As our regular readers should know, we are big fans of Cloud Computing here at Agile IT and we practice what we preach; in fact we have a hybrid-Cloud solution – we have on-premise servers for our CRM and accountancy packages and Cloud-hosted Exchange and SharePoint for our email and files. I doubt we will ever to be able to fully remove our requirement for local servers, but having a hybrid solution gives us a lot of flexibility in the way we work.
Unfortunately, not all Cloud services are born equal. For every “good” Cloud solution, there seems to be a “bad” one, and I found such an example this weekend. Now it may be a surprise to some of you that I’ve been known to play the odd computer game (whoever heard of a tech-guy playing games eh!) here and there. One of my favourite childhood games was SimCity 2000, simply because it was the first game that I had that you didn’t really “complete”. By its nature the game is almost infinitely replayable, and I sunk countless hours into managing my virtual denizens, so when I found out a new version was coming out I knew I’d be buying it. The problem is that the game has an always-on requirement AND the game’s progress is only saved in the Cloud. This wouldn’t normally bother me as there are plenty of games out there that require a persistent internet connection to play, but the issue here is that the service so far has been horrifically unreliable. Within my first hour of play I had been booted out three times, each time losing all my progress, and my subsequent attempts to play the game have been foiled by messages of “server unavailable”. The net result is that my experience of SimCity “the game” has been severely marred by my experience of SimCity “the service”.
So let’s look at examples of good Cloud services, services like Exchange for email and SharePoint for document management. Email and document management are two essential services for almost every business and it just so happens that by their nature, they lend themselves very well to Cloud Computing. What elevates them from other Cloud services is that they have an offline component. You can use Outlook 2007/2010/2013 with your Cloud Exchange and have all your email cached on your computer, so you can roam around without and internet connection and still view all your email history. You can do the same with Cloud SharePoint using SharePoint Workspace or SkyDrive Pro, meaning you can carry your documents with you wherever you go without needing to be tethered to the internet. You can even rent Office 2010 from Microsoft, with it only periodically checking-in with Microsoft to ensure you are still licensed to use it. Imagine the headache that would be caused if you had to be persistently online in order to create a Word document!
So there we have it – there are plenty of Cloud services available, but only the best are designed to be as flexible as can be. Need advice about the Cloud? Get in touch and we’ll get you a solution that fits your business.