‘Cloud computing’ is one of the buzziest of buzz words. For many businesses it can bring benefits and for those working in the events industry it is particularly useful, facilitating simpler and more efficient ways of working for teams which are often at different locations and constantly moving from site to site.
In essence all cloud computing means is accessing data and programs from a central, secure internet location rather than from a traditional office computing environment. What makes cloud computing more interesting is that the services are generally provided with great cross-platform (PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, etc) support and a flexible pricing model (often free for the basic service). The concept is not new – many email services have operated in this way for years – but the move to storing all documents and applications online is more of a leap for users. So what are the benefits and potential issues:
Easy Sharing – Automatically share the latest versions of documents with whoever you decide. This could be internal teams or approved partners including suppliers and customers. This saves you from emailing out lots of updates which then get out of sync as others chip in. Some applications allow mutliple people to edit the content at once, providing a chat window to discuss changes as they happen. Services such as Dropbox, Box and SugarSync are popular and many also automatically keep a revision history.
Ubiquitous Access – A bonus of using a system based on the internet is your access point, be it your phone, tablet, laptop or friends PC can, assuming you have the appropriate credentials, access information. So if you find yourself completing a site visit with your phone in your pocket you can upload your photos and notes to a central system straight away instead of having to wait until you get home.
Scalable Software – Beyond documents and image sharing, software and applications can also be operated from the cloud. Event management tools, project management, expenses tracking, word processing and contract management are just some of the areas which have cloud hosted solutions. Accessing these systems from home, smartphones or tablet devices then becomes much simpler because devices only have to access information from one online location. Microsoft 360 for example is a full version of the Office suite and storage which immediately gives you the latest Office platform without having to remember to update whilst allowing you to access from whatever device you want.
Keeping it safe – Keeping information off site on a cloud server does have security implications which need to be considered. Highly private information should still be kept locally, but there is a trade off between security and accessability, especially when many people already store most of their information with a mail host online. When looking at cloud hosting you should consider the security they impliment and ensure it meets your requirements. Key aspects are ensuring that all information is transmitted encrypted (generally HTTPS) and most importantly ensuring people use strong passwords. It must be remembered that cloud systems are accessible by anyone on the internet so weak passwords (names, dictionary words, etc.) get cracked easily – it is essential the strong password rules are followed – non-dictionary words, upper & lower case, alpha and numeric characters and where the system allows special characters (!?*& etc.). Also the longer the better for passwords as some systems use the password to create the encryption key.
Connectivity – We all get used to having connectivity all the time and get frustrated when we lose connectivity but using cloud systems takes this to a new level as without connectivity most cloud systems cease to function at all. Also cloud systems will typically put more load on an internet connection as all activity is being synchronised across the network for all of the users. So fast and reliable connectivity is essential is you want to use cloud services.
Cloud computing continues to grow at a fast rate and has a role to play in many businesses and with the right planning it can lead to a far more productive team.