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Are You Doing Business In The Cloud?

Are You Doing Business In The Cloud?

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    All 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.

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    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.

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    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:

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    • 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.

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    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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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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