Shifting to Cloud Workflows – An Example….

Lots has been written (here on the blog and elsewhere) about how useful cloud computing is and how we can’t avoid cloud services in the digital age.

Working in the industry, my viewpoint is always squewed in one way or another – sometimes for and sometimes against once the facts and realism have been uncovered for a particular service or model. Recently however, I recently came across an interesting self-styled workflow that actually not only made active use of cloud services but would have been very different to achieve.

The situation arose recently when I needed to print a programme for a family event. I am a Mac user (I use MacBooks and iMacs when on the road and at home), but my family use PCs to varying degrees. The MacBook is where I do most of my work, whilst the iMac at home is the media server where all our photos, music and home movies reside. However, we only have a little inkjet printer with the iMac, but another family member has a PC with a colour laser printer attached. So, immediately in the mix was a MacBook, an iMac, and a PC with a colour laser printer.

Challenge 1: moving information between these three computers with no loss of data integrity or format.

The second consideration in this situation is location. My MacBook is portable (obviously), and I use Pages (part of Apple’s iWorks suite) to create word publishing documents. Now, as is usual with these things, everyone wants their input into the finished programme, so now I find that I am creating documents when away from home, so everyone can have their day on fonts and picture layout etc. But wait, immediately the problem is that the photos I need to include are at home on my media server iMac.

Challenge 2: viewing data remotely – a mini version of remote data access and management.

So, these are 2 pretty bug challenges for a workflow to arrange. After giving it some thought, there is an easy and workable solution to this problem – using cloud services to straddle the locations and access issues and bring my services back together so I can get my programme finished.

Enter Dropbox and LogMeIn.

All my devices are linked to my Dropbox account. With Dropbox, I can simplify data access down to simply having an internet connection. I can even access my data stored in the cloud without having the Dropbox application installed through the web interface. All my devices are also connected to LogMeIn. With this service, I can access and gain visibility of any of my enabled devices from any other device again simply by having an internet connection. Through this portal I can have access to all my data wherever it resides (specifically locally on my media server iMac) and make use of it even when away from home or on the road.

So, by using both these services in tandem, the workflow looks like this using 2 cloud services.

  1. Create the Pages document on the MacBook whilst at the in-laws. Agree the formatting and let everyone have their say. Save it to Dropbox and allow it to sync to the cloud.
  2. Connect via the web to the home iMac using LogMeIn. Choose the photos from the iMac iPhoto library and export these with the required tweeks. Save the exports to Dropbox and allow to sync to the cloud.
  3. Download the exported photos from Dropbox to the MacBook and insert as needed into the programme using Pages.
  4. Save the Pages document then re-save the document as PDF document to Dropbox and allow it to sync to the cloud.
  5. On the PC, login to the Dropbox website and open the PDF document via the Dropbox web interface. Print as needed on the colour printer.


What does this all mean? In the larger context, this workflow is insignificant in terms of achievement. What is interesting and potentially significant is the easy shift in tools from traditional methods of moving and accessing information and data to those residing in a cloud model. Increasing use of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) are being used by large technology companies to integrate individual services into a cloud model, and these services are now being integrated to make workflows easy to achieve. With this as an end goal, the likes of Google and Apple look to adopt cloud models to tie products to services, and services to workflows, which in turn makes for increased productivity for end users and ultimately the brand loyalty to promote growth.

Jeremy loves all things technology! Has been in IT for years, loves Macs (but doesn't preach to others about their virtues), loves virtualization (and does shout about it's virtues), and sometimes skis, bikes and directs amateur plays!

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