1008232_95103949All of my email addresses are directed to my Gmail account. Most of the documents I need on a daily basis are on Google Docs. I’ve been slowly moving towards living in the cloud. In a way, this has been very good for me: I can access just about everything I want, whether I’m in my office, at someone else’s office, a friend’s house or anywhere else with an internet connection. But there are downsides. If something happens to one of the services I use, I’m up the proverbial creek — and the same is true if something happens to my internet connection.

Business In The Cloud

Keeping personal data in the cloud is one thing, but uploading the information you rely on to earn a living is an entirely different matter. The benefits are huge. Just the ability to pull up files while visiting a client’s office can make the difference in landing an account. But risks go hand in hand with those benefits — the likelihood of something happening to your data in the cloud is about on par whether it’s personal or work-related, but the consequences can be far more complicated.

So far, it’s been difficult to determine whether the risks outweigh the gains. Working from the cloud can be incredible: with just a netbook, you can often access everything you need for a project from half way around the globe. A business will to upload files to the cloud can make it much easier to work with telecommuting employees, along with clients who may need easy access to information. It doesn’t hurt that many online applications come with a price tag that makes the cost of the software many companies currently rely on absolutely laughable.

Personally, I’ve found that moving my own work into the cloud has made a major difference in my ability to work on projects. I can work just as easily from a coffee shop as from my office. There were no barriers to me moving my work into online applications, though: if I had needed a supervisor to sign off on my choice of applications and whether they were online, getting to the point that I am now might have been almost impossible.

Getting The Okay

Depending on who you work for, moving into the cloud may not be a simple matter. If you’re self-employed, you must reassure yourself that your information will be safe in the online applications you plan to use. That sort of reassurance can include:

  • Security: If you’re placing any sort of sensitive material online — financial information or files your competitors would be very interested in looking at — you’ll want to double check that each application you use has sufficient security measures in place to protect your data.
  • Backups: In the event that something happens to your data online, you’ll want to make sure that you have a backup in place — even if that means manually downloading your data on a regular basis. Remember, not even Gmail works perfectly every day.
  • Contingency Plan: Making sure that you have access to your information goes beyond creating a backup. If you’re planning a presentation that relies on a file you’ve saved to an online application, for instance, have a contingency plan in place in case you don’t have internet access or you’re not on a computer with the right software to use it.

All that is necessary just to make sure that you’re able to work in the cloud effectively. If you’re adding an employer to the equation, though, things get more complicated. At a bare minimum, you’ll have to convince your supervisor that your idea to work in the cloud is not only effective but will clearly help the company.

When it comes to working in the cloud, the “better to beg forgiveness than ask permission” approach seldom works. If you’re thinking of taking even a small amount of your employer’s information into the cloud, I’d recommend against it. Some employees sign contracts specifically stating that they will not share information with a third party — which can include Google Docs. Others get issued a company handbook stating essentially the same thing. That means uploading information to the cloud could constitute a firing offense if something goes wrong.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t convince your higher ups to move into the cloud, though: it just means that you’re going to need to be able to reassure them on issues like security and backups before you even think of uploading one file.

Are You In The Cloud?

Have you already moved into the cloud? If so, it would be great if you’d be willing to share in the comments how you addressed the issues that go with keeping important information in the cloud. Personally, I stick with a handful of trusted sites, and I still have a few pieces of information I don’t put into the cloud. For instance, I keep my financial records on just one computer in my office.

I do know some people who simply aren’t interested in moving any of their work into the cloud, for one reason or another. If you fall into this category, it would be great if you’d share your comments on why, as well. Is it due to one of the concerns I listed above, or another issue altogether?

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