Cloud

iCloud in the business setting: Evaluating the pros and cons

Erik Eckel looks at iCloud from the perspective of the small business. Can it be utilized for more than personal storage?

Apple's iCloud announcement earned quite a few headlines. The attention is well deserved. The new cloud-based service, due for imminent release, enables synchronizing iTunes, photos, apps and books across multiple devices, including Macs, iPads, iPhones, and even Windows computers.

But those aren't the features compelling small organizations to leverage iCloud. The service also synchronizes documents, contacts, calendars, mail and backups. Further, iCloud is seamlessly integrated within applications. With synchronization functionality built directly within apps, it's simple for users to automatically sync data, files, device settings and more via Wi-Fi.

Why iCloud?

Small businesses that wish to simply sync mail, contacts and calendar information across multiple devices will find iCloud an easy choice. As long as iCloud improves upon reliability issues some users experienced with MobileMe, such basic functionality will prove popular with many small organizations.

iCloud will also sync iWork documents, spreadsheets and presentations across the common devices numerous small businesses use: iPhones, iPads and a Mac or Windows PC. Apple also encourages third party developers to leverage iCloud backup capacities within their apps, further extending iCloud's reach and benefits.

Where iCloud will really shine, though, is providing additional protection against some of the most vexing frustrations users encounter. A lost or broken iPhone or tablet used to result in device settings, home screen organization and text and MMS messages being lost. No more. iCloud will back up those items, along with apps, photos, videos, purchased music, apps, books and more, automatically. Recovery, for iTunes account holders, improves dramatically as a result.

Why iCloud may not be right

It remains to be seen whether users must use an @me.com email account to leverage iCloud-synced mail, contacts and calendar. Businesses already possessing a Microsoft Exchange (or Mac) server will find no need for Apple to assist in syncing such information across multiple devices, either, as these users will already have that problem solved.

Not all apps may offer iCloud integration, which means users may find some apps incompatible with the backup features. Or, some businesses may require collaboration and file sharing capabilities unsupported by iCloud.

Apple will provide users with 5GB of storage space free, and purchased music, apps, books, Photo Stream data and even TV shows won't count against the 5GB limit; however, many business users will find themselves requiring additional storage space. While priced reasonably, additional storage costs could add up, especially if several users each require expanded storage limits. 10GB of additional space runs $20 a year, with 20GB running $40 and 50GB costing $100.

My prediction

Ultimately, I think many small business users will begin leveraging iCloud just to simplify the task of sharing their personal iTunes purchases-including music, iPad, Mac and iPhone apps, and books-across multiple devices. That's all good, and the ability to also automatically back up device settings, photos and texts will prove handy.

But when it comes to synchronizing calendars, contacts and mail across multiple devices, I think Apple will have its work cut out convincing end users. So many businesses are already committed to back-end Exchange or Mac servers that only smaller groups not already possessing such functionality will find those iCloud features compelling.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

4 comments
adornoe
adornoe

and trying to retrofit the business environment into iCloud would be like trying to force a square peg into a circular hole. For it's very limited business capabilities, there might be some that might try it for certain features, but, they'd be limiting their own business capabilities by going with something that is, up front, very limited on the business side, and not designed with businesses in mind.

stevelizardi
stevelizardi

Yes There are other services that offer cloud services, however what I have noticed is that Google has yet to release an API so that developers can or are able to sync data like documents to Google Docs. Amazon is great when it comes to the EC3 service, however find it difficult to mount disks on a mac. PC is great, but left out the macs. Then you have Amazon Cloud Service to store music and documents. But again, they left out the Syncing data between computer and Amazon Cloud. It will be interesting to see if iCloud can capture the enterprise or at least a way to sync your documents to the cloud. Just my two cents.

Gromanon
Gromanon

I seriously do not see a single reason for consumer targeted cloud service to be offered when there are much better already deployed services such as Windows Live and Microsoft business cloud solutions. Works with all existing Windows based computers. Unless a small business is all Apple products I really can't justify deployment of iCloud.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They have the timecapsule product line already; add in the data syncronization between multiple machines paired to the timecapsule nas/router and you'll seel more of those nas/router boxes to home and business users.