TECH­NOL­OGY

If you use Spo­tify or Face­book, you’re al­ready us­ing the cloud – but you can move things up a gear by mak­ing the most of cloud-based tools that will help you work bet­ter, han­dle your fi­nances and store ev­ery pic­ture you ever take

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

Have a lot of data and don’t know where to store it? The cloud’s the an­swer.

Hands up if you’re not 100 per cent sure what ‘the cloud’ means? Don’t worry, you’re def­i­nitely not the only one – it’s a term that con­tin­ues to bam­boo­zle even as it gets ever more ubiq­ui­tous in our lives.

The fact is, you’re al­most cer­tainly us­ing it with­out even re­al­is­ing it. In a nut­shell, the cloud lets people store their dig­i­tal data (like MP3 files, doc­u­ments, pho­tos, pre­sen­ta­tions and so on) on se­cure, dis­tant servers in­stead of on their own PC – or, if they pre­fer, as well as on their own PC. They can then ac­cess this in­for­ma­tion from any­where in the world on any de­vice they own.

When you up­load a pic­ture to your Face­book ac­count, you’re hand­ing the im­age over to Face­book to look after – although you may also have a copy of it on your own hard drive. As long as you have an in­ter­net con­nec­tion, the cloud lets you see those Face­book pho­tos on your dig­i­tal de­vice whether you’re at home, at work, or on hol­i­day.

‘The cloud is like a hard drive you don’t have to own,’ says Nick Braund, head of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion at PHA Me­dia. ‘It ex­ists through other com­pa­nies and it doesn’t take up space on any of your de­vices. It gen­uinely makes life eas­ier, and se­cu­rity on cloud tech­nol­ogy is in­cred­i­bly ad­vanced. It means you are able to have your in­for­ma­tion, your mem­o­ries, any­thing you want any­where in the world.’

In the light of global con­cerns about cy­ber se­cu­rity, stor­ing your data on the cloud cer­tainly makes a lot of sense, be­cause it means that a com­pro­mised PC needn’t mean that you risk los­ing all of your mem­o­ries, doc­u­ments, songs and so on to a crim­i­nal de­mand­ing a king’s ran­som. In fact, if you had dili­gently stored ev­ery­thing that was im­por­tant to you on the cloud and have a Dh1,000 lap­top that is hacked, you’d prob­a­bly be bet­ter off buy­ing a new shiny new lap­top than hand­ing over a Dh1,500 ran­som.

As well as be­ing a place to store your pri­vate files, the cloud also re­duces the need to clog up a com­puter or mo­bile de­vice with lots of mem­ory-hog­ging soft­ware. In the old days, you would down­load soft­ware and it would sit there on your ma­chine wait­ing to be used. Now you can ac­cess thou­sands of dif­fer­ent soft­ware pro­grammes via the in­ter­net with­out hav­ing to down­load any of them.

If this sounds con­fus­ing, just think of Gmail on your PC. You don’t have to down­load it – you sim­ply ac­cess it via the in­ter­net. Mak­ing use of soft­ware

‘The cloud is the AN­SWER. It con­nects people and brings them to­gether and it al­lows us to LOOK AFTER our com­put­ers BET­TER

ap­pli­ca­tions on­line like this means you can see maps of ev­ery city on the planet, you can de­sign web­sites, you can han­dle so­cial me­dia ac­counts and do count­less other things on what­ever de­vice is to hand.

Count­less apps make good use of the cloud, too; Spo­tify and Net­flix on your phone or tablet, for ex­am­ple, are merely a gate­way to thou­sands of hours of mu­sic and movies that are hosted re­motely. If you tried stor­ing all that data your­self, you’d need a se­ri­ously im­pres­sive hard drive.

‘If you want to find a phone num­ber, share a photo or see a home video when you’re away,’ says Braund, ‘the cloud is the an­swer. It con­nects people and brings them to­gether and it al­lows us to look after our com­put­ers bet­ter be­cause they’re not be­ing clogged up with huge files that can po­ten­tially slow them down.’

Cloud com­put­ing has been a huge hit with busi­nesses, who are now able to do things on­line that would once have been very ex­pen­sive. Small busi­nesses are es­pe­cially well looked after, with af­ford­able ac­count­ing, HR and cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship

man­age­ment tools that once needed per­son­alised, hands-on so­lu­tions, the cost of which could crip­ple young com­pa­nies just a few years ago.

There are spe­cial­ist tools for sales­men, for mar­ket­ing people – any­one and ev­ery­one with a busi­ness to run. As­maa Al Shabibi, di­rec­tor of the Al Quoz-based Lawrie Shabibi art gallery, has been us­ing spe­cial­ist cloud soft­ware Art­logic since her gallery opened five years ago. ‘It’s a life­saver in terms of be­ing able to ac­cess our in­ven­tory, im­ages and con­tacts,’ she says. ‘They also pro­vide an app that we use to send im­ages to clients from our phones. This means that at art fairs, din­ner par­ties, meet­ings or when we are trav­el­ling we can eas­ily send out im­ages and also draw up in­voices.’ If she had to rely on some­one find­ing im­ages and other files back at the of­fice, she says, it would slow ev­ery­thing down.

One pop­u­lar cloud-based tool used by count­less busi­nesses is Google Drive, the in­ter­net gi­ant’s file stor­age and syn­chro­ni­sa­tion ser­vice that al­lows people to store in­for­ma­tion on­line and ac­cess it on any de­vice. Steve Thomp­son, founder of the Dubai Polo Academy, is a fan.

‘We can run the whole busi­ness from a sin­gle lap­top,’ says Steve, ‘but be­cause there’s al­ways the chance it could get lost or stolen, it makes sense for us to have ev­ery­thing backed up on­line so that we could re­trieve it in an emer­gency. Google Drive is costs just a few dol­lars a month for 100GB of stor­age, and it means that we can ac­cess what we need from any­where.’

‘They pro­vide an APP that we use to send im­ages to clients from our phones. This means that at ART FAIRS, din­ner par­ties, meet­ings or when trav­el­ling we can EAS­ILY send out im­ages and draw up in­voices’

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As­maa Al Shabibi be­lieves spe­cialised cloud soft­ware Art­logic has been a life­saver for her art gallery

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