SideXSide: Apple's iCloud or No Cloud?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 06-13-2011 Print Email
Apple’s iCloud service will be launching in the fall. While consumers are the primary target for the service, as with many other Apple products we have no doubt it will find its way quickly into the enterprise. While there are plenty of other proven commercial cloud solutions on the market, in this SideXSide we decided to narrow things down to life with, or without, iCloud.

Apple's iCloud was announced at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6. The platform, which will be available in fall 2011, is designed to allows users to store content in the cloud as well as sync important data across iOS-based devices, Macs, and PCs. To say that it's the latest and most important launch from Apple is an understatement.

As you and the rest of your colleagues know all too well, the cloud is the future. And Apple, much like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and other prominent companies, wants to capitalize on the potential that the cloud has to offer.

As CIO, you're mostly likely already considering the pros and cons of bringing cloud services to your organization. In fact, you may be among the many companies that are already running some applications or services in public or private clouds.

As iCloud gets closer to launch, we'll take a look at how it compares with some of the other public cloud options available. For now, though, we're narrowing things down to what your corporate life would be like with iCloud versus no cloud service at all. There are plenty of offline alternatives, such as external hard drives, USB drives, and countless other data storage solutions available that have been working just fine, especially for enterprises dealing in high-risk data. Here's what you need to know.

SideXSide: iCloud or No Cloud?

Features

 Apple iCloud

No Cloud

The Basics

Apple's iCloud is a storage and syncing service. Users will be able to freely store 5GB of data in the cloud, as well as sync documents, photos, contacts, apps, e-mails, and other content with Macs, PCs, and iOS-based devices. All content is automatically and seamlessly synced with those devices, so that a user is never without the information they need. The service will be available to consumers and enterprise users in fall 2011.

You have a slew of offline options to consider. External hard drives, for example, can be used to store content in an offline environment away from a computer. USB drives can be used to transfer content, and simple transfers across the intranet can sync devices. Offline software options can make the process of transferring content simple.

Storage Options

iCloud is somewhat limited when it comes to storage. The service will only allow users to store up to 5GB of data in the cloud at any given time. Considering that there are several other online solutions that allow for far more storage, this restriction will probably limit the value of iCloud to serious business users who are looking for a cloud solution.

The storage options in an offline environment are literally endless. You can choose to add any number of hard drives, encrypted USB drives, internal storage servers, and much more. Whereas iCloud delivers a finite amount of storage outside of the confines of your office, offline solutions are only limited by how many you can afford.

Security concerns

There could be several security concerns related to iCloud. For one, the offering is available on the Web, which means users will need to entrust the security of their data to Apple. Moreover, data could potentially be accessed from Macs, PCs, and iOS-based devices if the correct credentials are known. Combine that with the issue of accessing content over the Web from open networks, and the security issues that can potentially break out from iCloud might be (rightfully) concerning to some CIOs.

Offline storage and syncing solutions each bring with them their own unique security problems, including the possibility of theft, data loss, and unauthorized access to a computer, server or network. In addition, if USB drives are used to transfer content or store information, their theft of misplacement could also cause a host of headaches for CIOs, especially if the data is unencrypted. Simply put, the security threats both online and offline are numerous and very, very real. 

Ease of use

Apple's iCloud is available for Macs, PCs, and iOS-based devices, such as the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. It will not work on other mobile operating platforms. Users will require a Web connection to access content. Apple has been touting the simplicity of iCloud ever since it announced it at the Worldwide Developers Conference. The company says that users will be able to automatically sync content between devices without being forced to engage in much, if any, activity to get the job done. So, in terms of training employees on what they should and should not do with iCloud, time spent should be minimal. If ease of use and automation is important to you, iCloud might be your best bet.

Ease of use varies wildly depending on what type of storage or application delivery method you opt for. Mobile access can bring its own unique set of headaches. Cloud-based and virtualization solutions alleviate some of the challenges. Apple's service is a particularly hands-off solution for companies and employees alike. Finding any one cloud-less option that delivers the full range and level of usability and simplicity as iCloud does will be a challenge.

Bested suited for...

Consumers

Consumers and business users alike.

Multi-device syncing

Having the ability to sync content between devices is arguably iCloud's best feature. Employees using iOS-based devices, as well as Mac and PC computers, will have no trouble on this front. Multi-device syncing is difficult in an offline environment. However, you can employ a Web connection to transfer content among users or opt for USB drives to share materials. Limitations Apple's iCloud has several limitations that might make it an issue for corporate users. For one, the service won't work with BlackBerry devices or any other mobile platform. In addition, its support for just 5GB of storage could prove troublesome for heavy online-storage seekers. It's also important to note that Apple is running the service: As history has shown, Apple hasn't always been the most corporate-friendly solution provider. The service also won't allow for cloud-based streaming, another key feature.

When it comes to employing non-cloud solutions, the biggest limitation is the lack of accessibility. One of the key strengths in Apple's iCloud is that users can access content from anywhere--as long as they have a wireless connection. If you opt to avoid the cloud and stick with solutions that are either offline or dedicated only for internal, in-office use, you sacrifice on-the-go accessibility. 

Price

Free

Varies widely depending on solution used 

Source: CIO Insight, June 2011.



 

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