USING THE CLOUD
You may have heard of 'the Cloud' and wondered what exactly it is, whether you should be using it or avoiding it, or how to get started with it.
The term 'cloud' is really a piece of marketing jargon used as another way to refer to the Internet. It offers many things to different organisations, but for parish and town councils the main one is storage - a place to store your files and documents.
There are three main reasons why you might want to store your files 'in the cloud':
If you keep electronic documents and files on a PC or laptop, you need to back them up (make a copy) regularly, in case your computer is stolen or breaks down such that the data can't be recovered. By linking to cloud storage, a copy of your files is automatically maintained somewhere else and updated whenever you update something. A clerk recently had a hard disk failure that mean't she couldn't access anything on her parish council-owned laptop. But because all the parish files were automatically backed up to the cloud, she was able to access them from another computer initially, and then copy them back onto her new laptop.
The copy of your files that sits 'in the cloud' is likely to be very secure - more so in fact than your own computer - with no-one able to access them. But if you want to, individual files or whole folders can be shared with specific people, or with the public. Those specific people might be one or more councillors, so they can see particular files without needing to have them sent via email to them. Examples might be draft minutes or other documents that are work in progress, or perhaps a copy of the budget spreadsheet that's updated regularly. A whole folder of policy documents might be shared - 'read only' - via the council's website with the public.
Cloud services ensure that a copy of files is kept 'synchronised' on both the user's computer and in the cloud. But other copies can be kept synchronised too. For small parishes this might mean copies being held on other computers or devices - e.g. a copy of some files on a tablet, or copies of files synchronised between a laptop and a desktop computer. All the copies are kept 'in sync' with each other - that is, if one is changed then all are changed. For the clerk above whose laptop died, the inconvenience was minimised because a copy also existed on her home computer, so she could carry on working on that instead. For a larger council with more than one member of staff, copies of some or all of the councils files might be held on each person's computer, even if they don't share an office. Again, if one is updated, all are updated.
If you'd like to find out more about what help is available, or chat about your requirements, please get in touch using the Contact Us page.