- Microsoft Office 2016
- Microsoft Windows
- Adobe Creative Cloud (2018)
- ICT Training Package
- BSB Training Package
Software In The Cloud
Software has been changing in some big ways recently. You may have heard a lot about the cloud, Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe CC. But what exactly does it all mean and what advantages and drawbacks does it hold for you?
The cloud is just the internet
Yes, whenever someone mentions "the cloud" they are generally referring to the Internet that people have been using for decades now to send emails, share information and get their work done.
In cloud computing, different services like storage, communication and applications are provided to computers and devices through the internet. You might pay a monthly subscription to store your work on someone else's file servers, use their email servers rather than your own, or use their applications from any computer or tablet with an internet connection.
Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Office 365 is not a new version of Microsoft Office. Rather, it's a suite of online tools coupled with a new way of accessing the latest version of Microsoft Office.
Office 365 is a subscription-based service which is run from the cloud. For a monthly or annual fee, you can access a range of applications and services which are hosted online by Microsoft, allowing you to access them from any compatible device with an internet connection – your computer, tablet or phone. Which services you have access to will depend on which plan you choose.
For a business user, the Outlook email, calendar and people services enable you to communicate with others and share calendars to coordinate meetings and availability. Business plans also include SharePoint online, providing you with the means to create a public website for your business as well as internal team sites for collaboration and communication purposes, and instant messaging and video conferencing applications.
Many Office 365 subscription plans include PC/Mac and tablet installs of the full desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and the other Microsoft Office 2013 applications. These are the same versions of Microsoft Office that you have been using for years. With your subscription you receive access to all updates, so when Office 2016 is released you'll be able to download and run it straight away without having to spend anything over your monthly subscription.
Adobe Creative Cloud
Adobe is taking a very similar approach. For a monthly or annual fee, their Creative Cloud offering gives you access to full desktop versions of programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign along with online storage and tools.
The online tools available with a Creative Cloud subscription include Behance (an online portfolio site where you can show off your work), Typekit (a high-quality font library) and Colour CC (an online colour theme generator).
Advantages of the cloud
Depending on your usage, month-to-month subscription costs may be much easier to pay for rather than thousands of dollars up front.
You don't have to pay for expensive server hardware to run your programs and you don't have to worry about their maintenance, security and upkeep. Rather than an IT department constantly installing patches and ensuring the security of your emails, for example, you can leave all of that up to Microsoft with an Office 365 subscription.
Your employees and colleagues can access their programs from anywhere without the hassle of setting up and connecting to private networks or company email servers. If a salesperson out on the road wants to pull up the latest version of an Excel spreadsheet on their iPad they can do so just as if they were in the office.
A big selling point of Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud is the collaboration aspect. Rather than emailing around a spreadsheet or document, collaboration is built into the programs that you use and accessible from wherever you are. This saves you from relying on using USB drives, portable hard drives and email to transport files or share them with other people. Cloud sharing capabilities mean that several people can work on one file at the same time, eliminating issues that arise with having several versions of the same file. You can also save files to both the cloud and your hard drive, ensuring you have backup copies in case of emergencies such as computer failure.
Imagine the frustration of firing up an application you have installed on your computer only to find out that you can't use it because the company's authentication servers have crashed. Yep, that's happened to us recently and wouldn't have happened in the old days of programs bought outright.
Reliability is an aspect of working with the cloud that is largely out of your control. Office 365 comes with a 99.9% uptime guarantee, meaning that Microsoft has committed to ensuring you can access Office 365 at any time, with virtually no downtime or crashes. However, if a crash does occur you may lose access to your files and services until the problem is fixed. You also need to make sure your internet connection is reliable for the same reason; it is difficult and frustrating to work in the cloud if your connection drops in and out.
After a few years of subscription usage your costs may end up being much higher than they would have been if you kept using that copy of Office 2003 or Photoshop CS3. In fact, that's a major reason the big software companies are moving to subscription based software. As well as keeping everyone on the latest version of their programs and reducing their maintenance and security costs, they have a steady stream of income from people who have to keep paying to access the programs they're used to.
The convenience of having your data accessible from anywhere comes with the risk of hackers being able to access that data from anywhere in the world. Keep those passwords safe!
So is it worth moving to the cloud given those drawbacks? We certainly think so, and have moved most of our processes to the cloud where we can. We now write our manuals using the latest desktop version of Microsoft Word, collaborate using SharePoint online team sites, have decommissioned our old on-premises email server and even moved to cloud versions of accounting, software development and quality assurance products.