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Summary:

A lot of folks are now happily working away in the cloud and more are joining that group every day.  Working in the cloud fits a lot of mobile workers’ lifestyles what with keeping data on the web and accessing it on whatever device they might […]

ZeusA lot of folks are now happily working away in the cloud and more are joining that group every day.  Working in the cloud fits a lot of mobile workers’ lifestyles what with keeping data on the web and accessing it on whatever device they might be using at a given moment.  This method is very effective for many, I know Kevin is quite happy working in the cloud.  I have tried different "cloud approaches" and while they work well I have noticed they can have an impact, not always positive, when I happen to be in the field and using 3G mobile broadband connectivity.

A lot of these programs engage automatic syncing of data from the cloudto the local desktop.  They do this by default as the goal is to insurethat mobile workers always have the data at hand that might be neededwhether connected to the web or not.  This can be very useful but Ihave found this can be a negative experience the way I work.  When I amin the field I often grab my mobile PC out of the bag and connect tothe web via 3G to do something like check my email quickly or looksomething up on the web.  I have found that some of these cloud appsdetect when a new network connection is made and decide at that momentto perform the auto-sync I mentioned to keep my local data up to datewith the web data.  This has hampered my ability to get something donequickly at times, especially if the 3G connection is not that good dueto signal strength issues.  I have many times found my throughput to begreatly diminished and then realized that program X wassynchronizing a good bit of data. 

I have experienced this with FolderShare, a great syncing tool to keepdata in sync on several devices, and I’ve also seen this on variousother tools that do the same thing.  Ordinarily this syncing doesn’tinterfere with anything as it is happening in the background but like Isaid, when you are jumping online to do something quickly it doesn’ttake much to hamper what you are trying to do.  I have even seen reports of users who are seeing connectivity issues, even with WiFi, with Google Calendar Syncwhich keeps Google Calendar updated with Outlook on the desktop.  Iwouldn’t be surprised if this particular issue was magnified using a 3Gconnection as waking the device up and jumping online might get in theway with this automatic syncing.  For the reasons I have mentioned whatI always do with these syncing tools is to set them to only manuallyupdate if that option is available.  That makes sure that I can jumponline quickly when needed and not impact that task whenever possible.Of course that means I need to remember to regularly tell the programsto perform the update, something that I am bad at doing.

The benefits that these cloud apps can bring probably far outweigh theimpact on productivity that I’ve described and most likely won’t impactmost users much at all.  Workers like me who are constantly jumping onand offline to get stuff done quickly might find that to be too much ofan impact however, especially if multiple cloud tools are in use atonce.  It’s just something to keep in mind if that describes you so youcan make the decision on how to handle that if so.  It can also have anegative impact on battery power too if you are syncing a large amountof data like many do with FolderShare so keep that in mind too.

  1. John in Norway Sunday, March 16, 2008

    I don’t use ‘the cloud’ but I do find that when I turn on the wifi on my OQO 02 it’s almost impossible to get anything done for minutes because of the antivirus software and Windows updating. Like you say, it’s very annoying when you just want to go online and do something quickly or synch.

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  2. I’ve noticed that issue with FolderShare as well, especially when I’m working off of Edge while tethering my phone and not 3G network is available. What I’ve been doing is shutting down the FolderShare Satellite when I’m working from a slow network and launch it later when I’m connected via Wi-Fi. It’s still a nuisance but I find that I have to shut it down less frequently than doing a manual sync.

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  3. >>>I don’t use ‘the cloud’ but I do find that when I turn on the wifi on my OQO 02 it’s almost impossible to get anything done for minutes because of the antivirus software and Windows updating.

    Ouch! I’d been wondering what would happen with, say, an EeePC, CloudBook, or upcoming hp 2133, out and about. I was wondering if Windows Update would kick in. I hate it when I tell the computer Off and it surprises me with, “Oh, time for a Windows Update!” That would *not* be welcome when I’m outside, shutting down after WiFi use — especially with a low battery!

    James: Isn’t there anyway to specify time of syncing? Like, say, every night at 1AM or whatever? Since you’d likely be asleep, and the Fuji (or whatever) plugged in, it could be in Standby, wake up, sync, and get it out of the way.

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  4. Many cloud computing folks overlook the inherent security considerations. I’ve made some personal allowances and turned the blind eye, but I’ve worked on projects where it’s not permissible and even now as an employee of a public traded company, it’s not OK to have my data stored or sent via a third party.

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  5. @Dave

    The security risks are there, yes, but in general, the biggest security risk is the end user. In-transit risks pale into insignificance when compared to the risks introduced by the average end-user. In general, the more data you can keep out of an end-users PC, the more secure it is. This, however, doesn’t fit with a lot of companies sec. policies simply because they don’t have the time to asses the multitude of in-cloud options. Its easier and cheaper to say ‘no’ and remove that risk and apply a hard end-user sec. poilcy rather than spending a lot of time (paying a lot of money) to analyse the in-cloud options.

    I did some analysis of my own, personal, usage a few years back while I was still working as a data security consultant and I decided that running my own home server and keeping my data synced across PCs, running my own remote access and doing backups was the biggest risk I had. Since then i’ve entrusted most of my smaller data packages (docs, email and a lot of passwords) to third parties in the cloud. Fortunately my boss, me, agreed ;-)

    Steve.

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  6. Mike, you can (and I have) configure Windows Update to go in the middle of the night. The problem is that mobile devices, at least mine, aren’t left on at night so the update actually happens when the device is turned back on. This seems to always happen at the worst time.

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  7. I have Windows Update set to notify me when updates are available, but not download or install until I authorize them. This way I don’t have to suffer the delay at start-up or the refusal for a quick shut-down.

    It is too bad that other programs do not offer a similar option.

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