Is Apple's iCloud any good for business?

By: Jonathan Edwards

Date: 19 August 2011

Apple iCloudApple's hyped-up iCloud service will store all your 'content' - including files, music, emails, apps and so on – in the cloud.

This means you should be able to log in over the internet and access all that information from any device. Mobile, laptop computer, desktop ... it won't matter.

iCloud is due to launch in mid-September, and could be of real benefit to anyone who's always forgetting to copy files across to their laptop or never has the music they want on their iPod. But does it have any business potential?

It's just Apple's take on the cloud

The iCloud offers nothing really new. The whole idea of cloud storage has existed for a while now, and services like Dropbox already help you keep copies of all your files on different computers and in different places.

The difference is that this time it's Apple doing the cloud. This, remember, is a company which doesn't always bring things to the market first, but does tend to make existing technologies easier to use.

Take the iPod. There were plenty of MP3 players around when it launched, but it took Apple to push them into the mainstream and make them really easy to use. Some analysts will be wondering if iCloud do the same for cloud computing.

Using iCloud for business

Just like other cloud services, iCloud will let you access files and data anywhere. It could be useful for people who tend to work when they're out and about, because they'll have their files on hand no matter if they're on the office PC or their smart phone.

iCloud may even be a good way to back up files. If it's as effortless to use as other Apple products, it could be a straightforward way to supplement on-site backups.

But hold on! Great as that sounds, iCloud has some disadvantages for business use. The most significant is that it looks impossible to have multiple users on a single account. That'll make sharing and working on files together a challenge. Providers like Box and Dropbox are likely to offer far more flexibility in this area.

There's also been no word from Apple about any kind of service guarantee or service level agreement. That's going to be a real stumbling block. If you're going to entrust critical data to iCloud, you need a contract that guarantees you'll be able to access it when you need it.

For businesses that already use Apple

Although iCloud will work on Windows PCs too, these limitations make me think it will be most popular with companies that already use Mac computers and iPhones. If you've bought into the Apple way of doing things then iCloud might be a natural next step. In fact, if iCloud is tightly integrated into other Apple software then it might be hard to avoid.

But let's not write off iCloud for the rest of us just yet. The cloud computing market is growing, and surely Apple will want a slice of that business. Look out – it probably still has some tricks up its sleeve.

This is a guest post from Integral IT, a Yorkshire IT support company.

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