Choosing a cloud service isn’t always a simple task as there are many similar services out there. This can sometimes make it difficult to decide which to go with. However, each service usually has unique characteristics that help you to make this decision.
Choosing a cloud service doesn’t mean we have to completely forget our traditional computing technologies though. In fact, they can often work in tandem very effectively and often it’s important to decide when to use each type of service and how we can make them work together.
This lesson we’ll learn about:
- How the selection of platforms & services impact on the use of cloud technologies
- How cloud and ‘traditional’ systems are used together
1. Impact of Platforms & Services on Cloud Technologies
As mentioned in the lesson introduction, there are many similar cloud services available when choosing one for yourself or your business. However, each usually has unique characteristics that help you to choose the best for your needs.
In this section, we’ll look at some of the key things to consider that effect which cloud service you choose.
Number & Complexity of Features
Depending on what cloud service you select, it will offer different features – some of these may be more complex or simple than those on other services. Regardless, you will have to consider what features are necessary for your work based on how useful they may be in the future.
For example, if choosing between Google Docs or Microsoft Office Online, you will see there is some difference in the features. Office Online has great features for interacting with your local versions of the software, while Google Docs allows you to install add-ons that provide all kinds of extra features that allow you to really customise the software to your needs.
Paid vs Free
Free cloud services will offer a starting amount of storage or software access, meaning you will have to pay for more. The quality of the service cannot be guaranteed but this doesn’t mean all free services are bad. For example, reputable providers, like Google, will offer fantastic features at no initial cost.
Paid cloud services will usually give you more storage right away and offer increased features as compared to free services. This is because they’re tailor-made for business use, therefore are likely to provide better customer support and guaranteed quality of service.
The interface design of the cloud service being used is particularly important as it affects how easy it can be used. If somebody has trouble navigating their way throughout the interface, they may move to a different service. Therefore, cloud service providers should consider the following:
- Layout – some cloud services provide a familiar interface. Word Online is very similar to Word on your computer, which might make it easier for users to use than Google Docs.
- Accessibility – ensuring that the cloud service is accessible to those with individual needs, such as a visual impairment, is often a key consideration for a business.
- Mobile vs Desktop – nowadays, most cloud services are available on both kinds of platforms, but some may not have a mobile app to make it easier to use on smartphones & tablets.
Available devices refer to what kind of device (more specific than desktop vs mobile) the service is available on. For example, it may be the case that a cloud service app is only usable on Windows and not Mac OS, or only on Android and not iOS.
In these situations, you are almost certain to still be able to access the cloud service through your web browser, but this may not be as intuitive and easy-to-use as a dedicated app.
Using the above points, try and find out what kind of cloud service you would benefit from the most. What features would be most important to you?
2. Using Cloud & Traditional Systems Together
Rather than relying on one system or the other, it is more efficient and advantageous to use both cloud and traditional systems together. There are certain features that make this particularly easy to do so.
In this section, we’ll look at how cloud & traditional systems can work together.
Many cloud storage services will provide the ability to sync your devices with cloud storage. Provided you’re connected to the Internet, when you save your files to the cloud folder on your computer this will be synced with the cloud server, and updated on any other device you have when you connect them to the service.
This way you can still store your files locally, for quick loading and saving, but still have consistent versions across your different devices.
Cloud services are primarily designed for online use, therefore certain features will be disabled if used offline. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t access the cloud, provided if the files are stored locally. Once you go back online, and if you’ve made any edits, the cloud will be updated.
Both OneDrive and Google Drive have these features, but you need the files to be downloaded to your device, else it won’t be possible to view and edit them while offline. This is obviously very closely related to the device synchronisation we mentioned previously.
While you’re online, it’s possible for cloud services to send you notifications on your PC to inform you of occurrences (like calendar events, files being uploaded and downloaded, etc.). This relies on you having the app for the cloud service installed (rather than relying on accessing it online), so it can send notifications directly to you on your device.
We can see this often when using Windows 10, which will display notices from your connected email and cloud storage accounts, such as issues with syncing files and notification when files are completed.
Do you use cloud and traditional systems together? If you are using Windows 10, it’s likely that you have a OneDrive folder somewhere on your PC.
Try saving a file in that folder and check your Microsoft account at OneDrive.com to see if it gets uploaded to the cloud.
So to summarise what we’ve learnt in this lesson:
- The number and complexity of features may not necessarily be the best basis to select a service on however, you need to be sure the features you need are available.
- Free services tend to limit the effectiveness of certain features, forcing you to purchase if you want more storage space for example and are designed for an individual experience. Meanwhile, paid services tend to have better support, being designed for businesses.
- The design of the interface is important to look at before you purchase, as you want to make sure you’re not lost and can’t figure out how to work an application. So, you should consider several important points:
- The general layout (is it familiar & intuitive).
- The accessibility and user-friendliness.
- The platforms (specifically desktop and/or mobile) you can use it on.
- The devices the cloud service is available on will affect your decision as you want to make sure yourself or everybody in your business are able to use it in their workspace with the provided OS.
- Provided you’re connected to the Internet, it is possible to view files on the cloud on any device linked to the account, and therefore, synchronise files between all those devices connected also.
- It’s possible, with some cloud services, to download all the files you have on the cloud and edit them while offline, then have them instantly updated once you go back online.
- Cloud apps can display notifications on your device(s) through calendar dates, files being uploaded/downloaded and other events stored on the cloud.