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4 Reasons to Skip the Cloud

You can run much of your business in the cloud. But there are four things you might want to keep within the four walls of your office.
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Just about every day, I get a pitch from a company that makes a cloud service. A new storage site that competes with Dropbox, a video collaboration tool that runs online. While some business owners have always looked askew at anything not housed within the four walls of their company, many are moving to the cloud-- specially when it comes to email storage and contact tracking. Yet, I've found there are still several instances where the cloud just doesn't make sense from a business standpoint.

1. Large storage archives

After writing some 8,000 articles in almost 11 years, I've amassed quite a file collection. I have many gigabytes worth of photos, video libraries, documents, and everything in between. Storing this in the cloud makes sense in a way, because of the low cost and easy access. But in practical terms, it's easier to use a local storage drive in my office. If I stored this info on Dropbox, I'd have to tweak my settings constantly to make sure I'm not downloading a 15GB video file on every computer I own. More importantly, I don't really need easy access to most of these files. Plus many storage drives let you access the archive remotely anyway, which is more like a reverse cloud.

2. Printing

HP has offered cloud printing for some time. I previewed this feature in HP's lab many years ago, long before it ever made it into the guts of an inkjet. I suppose the idea could make sense for those who travel constantly: You print a document to the cloud, and then the doc is there waiting for you in the printer when you return. And being able to print from an iPad is handy. The problem is that, the only time I ever need a printed document is RIGHT NOW. I don't need one when I am in the airport. I do make use of the Chrome e-print extension on a regular basis, however.

3. Music

This is mostly a personal preference, but I have decided to take a break from music stored in the cloud. Services like Spotify and MOG are certainly handy, and you'll pay much less for the privilege to stream any track at will. When I travel on business, there are too many instances when I don't have access to the Internet, so I prefer a local archive. But the real reason has to do with quality. I tend to be an audiophile when it comes to music, sampling at the highest rate possible when I burn a CD. You can listen to Muse or Bruce Springsteen in the cloud, but they sound muddy and distorted. Movies retain their fidelity (Vudu's HDX format is much better than DVD) but require a fast connection.

4. Word Processing

I wish my word processing app was running in the cloud. (Every document I work on is instantly uploaded to the cloud for access from any computer.) Instead, I'm using a desktop app because Google Docs and similar word processing apps on the Web have not yet matched the feature set. Google Docs is getting close: The pop-up spellchecker is nearly flawless and there's a paint format tool. Unfortunately, the cloud versions just don't have extensive features, like mail merge. I can't seem to find a cloud app that both stores my documents and provides rich templates and high-end features. And, even the new Word 2013 preview is a download--it's only partly cloud-enabled.

Last updated: Oct 24, 2012

JOHN BRANDON | Columnist

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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