Guru special: Why small businesses should have their heads in the cloud
Here’s a fictional scene from 2005:
“We’re keeping all our files in the cloud now.”
“What! Won’t they get wet?”
It’s been a while since people scratched their heads in wonderment whenever cloud computing was mentioned. We get it now. Files stored on remote servers that we can access digitally. The thing is, while we’re not impressed any more, are small businesses using it to their advantage?
We’ve drafted in Daryl Baxter, our resident O2 Guru, to give us the low-down on why the cloud is made for small businesses:
Using the cloud in the workplace
30 years ago a business would have had a dedicated room for filing cabinets. Each cabinet would house important documents regarding employees, financial information, and much more. If you needed that important file, you’d have to plan a journey to the filing cabinet and hope you had the right key. Now, especially in the last 10 years, the cloud is at the forefront of replacing the filing cabinet.
When someone asks me what the cloud is, I explain it as a filing cabinet in the sky, and only you know the combination. If you lose any information on the device you carry, you can still access that cabinet. The word ‘cloud’ has come to the forefront over the last decade, but it’s been around much longer than that. I see email as being in the cloud. You sign in on a device, and right away your emails appear with the attachments and conversations of your contacts from the last week.
I use cloud services all the time, whether it’s an app or a storage service. Here’s some I use that would be perfect for small businesses:
A great note-taking app that strips away the confusion of some note apps by having its main function (note-taking) at the front and centre. You can sync across as many devices as you want, and a Mac app is currently in the making.
Admittedly I use three different storage services, but OneDrive is the one that pulls through in my opinion. I can easily sync between as many devices as I want, there’s a companion app on my watch to let me know of any uploads to a folder and I can even show my pictures on my Xbox One in the living room. It gives you 15GB to start, and if you sign in with Office 365, that increases to a massive 1 terabyte, enough for five years worth of photos, images and files for your business. It’s also scalable to any business, whether one person or one hundred.
The filing cabinet stores documents and photos but this is the vault the Oceans 11 crew would have trouble breaking into. It stores all of my passwords from sites and applications – by signing in with my master password I have access to all my stored logins. I can even create a password with big encryption (a mix of letters and numbers in 20 characters, lowercase and uppercase) and 1Password will remember it – you can even store bank details. In eighteen months of using it, I’ve had no issues, only improvements. You can pay for a ‘pro’ version that allows for multiple users to one vault, so a financial department could have access to this for example.
This is not the old mail app on a desktop PC you’ve been using for years, this is a whole new Outlook, specifically for mobile devices. Every week without fail, I will have a customer who has trouble sending or receiving emails from the account that they’ve had for over ten years because the service is not supported anymore. Other mail apps prefer to only support the latest versions of email accounts, but Outlook shines by comparison as it supports 99% of accounts. Just sign in, and not only do you have your email, but a calendar that can be linked to your email, and a list of all the attachments from your emails in one place. Very easy to use, very simple to access your attachments.
Security is the highest priority when it comes to the cloud, and many devices have procedures to keep unauthorised users out. For example, when you log into your new iOS device, your iCloud asks if you’d like to switch on ‘Find My iPhone’. What this does is put a padlock on that device. You could have misplaced it or been the victim of a theft, and no matter how many times the phone would have been reset, it would still ask for your credentials before the phone could be used. This is called ‘Activation Lock’, and without knowing the password, it would be an expensive paperweight.
If you have any security concerns with your devices, get in touch with a Guru at the bottom of this page.
The cloud is a great service that small businesses should be taking more advantage of because it’s a scalable way of having big-business digital infrastructure and security on a budget to suit you.