So far I have found a number of advantages when using cloud-based tools and services during my 30 Days with the Cloud adventure. There is one big, unspoken benefit to embracing the cloud, though — it comes with a “free” IT department.
I am used to running everything locally. I store my gigabytes of music files on my hard drive. I install and maintain my own Quicken financial software, and Microsoft Office suite. There is some sense of control that comes with managing my own stuff, but there is also a responsibility — a burden, actually.
When it comes to my music and photos, I am a little paranoid about storing them locally. Laptops get stolen. Hard drives crash. In the blink of an eye, I could lose thousands of dollars worth of music content, or priceless photos that can’t be replaced. When I store those things in the cloud, though, there is a whole infrastructure behind it, with redundant servers, and data backups, and an IT admin to make sure the data is protected from disaster.
As for the software I use, it seems to constantly need some sort of update. Every other time I fire up Quicken it offers up a new update, and there is a pretty good chance that some aspect of Microsoft Office needs to fixed on Microsoft’s monthly Patch Tuesday. To the extent that it’s possible, I have updates like these automated and scheduled to occur in the wee hours of the night while I am sound asleep. But, with cloud-based alternatives, these sorts of patches and updates are managed in the background by the IT department of the cloud service provider.
Another benefit of cloud services and the secret IT department that comes with them, is that new features and capabilities can be added on the fly. For software installed on my PC, the vendor would have to issue some sort of update or service pack that I would need to download and install in order to take advantage of new features. But, with services like Google Docs, Google can simply throw in new capabilities as they are developed, and I have access to them instantly.
Using cloud services means that the tools and applications I rely on are continuously patched and updated, and that they are always the latest, most current version. It also means that if and when problems arise, there is someone I can go to for support instead of having to muddle through and figure it out on my own.
The services themselves are typically quite reasonable compared with the cost of purchasing and installing similar software locally. The fact that the services come with the backing of an IT department with the skills and resources to properly manage it all is just icing on the cake.