I have seen a number of clients being pushed into using cloud software in the past year or two, in the belief that their business will be more efficient – being able to access files from anywhere & share calendars etc., which is a benefit of cloud storage & very useful.
However, in most cases they have been signed up to Microsoft Office 365, which, in my opinion, is over-priced & over-complicated. The local IT companies who have promoted Office 365 are probably getting a commission from Microsoft & it is not always in the clients best interest to sign up. I was told by one client that they pay £3 per user, per month, to use Office 365 – for which they get a number of services which are readily available for free if you look around.
Cloud Email or POP Email?
To use the Office 365 email system, you are required to re-configure your website’s mail servers to re-direct the mail through the Office 365 system, which has caused a lot of issues & is completely unnecessary. What is wrong with traditional POP email? POP email will be directly downloaded to your email client, which is very simple to set up – & totally free. If you wish, you can leave a copy of the email on your server for back-up, & you can download the same email onto unlimited computers, phones or tablets.
One of my clients was told to change their hosting set-up to re-direct email through Office 365. They then found a number of issues with bounced emails – and had to wait weeks for the IT company to address the issues. They also were forced to use the Office 365 mail client – a re-hash of Hotmail / Outlook, which is notoriously poor software. I advised them to change back to the old POP system, but they had signed up to Office 365 for a year in the belief that it was a quality purchase – being a Microsoft product.
Gmail is quite useful
Most people have a Google account, as it’s forced upon you if you buy an Android phone. With a Google account you get a Gmail address, which is free & has a lot of features that most people were unaware of. If you go to Gmail & open the settings (click on the cog icon, top right) you are able to import multiple POP email accounts into Gmail. So you can send / receive messages from a number of different email accounts. The Gmail App is also very handy, so you can get all of your emails sent to your phone.
I understand some people’s suspicions of Gmail – as there are small adverts at the top of your email window, which are automatically generated from the text within your email. But you don’t see any adverts in the Gmail App, which is what I use more often.
Storage, Calendars & Documents
If you have a Google account, you will have access to Google Drive, Google Calendar & Google Docs – all are free (up to about 15GB of storage). So you are able to share a calendar, spreadsheets & other files with anyone. If you wanted to keep your personal stuff separate from work stuff – why not create a Google account specifically for work? Or you can pay extra for a Google business account – which has a few more useful Apps.
Microsoft Office / Open Office
The one benefit of Office 365 is the shared use of the popular programmes like Word, Excell & Powerpoint – which are widely used in many businesses.
But there is a free alternative, Open Office, which can do pretty much everything that Microsoft Office does. Clearly Microsoft Office is far more widely used, and there may be some compatibility issues with Open Office – so if you are sending files to another client, the file may not open exactly as intended, but It’s not bad for free.
Do you need Cloud Software?
If you are simply sharing documents with colleagues, why not just upload your files to a free drive, or just email them to each other? That has been fine by me for many years. There have also been a number of recent cases where the big companies have had to admit, maybe Cloud software isn’t faultless.
Adobe Cloud Software
Many designers have used Adobe software for years, but the latest version of their Creative Suite software is ONLY available as cloud software. But when their servers crashed earlier this year, all of it’s users were unable to work for the amount of time it took to fix the issue. I would personally prefer to keep my work on my own computer, where I can keep them safe & access it when I need it.
Apple iCloud Photo Leaks
You’ve probably read about the celebrity photo hacking in recent months. This is due to poor security on Apple’s iCloud system – or the users poor choice of passwords.
All of these companies will tell you that cloud storage is the future & it is safe… because they want to sell you the latest super-thin iPad or smart-phone, where bulky storage is unattractive, but there are clearly still some teething problems at the moment, so don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!