In the ever-escalating cloud services arms race, Microsoft just trotted out a whopper of a one-up over just about everyone in competition: Microsoft’s OneDrive VP just announced on the OneDrive blog that all Personal, Home and Education Office365 subscribers will have access to unlimited cloud storage for no additional cost. Lest you feel left out in the cold, business subscribers, Microsoft has plans to extend your storage in a similar fashion in 2015. All a part of its master plan, Microsoft envisions a future where everything is done in the cloud, and they want to make sure you are firmly rooted in their ecosystem.
What this means for you:
Before you rush off to move all your files to the cloud as Microsoft suggests, you should consider the implications. Cloud storage of any type is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, once you get your data uploaded, you can (supposedly) stop worrying about mechanical failures, such as hard drive crashes and sending your USB thumb drives through the wash. Another great benefit is your data is essentially accessible from anywhere on the internet. Setting up technology to provide this type of of service is not trivial. Even when you are as big as JP Morgan, it’s still possible to misconfigure your servers, so having a provider who is (probably) an expert at this is better than trying to do it yourself, especially if your company can’t afford a full-time IT professional.
On the other hand, your data is now stored on hardware (and a service) over which you have very little control, and which requires an internet connection. There is also the possibility that your data could be accessed without authorization, either by hackers who manage to penetrate the services security, or by the provider itself, who may be subject to government subpeona, or even by a provider employee with malicious intent.
Given the two sides of this very sharp sword, one must make a reasoned decision about whether to employ cloud storage as part of your technology profile. The most important factor will be the type of data you are planning to store: if any of the alphabet-soup laws apply (HIPPA for example), you may be severely limited in what you can legally store on a cloud-based service. Even if the laws don’t seem to directly apply, consider the consequences if any of your data were to be exposed on the internet for anyone to see: would it be damaging to your business or your clients? If so, you may want to rethink whether the cloud is ready for you.
It feels strange to be writing about Microsoft and not mentioning a security loophole or zero-day exploit, but it is the day before April Fool’s after all. Fortunately for the iPad faithful, this isn’t a prank. On March 27, Microsoft launched iPad versions of it’s most used office productivity applications: Word, Excel and PowerPoint, all of them available for free download through the App store. “What’s the catch,” I hear you say? You can use them free, forever, to view documents, but if you want to create or edit documents, you need to have a subscription to Office365.com, the minimum of which is $70/year.
What this means for you:
The lack of any official MS Office software may have been one of the remaining tenuous barriers holding the iPad back from a complete domination of corporate boardrooms. Long a favorite of executives but usually relegated to email-only roles because of this lack, Office for the iPad may allow the C-suite to completely cut the cord on any vestigial Windows laptops they have been “forced” to carry around to do anything other than reading emails. I also know a lot of road warriors who may view the new apps with a mix of joy and trepidation, as it will conceivably allow for more effective work-related use of their iPad on those cramped, coach-fare flights. The excuse of “not being able to edit that Word document during the flight because all I have is my iPad” just won’t cut it anymore.
In all seriousness, this also marks a significant change in vision for Microsoft, a company that up until the new CEO’s arrival, had been a company that always put “Windows first”, even when it may have meant losing marketshare, as it has for so long in the iPad space. It’s still too early to tell whether this change in corporate values will lead to other transformations and products for other platforms (Office for Android anyone?), but this is certainly a step in new direction for the company.