Can the iCloud work for your business?

In September Apple will release the iCloud, a cloud computing service which will be able to store and synch information from users’ iPhones, iPads, iTouches, Macs, and PCs. While it has potential for great success, it falls short of being a perfect match for small business.

• What is the iCloud?

The iCloud is a cloud computing service that stores, synchs, and backs-up data from users’ iPhones, iPads, iTouches, Macs, and PCs. According to Apple’s website, with an upgrade to the iOS5, devices will automatically integrate with the iCloud and gain access to an additional 200 new features. With this service, photos, documents, calendar, mail, contacts and other information will be available on any user’s Apple devices as long as there is ethernet or wi-fi access. For one year of service, it is free for the first 5GB, $20 for an additional 10GB, $40 for 20GB, and $100 for 50GB respectively.

Some of the new features that would be attractive for small business are Newsstand, which organizes your magazines and newspaper subscriptions. Reminders provides a convenient method for making to-do lists, setting due dates for assignments or projects, and making reminders based on location. For business presentations, AirPlay Mirroring for the iPad 2 uses video mirroring, streaming content to an HDTV using a wireless network using Apple TV.

• What can it offer your small business?

The iCloud service offers small businesses better organization, communication, and security. Owners and employees will have the ability to create documents or make edits remotely using an iPhone or iPad. This can also be done for the company contacts and calendar, resulting in smoother operations for businesses where employees frequently travel or work from home. With the set-up of the account, you will receive a me.com e-mail that will keep messages synched on all your devices. If, for some reason you cannot access your iPhone, iTouch, or iPad, you can still get to your mail, contacts, and calendar from any computer via icloud.com. The cloud service allows employees to see updated information instantly, no matter where they are located.

It provides security by automatically backing up when new information when it is added and offering the Find My Mac service. This service allows users with a Mac connected to wi-fi with the activated feature to obtain an approximate location for his/her computer. The screen can be locked and hard drive erased remotely in the event that the computer is stolen, which is especially attractive for company computers.

• Where does it fall short?

The first shortcoming of the iCloud service is its price. X person argues that it would be better to allow users to use the for free in the beginning, and transition later into a subscription service after there is more buy-in from customers. A second complaint is that the iCloud doesn’t provide much memory—only 50 GB—for the $100 subscription price. Thirdly, the iCloud does not yet have multiple-user sign-in capability, so for a small business everyone in the office would have to use the same ID and password. Lastly, it does not yet have a feature comparable to Google Documents where business users can share key business documents with one another, though there is discussion about improving Apple’s iWork.com to meet this need.

Sources:

1) Apple: “What is iCloud?”

2) PC World Business Center: “How Apple Can Make iCloud Business-Friendly”

3) mlive.com: “Influence blog: Get into the cloud”

4) CIO: “What iCloud Can Do for Your Small Business”

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