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