Apple has made much of iCloud’s launch – and while it’s easy to be wary of hype, Apple’s past successes have made the world take notice of cloud services. So what does it herald for businesses?
iCloud embodies everything that Apple excels at: it’s user-friendly and seamlessly integrated into Apple’s product range. Microsoft’s SkyDrive provides a similar service, yet despite being older, it may become just another challenger. However, like Google Android’s open ethos in the mobile OS market, SkyDrive could become a more inclusive, business-friendly platform for data sharing than iCloud, which is likely to retain the ‘barbed-wire fence’ approach reminiscent of Apple’s App Store, iTunes service and iPod digital media format.
Following typical technology trends, both iCloud and SkyDrive are set to be rapidly adopted by virtue of the wide compatibility of product ranges, from Apple’s iPhone integration to the cross-platform flexibility of Microsoft’s sprawling business and consumer product range. To this extent, according to a 2010 IBM survey, thanks to the success of iPhones, iPads, Windows Phone 7 and Google’s Android operating system, cloud computing is on the cusp of mainstream domination. So, with mobile cloud computing set to explode in popularity, its advantages and challenges are more relevant than ever.
Advantageously, it enables cost-effective, flexible, on-the-go access, so staff will become more productive on the move, building relationships and sharing data online. Easy data manipulation via mobile devices will also allow businesses to react rapidly to customer demands. Furthermore, cloud computing will see businesses reduce costs by eliminating dedicated IT requirements and downtime on physical servers. And most importantly, the translation to mobile will make cloud computing’s advantages more widely available.
Of course, it also carries its share of challenges. Foremost is security. Hosting sensitive data off-premises inevitably poses risks. Coupled with the problem of mobile device theft, many businesses are understandably reluctant. It remains to be seen what security measures will be taken, but once these are addressed, IBM found that 91% of businesses expect cloud services to become the dominant feature of IT.
Cloud computing can expect a huge surge in attention from consumers and businesses thanks to iCloud. The relentless drive for mobile innovation, alongside the launch of Google’s ChromeBook, will further emphasise the clouds importance for business. However, businesses still need to adapt to survive. Cloud services mean IT is going mobile. It’s those businesses that unlock its potential that will thrive.
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