In a few years we will be telling our children that the reason we don’t have any baby pictures of them is because our laptop broke after they spilt milk on it and we didn’t have a ‘backup’ on a ‘external hard drive’. They will look at you with wonder asking, ‘whats a backup?’ and ‘whats an external hard drive?’.
As a company we rely heavily on web apps and cloud services for a lot of what we do. 37 Signals have a excellent suite of project managment tools called ‘Basecamp’, this is something we live in, it keeps all our projects running smoothly. For general tasks use Things, a GTD (getting things done) app that syncs between each member of our team and gives each of us a good overview of what everyone is at via excellent desktop and mobile apps that all sync via the cloud. Kashflow.co.uk looks after all our billing, quotes and sales beautifully. We run our company email off Google Apps and have tried to get into Google Docs but we were having trouble importing our existing docs. Dropbox is used everyday and relied on for sharing, sending and syncing files with all team members, freelancers and clients.
As Mac, iPhone and iPad users what we are really interested in is how Apple’s new iCloud service is going to evolve, as its only a few months old and Apple have only dipped their toe in the water but this has the potential to be great for people in the OS X and iOS walled garden. We used MobileMe but as Apple admitted, they didn’t get it right. Currently we use iCloud for syncing apps, contacts, photos, music and calendars but its missing one vital piece of the pie, documents in the cloud. Apple has implemented docs in the cloud for the mobile versions of their office apps; Pages, Numbers and Keynote but there is no easy way to sync documents back to your Mac. We are still waiting for a decent OS X apps implementation of this, I presume its only a matter of time, I’m just surprised Apple didn’t wait to release the desktop version with the mobile versions. I like the idea of having one cloud account for everything so it will all just work without the hassle of logging into multiple services, I know I’ll never get this but the fewer logins I have to manage the better.
One argument is that the main barrier to webapps is performance, and as soon as hardware and connectivity gets fast enough, webapps will beat desktop apps. Firstly, there’s a question of whether the hardware can ever be “fast enough” and this depends on the specific applications. A lot of the desktop apps we use in Mad Dog Digital rely on processor performance, RAM and fast file transfer so I can’t see video production or image manipulation apps moving fully into the cloud for another 5 – 10 years.
There are cons for cloud services and web based apps, the main one being the fact that in most cases we rely on a internet connection to access our data and the other is that all these services cost money, throw 5 or 6 paid apps/services into the mix and you have a decent recurring software bill that we didn’t have before. But in my view the pros of access, security, updates and auto-backups outweigh the cons. Cloud and web apps are in their infancy in terms of evolution, its all going to fall into place and the mainstream is going to jump on board without even realizing. The mistake some cloud companies make is trying to explain the cloud to Joe Bloggs, just let them use it and forget trying to get them to understand whats happening. The very term ‘cloud’ is going to throw most people. I have setup a few new PC’s for mates of mine and I always install a Dropbox folder and just tell them to save all their files into it. I don’t explain about it syncing to the cloud, they use it and if they lost their laptop all the files are safe. So lets stop trying to explain it and using ‘The Cloud’ as a buzz word, its only complicating things and holding people back.