Upgrade to the Clouds

Quite a few upgrades and new products have come out over the last few months. Some have forced many people to rethink their stance toward the cloud, management of resources, and technologies involved. For many, upgrades should upgrade but not change major functionality (or at least the way they use the upgraded tool). When this happens, there is usually a backlash from the users. To avoid that, different solutions, or even new ones, may be needed to replace those that caused the serious issues with the users. Upgrades should cause very little change to how business is done except to provide new features. Unfortunately, we are seeing a rash of upgrades that are forcing people to rethink how they use a cloud and are actually forcing people to use clouds.

Recently MacOS Mavericks came out, and the last vestiges of local sync functionality disappeared. The users were no longer able to sync calendars, contacts, notes, etc. between their MacOS device and any iPhone, iPad, or iPod device. This is not a minor change in functionality but a major shift in direction, and for those not ready, it caused quite a bit of scrambling. A loss of functionality should not happen unless you are positive no one is using that functionality! The solution from Apple?: Use iCloud.

Now, let me think about that one for more than a few minutes. Yes, I know many people use iCloud, but most do not use it for corporate data. Neither have they read how Apple uses data within iCloud, nor initially understood that once their data is in iCloud, iCloud becomes the master copy and not just a backup. If you are not ready to make that leap to iCloud, there are other alternatives. Perhaps you would rather use Google? Once more, there are questions about privacy and about seemingly innocent usage of the data by a third party or even a government agency (that is, until big data privacy issues are resolved).

Do you refuse to upgrade? That could cause support issues. Find an alternative means? Change devices to one that does not have these issues? All three?

Listed in the chart below are some tools that will help with some of these issues, but perhaps not all at once. I investigated a few cloud solutions that end up being quite localized and private clouds. To me, a private cloud is one in which only one tenant and the tenant administrators have access to the data, regardless of its location. Today, the term tends to imply that the data is within the confines of your own data center. Small shops could easily set up any one of the tools below for their users. For larger shops, a few of these tools would not work very well due to scale issues. In addition, the tools do not all provide everything necessary to solve the simple problem of syncing various devices with each other.

Product Product Description
File Sharing
Synology Synology is an SMB/SME/personal use storage device that provides apps and an Application Store to find more applications that increase the functionality of the Synology device. green_check green_check
ownCloud There are two versions of ownCloud: community and enterprise. Depending on the scale of your ownCloud implementation, you may want the enterprise version. green_check green_check green_check
baikal Baikal is a lightweight CalDAV and CardDAV server. green_check green_check
Zimbra An enterprise-class email, calendar, and communications suite. green_check green_check

There are many more, but these seem to be popular ones. Baikal and ownCloud have very good installers and can be installed within other clouds extremely easily. Synology is tied to hardware.

So, if you would rather not be dependent upon iCloud, Google, etc.,you can run your own private cloud for critical data such as calendars (CalDAV) and contacts (CardDAV) as well as file sharing.

Software that upgrades and forces us to the cloud may force us to rethink our entire cloud stance. If the data on each device is important to the organization, looking at private cloud solutions is one approach to these types of upgrades and will eventually pave the way to wider cloud adoption. In fact, when you use cloud-based tools, you are freed to have a consistent calendar and contact list on every device. No more adding a calendar event into one device and missing it when you are using another device.

The key is to find a public or private cloud solution that fits your needs: data classification, privacy, etc.

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