Apple announced an update to its OSX operating system yesterday. Notable in the updated features is tighter integration with iCloud, its cloud-based file, apps, and settings syncing service. For businesses, this isn't big news, since iCloud targets individual consumers, and has almost no business-friendly features. What can Apple do to change that?
Apple's top competitors, Google and Microsoft, each have business versions of their cloud solutions. Microsoft's SkyDrive, while limited, does provide document sharing, so co-workers can easily exchange Office documents. Google's Apps for Business is much more robust, supporting a company's domain, syncing email and contacts to phones, and providing online document editing and sharing. Apple's iCloud, in comparison, allows easy syncing of data among devices, but it offers no collaborative features and is linked to a personal Apple ID.
Apple has always been a niche brand in business, but its recent success with the iPhone and iPad, which are being widely adopted in businesses, is changing that. As Apple's foot is in the door, can it establish a solid foothold in business, expanding beyond the consumer market? Here are five ways Apple could make iCloud more business friendly.
1. Business accounts
All of Apple's online accounts are based off an "Apple ID", which is unique to each user. Currently there is no way to group or otherwise manage IDs, the first step towards sharing iCloud resources within a business. Apple needs to enable business accounts that allow a manager to either designate existing Apple IDs to include in a company group, or better still, assign new company based Apple IDs to employees.
2. Domain support
Google's Apps for Business allows a company to use its existing "company.com" style domain name as a location to access its Google services. Apple needs to do the same. iCloud makes email, calendar, contacts and files available online, but these need to be accessible through a company's domain, not only by going to iCloud.com.
iCloud currently acts as a way of syncing devices, and provides access to some data through a web browser. Once the data is in the cloud, sharing should be an easy next step, one that iCloud needs to have. Workers want to share files. Having a central contact list of coworkers and the capability to share files with any of them will make it easier to collaborate, and prevent the hassles of managing multiple versions of files that might otherwise get emailed back and forth.
Going beyond sharing individual files, having a group storage space is another way to encourage collaboration, reduce duplicate efforts, and organize important data. While workers can keep data related only to their own work in a more private space that can be shared when needed, the group space would be open to everyone--and useful for resources that everyone in a department, or even the entire company, wants to access.
5. Private iCloud
Businesses want the convenience that cloud storage offers, but some are hesitant to have their data stored on someone else's servers. Apple already sells servers, and it should now offer an iCloud appliance that provides all the features of iCloud, but keeps the business's data in a private cloud on servers managed at the company's location.