Why you should put your email on the cloud
I think every IT Professional out there is familiar with the usual and very tired complaint of someone's email going down. That or the one executive who can't turn on his own computer, but he needs his email on his laptop, smartphone, desktop at home, and possibly even a tablet. Plus you can't easily do remote desktop on all those items.
It's worse for freelance web designer/developers when working with small businesses, because you have to play that role in setting up that company's web site. Imagine someone telling you the email of their out-of-state salesperson is down, and they're asking you to fix it. Maybe you can't remote into that computer, or worse you have to try to explain it over the phone. The best solution to all these problems is to take your email to the cloud
I've been a critic of the cloud in all these discussions about slate tablet PCs. I've heard many claim USB ports and even software on discs are obsolete. My feeling is that our communications infrastructure just isn't able to handle the upload/download speed needed to make things as effective as your external drives or even in-house file servers.
Imagine trying to upload 1 GB of designs and files to a server to pull down later at home. Even if the office has a T3 connection, you might be stuck with a lowly DSL connection at home. Worse, imagine an IT person having to download and install a new Adobe Creative Suite on 100 workstations, each download being 20 GB.
So while I think the cloud isn't ready to make external drives and software discs obsolete, I do think it's already made email clients like Outlook, Entourage, and Lotus Notes very much a thing of the past. I know for many years now I've used Gmail and other online email clients to handle all the email from my various web sites. I'm not talking about just my gmail.com email address, but even the email from web hosts that go to domain names like orpheusstudios.com, d-jam.com, and culinariablog.com.
So why should you get rid of your software client and go cloud?
I know it sounds strange to hear the idea that an online email client like hotmail could be more secure, but it's true. Most of the viruses and other bad things that spread through email take advantage of loopholes and lack of security in the software clients like Outlook.
Bear in mind when you install and run Outlook or Lotus Notes, security is up to you. You have to be vigilant to send bad emails to the spam folder, or even set up rules to send bad things away. One slip and suddenly your workstation is shooting out emails to everyone and then they have the virus.
What's good about using a client like Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail is they are usually aiming at trying to rid the world of spam and bad emails. You can easily press "Report Spam" on any email and thus their system adapts. I know on Gmail I rarely ever see spam or especially virus emails.
In the old days you would simply check and handle your email at work, or at home. We now live in an age where you're checking your email at work, home, on your phone, and soon on a tablet. It's honestly a pain and very expensive to set up a system where all your email is available to you everywhere. Some do it with an Exchange server, but not everyone can afford that.
With going cloud, that's all taken care of. Even before I bought an iPhone, I was able to check my Gmail on any computer connected to the internet and they even had a great app for the Blackberry. They still do. Same deal with their competition. There are mobile apps and even just mobile web sites, so you connect your email account to one place and use it anywhere, rather than connecting it to several devices.
Everything is Archived
Currently, I'm moving a client's web site to a new host. While the two owners used Outlook, their employees used the free webmail function of the web host. Now they have to find a way to back up all that email before I pull the plug on that account.
With the cloud, this is not a problem anymore. Thankfully too this client is going cloud with their email as well. Now I simply will connect each employee's email account to a personal client on Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail. All their email will download into their account and now be safe. Thus they can change hosts at any time and not lose their email. Even if an employee leaves, we can simply cut off the email account to their cloud account.
The whole web server could crash even, and their email is safe. Even if a server at Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail crashed, there is a better chance they backed up your email than the host.
Easier Tech Support
This is the big plus for guys like myself. Remember that example of the out-of-state salesperson whose email went down? This is a true story. If my client had their email on the cloud, I could easily take her login to Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail and fix their company email account. No need to deal with someone over the phone and try to explain technical things to someone who isn't technical. Just log in from my home or office, fix, test, and it's done.
Most of these services now offer more than just email. You can do calendars, notes, address books, everything you did on Outlook or Lotus Notes online. Even sync it with your mobile devices. I like that I can maintain my address book on Gmail, and even if my iPhone dies, gets lost, or stolen...I have my address book. So I don't have to send blanket messages for people to send me their information again.
The calendars are a great thing too. I'll get meeting invites and easily add them to my Google Calendar, and I'm set. No fuss. They're even going cloud with work solutions to, and I can see them growing to the point of taking over the software. Gmail has Google Docs, and Hotmail now has Windows Live, where you can make Office documents (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc) online. Very cool.
Is the Cloud Right for Everyone?
Not completely. I wouldn't tell a large company like IBM or Leo Burnett to go cloud with their email, but I would tell the small business of 2-50 employees to go there. With a big place like a GM or Kraft Foods, you have way too many employees and thus would invest in a full Exchange server to handle your email needs. As I said before, a server like that is a bit too pricey for the small business, which is why I recommend the cloud.
Have you gone cloud with your company email? How's it working?