone else’s and don’t have all the worries about security and backups etc. With programmes such as Dropbox, you can set up virtual drives on both of your laptops, share files and access them from anywhere.

And don’t spend a fortune on Microsoft Office either. Suites of applications such as Open Office will give you everything you need, at no cost and compatable with Word and Excel etc”.

An admiring silence pervaded the room. “Wow” he said.

“Wow” indeed.