It seems our lives are not going to be able to function properly without each of us having access to our own bit of Cloud. It’s got the techno-geeks excited, the data guys worried, and everyone else totally confused.

So, what is a Cloud? Do you need your own? Can you get on somebody else’s? And was Mick Jagger a techno visionary when he sang about getting off his?

To get some clarity I thought I would check on the definition of ‘The Cloud’ and was somewhat underwhelmed with the answer. The Cloud it would seem is the Internet. So instead of storing your information on your computer, handheld device or expensive servers in an equally expensive comms room, all your data is held remotely out there somewhere in the ether.

Well, almost. It’s actually outsourced to a remote third party. And the benefit of holding all your data on a central remote server is that with an Internet connection and a secure login you can access your information at any time, from anywhere, and from any device.

So what will this mean for the future of workspace environments?

Outsourcing the hosting of your servers would mean the build costs of the facility and equipment falls to another party. Plus the burden of maintenance becomes a supplier issue. This would mean in terms of your workplace design you would save on the cost of constructing a dedicated facility and require slightly smaller office space.

The running costs alone for a comms room are significant, as the servers and air-handling units are constantly on even though the units are accessed and active for a small proportion of each day. An important consideration in today’s green and sustainable savvy workplace.

In summary, the key benefits of wireless technology are:

  1. Reduced costs - cheaper to install and maintain compared to hard wired networks.
  2. Greater flexibility - workers can be networked without sitting at assigned workstations.
  3. Improved communications - leads to faster transfer of information within businesses and customers.
  4. Always available - you don’t need to carry cables or adaptors in order to access office networks.

The knock on effect of all these benefits, other than cost savings and productivity, will be in allowing the designer to review how the workspace can be better utilised. Employees are no longer confined to an office or chained to a particular desk.

This means alternative environments can be investigated that may aid collaborative working and ultimately better communication. Instigating a non-assigned desk policy where suitable also means that, potentially, space can be saved by reducing the numbers of workstations in an area.

Prepare for a rainy day

Now, so far this all sounds incredibly positive. But a word of caution. Well, several words actually. As with all new technologies there are one or two concerns. Firstly, security. Just how safe are all your business secrets?

If the provider is based abroad, how do their local laws impact upon your stored data? Secondly, what if you can’t get an Internet connection? And thirdly, and probably of most concern, what happens if your provider goes bust? Not having had the opportunity to read the small print on all the various Cloud formations jostling for our hard earned cash, I cannot comment on any recourse open to a user should their provider go out of business. I would, however, have thought that best business practice in these troubled times would be to have a back-up at another weather system or whatever the collective noun is for a group of clouds.

I can, despite my initial cynicism, understand the benefits of remote storage and the appeal of instant access. But having personally suffered the pain of a hard drive failure coupled with an inadequate back-up policy my advice would always be to plan for that rainy day. Back up the back-up and whether the weather be good or not don’t let the clouds rain on your parade.