Working Mobile, Cloud Enabled

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When last we spoke, I was telling you about the big Microsoft launch for Office 365 Home Premium. Since that time, I've been testing the service myself, including the SkyDrive integration. You see, for some time I've been looking for a solution that could provide an easy, seamless experience for working on documents on different machines, different platforms, while still getting great document fidelity.

A cloud storage solution such as Microsoft SkyDrive would seem to be an essential element to solving this dilemma. Having this solution baked in to Office 2013 and the subscription versions of Office through Office 365 is a smart move by Microsoft. You're getting the applications you're probably already using for business and home, and being nudged to the cloud to store your documents.

Related: SkyDrive Brings the Cloud to You

One of the biggest issues, particularly for home users, might just be giving up the attachment to having that local copy on your hard disk of everything you've ever created. It's not just people's Inboxes that are out of control; how many of us have school papers, resumes, and budgets that we keep transferring from one computer to the next just because we think someday we might need them again? Businesses might even be worse in this regard because they have documents that must be kept (or that they think must be kept) for legal or regulatory reasons.

cloud computing & mobile computing

But, back to the multi-platform solution. SkyDrive works fairly well and can be accessed through a browser or a mobile app. I've been using the SkyDrive app for Android on my Razr Maxx smartphone to access this document as I work on this article, and Microsoft has also created apps for iOS and of course Windows Phone. SkyDrive lets me access saved documents through the Android app, then I can edit them on my device with an appropriate document-editing app, in this case Quickoffice.

The major drawback is that you have to re-upload the document to keep it current in SkyDrive; in other words, you can't save directly to SkyDrive as you work, nor have changes synced automatically to what already exists in the cloud. Instead, you're creating a local copy on your device, which in some ways defeats the purpose. If you're working on your PC, then you won't have this trouble because Office 2013 on the desktop links directly to those document stored in SkyDrive.

I've tried a few other cloud storage solutions in recent months -- most notably Accellion Kitedrive -- and found this to be the same major problem with all of them. Accellion, like SkyDrive, features desktop integration, which means you can establish a folder in Windows Explorer that syncs automatically with your cloud storage so you don't have to log in to the website to upload or access stored documents.

If you think about it, the reason you have a disjointed experience -- rather than the seamless experience I was hoping for -- when using these solutions is that you have to use a different application to edit than you do to upload and store the document. Microsoft's approach does a good job overall, but it isn't flawless. Now Accellion is announcing a new tool for their mobile app that could be a winner.

Accellion released news today of the Accellion Mobile Productivity Suite, which they'll be demoing next week at RSA. The Mobile Productivity Suite integrates with the Accellion Mobile App and is designed to let you create, edit, view, and collaborate on documents in the mobile environment. The initial release of this tool is for iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads, but the company assures me an Android version should follow before too long. Naturally, I haven't had a chance to test this new tool, so I can't be sure it will solve the problem of creating a local copy on the mobile device -- but I'm hoping!

Accellion also understands the security needs of businesses and provides secure sync in its solutions. "In today's mobile environment, employees need solutions that enable them to perform their work tasks quickly, efficiently, and securely," said Yorgen Edholm, CEO of Accellion. "It is not enough to simply store and view documents and images; the mobile employee needs to create, contribute, and collaborate with their coworkers, customers, and partners on their mobile devices."

I'm not sure how often that mobile work will be on a smarthphone, as I've been trying to do. Tablets have become much more prevalent in the workplace, and have certain advantages for getting real work done. However, it's good to know there are useful solutions out there that let you access and edit your documents even on the smaller form-factor of the phone. I mean, you never know when you're going to need to make last minute changes to something before submitting a proposal or giving a presentation. Or when you'll need to finish writing an article from the airport.

Learn More: Using Personal File-Sharing Sites for Corporate Data

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins
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Cloud computing information, news, and tips covering Hyper-V, IaaS, PaaS, private cloud, public cloud, SaaS, security, trends, and more.

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B. K. Winstead

B. K. Winstead is a former editor for Windows IT Pro specializing in Exchange Server, messaging, mobility, unified communications, and cloud computing.

Jeff James

Jeff James is a former editor for Windows IT Pro.
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