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  • #987099
    Calcul8or
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    There is a veritable plethora of technology available these days geared around mobile computing. Personally, the only one I find at all useful is internet banking. I am not a “cloud” user, and am still not impressed enough with it to venture forth in the direction of this brave (foolish?) new world.

    I don’t know what it is, but the thought of data and work that I have devoted time, effort, creativity and ingenuity to being in the hands of, and accessible to, people about whose motivations, connections and honesty I know next to nothing about, makes my skin crawl a little bit. But far worse than that, I can’t help but feel a bit of that good old sense of righteous indignation at the thought that anyone would charge me money to access my own work, and deny me that access unless I paid them! That I think is the height of ridiculousness.

    Anyway, I was just wondering how many of you are subscribed to cloud-based services. From what I’ve seen and read around here, I would be willing to guess quite a few. The question I have for you though, is do you find yourselves working away for hours and hours on your smartphones whenever you’re out of your office/homes? Do you really? Is having the ability to access your own information (so long as you’ve paid for the privilege, ofcourse) via your phone really as magnificent as it is made out to be?

    Speaking for myself, my laptop goes wherever I do, and if I want to work on something while I’m out, I can. And because I’m using my laptop, I don’t need to have either an internet connection or cloud-based service, because I have it all there in one tidy package. In fact, not having an internet connection is a blessing sometimes, when you consider how much time I don’t end up wasting on social media!

    Would it be truer to say that when most people are out and they want to do some serious work, they end up doing it on their laptop rather than their phone? If so, do they really need to be paying every month for someone’s permission to use their own stuff?

    I’d be grateful for any insight.

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1161154
    Greg_M
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    A lot of what you say is valid, I use a mixture of both.

    In a business sense for many micro type businesses the Cloud offers a lot of leverage and in some cases the risk is worth it.

    Your perspective is coming from the angle of someone who obviously has a high degree of IT literacy, and you’ve worked in businesses where this is a common requirement and expectation, and probably correctly and highly valued from a financial perspective (they’ll pay for talent and results). Bigger business probably also has more requirement for (or understanding of data security).

    I come from the other end of the food chain, most of the people I deal with struggle with email attachments, a few fall somewhere in between.

    Simple web apps that do a couple of things well often add a pro edge to businesses that don’t have the know how or confidence to invest in IT infrastructure.

    Risky as it may be, I can chain together a few apps with very low learning curves and go head to head with bigger businesses in a lot of areas, and they’ll scale up if it works, and scale down if it doesn’t (at no real capital outlay).

    The bottom line in my opinion is that most people hate computers … take away the learning curve and maintenance, al la tablets and phones and they’ll use them.

    I’m personally in your camp and go nowhere without a my Mac Air, but many I deal with will only use a phone and a tablet at best. I had a client, very successful financially, employing up to 12 people profitably … runs the whole show off his iPhone, and only begrudgingly turns his PC on. Got lots more real similar real life examples.

    I’l tell a quick story you’ll love.

    I was approached by a director of a fairly large company (admittedly the son about to inherit the business). He wanted an app for iPads for his on site estimators. Why he picked on me I’m not sure … but I said I’d chat to him about it … my advice was, format a spreadsheet, it’ll do everything you want at little or no cost … he thought I was an idiot, and somewhere an iOS developer is probably 15k richer.

    This is what your up against. You might as well get on board and take their money.

    #1161155
    Calcul8or
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    You were certainly right about that story at the end Estim8, although “love” may not adequately describe my true reaction to it lol

    I’m intrigued by the gentleman you described who ran his whole operation from his phone. I guess there really are people out there for whom the mobile revolution has been a great thing, but I’m not convinced there are too many of them.

    I guess as far as this whole question goes, all I can really do is be prepared to accept that people do things sometimes that don’t make a whole lot of sense. I was expecting to be shot down in flames by devotees of the cloud, but perhaps there is enough doubt in their minds as well, which prevents them from firmly committing their loyalties either way.

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1161156
    Greg_M
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    My iPhone man is a character, he turns 60 this year and has decided he has enough money. His kids are grown, he paid out his ex a decade ago, so he’s now spending most of his time travelling the world … for his last business transaction he’s decided is to sell his mobile number, which he’s confident will bring many thousands of dollars (it never stops ringing with job leads).

    He stands out for his financial success, but he’s by no means an isolated case amongst my contemporaries and industry. I know several business owners who turn over in excess of a million bucks and have no interest or ability with computers and all rely heavily on their phones … these are not kids mucking about with social media, but 50 plus businessmen with proven track records.

    The stats are out, love em or hate them, the world is going mobile, and in my opinion the easiest way to take their money is deliver via the Cloud.

    We now live in an increasingly networked and interconnected world, and many people love it (I don’t particularly) and want that connection and collaboration at their fingertips.

    Stand alone desktop applications fail badly in this area, even though they may be better tools.

    They also tend to suffer from “feature bloat”, which means a learning curve, which means most people aren’t going to bother.

    In comparison a “good” web app does couple of things, extremely well with a few clicks on a friendly UI … no learning curve, only a browser (which is common to every app no matter what) … deliver via a browser and you can encapsulate every device and OS in one hit.

    Catering to this demand sounds like a pretty good business model to me, especially if you can code.

    I don’t know if I’m typical, but I’ll use (and learn) a good desktop app for core workflows. Include in that, stuff like spreadsheets.

    It does suit me that these workflows don’t rely on a network connection, but everything peripheral I’ll seriously consider an app.

    I include time, project, customer and billing management as non core items that I want to access on the go from any device. When I’m actually doing things that make money, I’m stationary, often on a large screen and a desktop tool is usually a much better option.

    #1161157
    JohnTranter
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    estim8, post: 186141 wrote:
    I include time, project, customer and billing management as non core items that I want to access on the go from any device. When I’m actually doing things that make money, I’m stationary, often on a large screen and a desktop tool is usually a much better option.

    That’s pretty much me too. I use cloud based apps for stuff I need to access offsite, or for stuff that other people need to access. (and backups of course)
    e.g. project management, note taking, invoicing.

    None of it’s anything I’d access from a mobile though, unless you count a tablet as mobile because I use one for note taking at meetings.

    I have seen an excellent business use for a cloud app though, I rent my house and during our last house inspection the inspector had an Ipad with a business app on it. If she needed to make any remarks, she could take a photo with the ipad, make a note next to it, and it was instantly on our record.
    Compare that with taking a photo with a camera, making a note on a pad, going back to the office, uploading the photo to her computer, entering the notes into the system, tagging the photo on the note etc.

    #1161158
    Calcul8or
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    Reading your last post, I realised that I in fact know an iPhone man myself, although I’m not 100% sure if it isn’t a smartphone. In any case, while the rest of us had grand delusions of illustrious careers in Law or Medicine, he studied Environmental Science and now runs a very profitable national company that does govt and commercial work. He has a small army of people to do the day to day stuff for him, and I would be very surprised if he spent much time actually rolling up his sleeve to work in his business. But then again, I doubt whether there are many people in that league who are also Flying Soloists. I could be wrong.

    Luckily for me, the kinds of solutions I deliver would be useless in the cloud, because they relate to or manage processes at a particular location. Sure, I could have built the last major project I worked on in PHP & MySQL, making it accessible from Timbuktoo, but there would hardly be any point if you actually had to physically be in Toorak to know whether you were pushing the right buttons.

    The reason desktop applications can suffer from “feature bloat” is that the desktop allows much greater functionality than the web, and I still think it is better to have more rather than less. Well, that’s the principle I base all my dinner parties on anyway.

    While practically everything you say about the cloud is true, in that it can promote connection and collaboration for instance, is that really the experience of most people? Or is it more the case that they boot up their computers exactly as I do at the beginning of the working day, and while I have all of my stuff right here to dive into straight away, the only difference between me and the cloud dweller is that they have to take one more (albeit relatively tiny) step to gain access to theirs?

    If that’s how these services are being used, and people aren’t actually flitting about cafe-hopping and squeezing work in between lattes and socialising, does any of that stuff REALLY have to be in the cloud at all? Are they in fact doing their dough for no good reason, and risking being prevented from accessing their own stuff if business becomes slow, and there are other priorities that need to be paid first, for instance?

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1161159
    Calcul8or
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    JohnTranter, post: 186144 wrote:
    I have seen an excellent business use for a cloud app though, I rent my house and during our last house inspection the inspector had an Ipad with a business app on it. If she needed to make any remarks, she could take a photo with the ipad, make a note next to it, and it was instantly on our record.
    Compare that with taking a photo with a camera, making a note on a pad, going back to the office, uploading the photo to her computer, entering the notes into the system, tagging the photo on the note etc.

    I take your point John, but there is absolutely no reason why that kind of functionality couldn’t be developed in a desktop app. It doesn’t have to be a manual process at all.

    By using the cloud, the agent is entrusting client information to the cloud, and I’m not entirely convinced that extra step is entirely necessary.

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1161160
    JohnTranter
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    Calcul8or, post: 186146 wrote:
    I take your point John, but there is absolutely no reason why that kind of functionality couldn’t be developed in a desktop app. It doesn’t have to be a manual process at all.

    By using the cloud, the agent is entrusting client information to the cloud, and I’m not entirely convinced that extra step is entirely necessary.

    I honestly can’t picture in my mind how a desktop application would be easier? Sorry if I’m missing something.

    Let’s say she inspect ten houses, then goes back to the office. How is it not easier for her to make the notes and attach photos on site rather than waiting to get back to the office? Or are you talking about using a laptop on site, but then she’d still have to connect the camera to the laptop and find the correct photo.

    The cloud in this case could be her companies own servers, no third party needed. The information is going to end up there anyway.

    #1161161
    Calcul8or
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    JohnTranter, post: 186147 wrote:
    I honestly can’t picture in my mind how a desktop application would be easier? Sorry if I’m missing something.

    Let’s say she inspect ten houses, then goes back to the office. How is it not easier for her to make the notes and attach photos on site rather than waiting to get back to the office? Or are you talking about using a laptop on site, but then she’d still have to connect the camera to the laptop and find the correct photo.

    The cloud in this case could be her companies own servers, no third party needed. The information is going to end up there anyway.

    The important thing to keep in mind is that the cloud doesn’t somehow bestow greater functionality to an application by virtue of it being hosted in the cloud. Quite the contrary, in fact. As I said before, there is far more functionality that a desktop developer has at their disposal than a cloud developer. In other words, anything cloud can do, desktop can do better.

    But, having said that, I totally agree that the example you gave is a really good one. There are a lot of obvious advantages to a cloud based system like that, especially when you consider there is only one step in updating a remote database which is then available for access immediately, without the need for syncing over a network or anything, and the delay that would result in.

    The process you described is a specialised one, and I absolutely agree that a cloud-based solution in those kinds of situations is without doubt the best.

    But are all cloud based systems/services justifiable in the same way?

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1161162
    JohnTranter
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    Are we still talking about mobile apps or cloud apps?

    Mobiles are always going to have reduced functionality based on their form factor and the fact they are less powerful than desktops. The advantage is only there if you’re offsite.
    Cloud is basically just “The Internet’, so it’s about sharing information between different people/platforms.

    I may have to ask you what you mean by cloud based. For example my version of photoshop is served by a cloud based launcher, it automatically updates and needs to be registered to work. Photoshop is definitely a desktop app, yet it comes with cloud space for me to host projects on and I can access that space directly from within the application.

    #1161163
    Calcul8or
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    JohnTranter, post: 186151 wrote:
    Are we still talking about mobile apps or cloud apps?

    Mobiles are always going to have reduced functionality based on their form factor and the fact they are less powerful than desktops. The advantage is only there if you’re offsite.
    Cloud is basically just “The Internet’, so it’s about sharing information between different people/platforms.

    I may have to ask you what you mean by cloud based. For example my version of photoshop is served by a cloud based launcher, it automatically updates and needs to be registered to work. Photoshop is definitely a desktop app, yet it comes with cloud space for me to host projects on and I can access that space directly from within the application.

    I didn’t specifically have mobile apps in mind, and what I mean by cloud is basically as you say, web-based applications. The question I asked at the beginning of all of this was simply whether cloud-based technology, as used by the vast bulk of the people who do use it, served any real purpose actually being in the cloud, or being web based. And if they don’t then what some of the implications of having your data on the internet and out of your control were.

    I mean, if you don’t have a a team of sales reps who are constantly in one meeting after another with prospective clients, sometimes simultaneously, updating your crm with time-critical information that your production team must react to within microseconds of it having been entered, so that your quality assurance team don’t end up rejecting batches that the client has made last minute changes to the specifications of, and in fact wants, do you really need a web-based crm?

    If you’re not a multinational, with branches all over the world who need to be able to update financial records simultaneously, in real time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, do you really need a web-hosted accounting package?

    As for the implications, apart from the security ones I mentioned before, and the prospect of being locked out of your own data unless you pay someone their ransom, how about the fact that you you have no choice but to accept upgrades, and that you’ll continue to pay for them whether you like it or not?

    At least with desktop software, there was always a bit of breathing space that allowed people to assess reviews and the like, before deciding whether an upgrade was worth it or not. That’s how we all avoided Vista, wasn’t it? (Apparently, there are some people who are very happy still using XP!)

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1161164
    John C.
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    Hi Calcul8or,

    My short answer is that yes, I believe that cloud based services are as whizbang as some of the marketing suggests.

    This forum is a cloud based service, and only a decade or two ago I would have said that the idea of people being able to communicate with each other from anywhere in the world in near real-time would only happen in science fiction. How can you not be impressed with this sort of technology!

    That doesn’t mean that “the cloud” is suitable for every user in every situation though. And all cloud based services are not created equally!

    As a business owner you need to decide for yourself what features you need, and what risks you are willing to accept. It’s important to note though that some of your assumptions are not always true in every situation.

    You highlight the risk of a cloud service provider holding your data ransom if you don’t pay your bills. That can certainly happen with some cloud based solutions if not managed correctly, but with a service such as DropBox for example, a copy of all your data is stored locally on the hard drive of any computer on which you install the software and enter your credentials. Stop paying the bills and the worst that can happen is that you have multiple copies of your data available to you which no longer synchronise.

    The biggest risk I have seen business owners (and home computer users) place themselves in unwittingly, often while denigrating “the cloud” is having only one copy of their important data on the hard drive of a single laptop. When that laptop is inevitably lost, stolen or broken they are left with a massive loss of data. Sure this risk can be mitigated by having routine scheduled backups, but this is so often not done very well if at all.

    Working live in “the cloud” from a coffee shop on your phone is one benefit, and it may seem a small benefit to some, but being able to enter data into a database from a construction site or other onsite staff, and have that data available to the admin staff at head office immediately for scheduling staff resources or ordering required stock can mean massive productivity gains to some businesses.

    Being able to share your company data with members of your team who are in separate physical locations is also an amazing benefit to many businesses… for some that means that they can hire employees in different suburbs, states, or even countries. For others it means that their accountant can quickly access their books without having to waste time and money scheduling face-to-face meetings.

    I would suggest that you look at all the possible benefits of a cloud based solution rather than just the obvious ones. It’s not just about working on your iPhone from the coffee shop. Some of the benefits are to do with mitigating risks such as loss of data and capital investment – you can start using many cloud based services for a minimal monthly outlay, rather than having to make a large capital investment upfront… for some startups that is the difference between being able to start or not.

    I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to “move to the cloud” (whatever that means!). But when evaluating a particular product or service, pay attention to the real risks and benefits and don’t just do what you’ve always done because that feels safer… that safety is often an illusion.

    Cheers,
    John

    #1161165
    Calcul8or
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    I think both Johns have quite convincingly demonstrated the value of specialised cloud based systems where communication, collaboration and coordination are essential, and I cannot disagree with either, or take issue with any of the examples provided.

    I guess in the end, it all boils down to making the best decision based on your own situation. If your organisation relies on the three C’s above, then certainly look at adding a fourth C (“cloud” – get it? lol).

    But, if you’re a soloist, and have an emotional connection to your work (like me), stay paranoid! lol….well not really, but you know what I mean!

    Programmer. Analyst. Nerd. Calcul8ors.com.au Custom Software & Collaboration
    #1161166
    Greg_M
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    onsiteTECHS, post: 186154 wrote:
    The biggest risk I have seen business owners (and home computer users) place themselves in unwittingly, often while denigrating “the cloud” is having only one copy of their important data on the hard drive of a single laptop. When that laptop is inevitably lost, stolen or broken they are left with a massive loss of data. Sure this risk can be mitigated by having routine scheduled backups, but this is so often not done very well if at all.

    This represents the situation of many of the clients I’ve had/have. Plus they usually have almost no structure to how they store, open or save files and data on their machines. I had one that thinks Google is an application, and uses it to find his own webpage.

    While Dropbox or similar may not be the perfect solution, by convincing several clients to adopt it, they at least have some form of backup (in their dealings with me, if nothing else). Without it, they would drive me mad retrieving stuff for them and continually resending it, and becoming a defacto filing clerk.

    Clients like this get a huge benefit from me using Cloud platforms in other ways. Many small businesses don’t even have an office as such (kitchen table after dinner) they’re out all day on the job, or on the road.

    Being able to retrieve things from the Cloud can be a huge benefit for these clients, especially outside normal business hours (when I don’t want to talk to them) which is when most actually do their administration tasks.

    Billing and invoicing is one Cloud service that works brilliantly for me, with these guys.

    My clients have their own account within the app. They can log in (256 bit encryption), 24/7 (after dinner maybe, when the wife, or kids are home to sort the laptop) view their whole account history, current status, even dispute or pay an invoice, they all love it and say so (makes me look 10 times more efficient than I actually am).

    Just in this one app I save a fortune in more efficient billing, my cash-flow is greatly improved too.

    I’ve always been the worlds worst bookkeeper, this service tracks my hours or lump sum jobs and expenses(this is my only input to the app … no maintenance blah blah), from there it becomes timely invoices, statement tracking, cash flow position, aged debtors, almost complete cashbook and heaps of push button efficiency reports. I don’t used Cloud accounting as such but this app will auto update most Cloud packages. I can also download all data at any time to things like spreadsheets if needed.

    With my business at max capacity this service is worth $20 per month (25 clients) another $10 unlimited clients … currently I’m changing what I do, so I only manage 3 clients, this costs zip, none of my previous data is forgone or lost.

    All data is available to me anywhere off any device with a browser.

    I can’t see a desktop application coming close to this service. The minimal risk is well worth it to me.

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