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Email Affairs – My Version of “50 Shades of Grey”

Gmail Intro

My first kiss with Gmail.

I have a confession.

As you may know, I am in a committed relationship with Gmail. I met Gmail about 5 months after he launched, back in 2004. Gmail and I have been together for almost 9 years now. It’s been a great relationship. He gives me lots of email storage, and a great interface. As our relationship grew, he gave me a wonderful calendar, then communication and collaboration tools. Yes, there have been some disappointments in our relationship, such as Google Wave, but there have been some great fun times too like “do a barrel roll”. (Really, if you haven’t done this, go Google it now.) Gmail has always had my back, he automatically saved all my documents at his house, with his brother Docs. (It’s a great app called Google Cloud Connect; unfortunately it broke when I moved to Office 2013.) Gmail kept all my information safe and secure there and he gave me the key so I could access my stuff when needed. He understood what I needed, and he even provided the directions for me to get there. He gave me great communication tools and an easy way to share my stuff. It was the perfect relationship. We even expanded our family when I added Google Apps For Business.

But, like I said before, I have a confession. I’ve been seeing someone else. I never intended to have these feelings, but they crept up on me.

You see, way back in 1997, Microsoft launched a fresh new email host called MSN Hotmail and I signed up for an account. Now, this was several years before Gmail stole my tech heart. There may have also been a short stint with Yahoo mail during this time (I don’t talk about it much). For those of you too young to remember, in the early days of email service, it was all about experimenting with different services, and not committing to just one. We were all so young and had multiple email accounts at the time. Gmail and I seemed to click, so settled down with him in 2004.

Every so often, over the years, I would check in with Hotmail and see what he was up to. Did he settle down, expand his offering? You know, the general stalking of a previous love. At first, it looked like Hotmail kept the status quo. Nothing new and exciting. But his sexy younger brother, Office 365, was breaking some new ground with small business. I have to admit, a new technology targeted right at my clients caught my interest. Not only did Office 365 target small businesses, but it also had a built-in relationship with my guilty pleasure, Microsoft Small Business Server. This was getting interesting. Then things changed in July 2012. Outlook.com launched; I guess Hotmail decided it was time to try something new and get back into the game. I started spending more time with Outlook.com.  And I was impressed. I loved the way he kept my stuff organized in folders, and it was so easy to share my files. He also has a built-in relationship with my desktop version of Office 2013. The more mature Outlook.com is looking more and more attractive with each new feature.

I haven’t committed to Outlook.com yet, but he is slowly growing on me. I still love Gmail, but his controlling and sometimes pushy attempts to keep me locked to him are starting to bother me. Outlook.com needs to take a few pointers from his younger brother, Office 365, and add instant communication tools, such as Skype. If Outlook.com can meet most of the functionality I currently rely on in Gmail, it may be the end of Gmail.

PS: I have never read, or intend to read, 50 Shades of Grey, so this may not be as exciting as the book to some.

Who’s Your “Bridge” to the Cloud?

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As I dive more and more into cloud solutions, specifically Microsoft Office 365, I keep hearing the same comment: “I tried but I couldn’t figure it out”, “I don’t understand the terminology”, etc.  I don’t think this has to do with anyone not being smart enough to figure it out; I think that cloud companies give the impression that it takes a few simple clicks and you’re done.  It’s just that easy!  I can almost visualize Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, in an Office 365 infomercial: “Come on folks, click here, then click manage DNS and add your TXT record and you are done. It’s just that easy folks!”

I have a client who easily setup Google Apps for Business for his small business, but the company has no idea how to use it or what they could even use it for.  Another client of mine tried to setup up Office 365, but was stumped on how to transfer his domain.  In my opinion, both Google and MS have missed the mark.

I believe most everything we do will be in the cloud within the next few years.  According to Wikipedia, Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing and storage capacity as a service to a heterogeneous community of end-recipients. Think about what you already do that is cloud-based, Gmail, Dropbox, iCloud, Netflix, etc.

The tech industry has been pushing cloud and the benefits, including security and access from any Internet-connected device.  More and more companies are accepting the cloud technologies and are starting to embrace the technology, but are getting stumped when trying to set it up or use it. All this does is cause frustration and these same people will look at other “easier” solutions.

Cloud solution providers should provide both resources and incentives to enable qualified professionals to step in and be that “bridge” between the consumer and the solution.  Users should actively seek out a qualified resource to assist them in moving to the cloud so they get the most out of the service they are paying for.  This “Bridge” should be able to describe, setup and configure the service, allowing the business to focus on themselves, and the cloud partner to focus on providing great solutions.  In the past few weeks, I have had 40 hours of free Microsoft Office 365 training to help me assist small business transitioning to the Cloud. I think Microsoft realizes that it is not “Just that Easy!”, and that it takes time and knowledge that not everyone has.

Points to consider when moving to a cloud service:

  1. Is the service the right one for your company?
  2. Are you getting the features you need?
  3. Are you paying for features you don’t need?
  4. Can you implement it without pulling your hair out?
  5. Can the service integrate or replace you current on-premise solution?

Bringing in a qualified IT Professional or “bridge” can make the transition to the cloud much easier and ensure you and your company are getting the services you need, not just what you were sold.  The “bridge” can also help your company easily transition to the new environment.  Yes, there is a cost, but (ideally) after it is all up and running, you may never need your professional unless you need help for advanced functionality.  Which brings up another good point: have you ever tried to call Google to ask for help?  Can you even find a phone number? Your “Bridge” should be trained to give you the help you need when you need it.

Take advantage of these awesome cloud solutions, and if you need help to reach the clouds, a “Bridge” can support your transition to the connectivity of the future.

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