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Over the last year I've done several pieces looking at cloud options for business that don't assume you're going to give up all your servers, in Grey Matter's Hard Copy magazine. I didn't really see that as a theme in advance, but looking back over them, it strikes me that digging into the details of cloud services - both business services and consumer services used for business - has both changed my views and reinforced them.

I used not to want to keep things in the cloud in case I couldn't get to them, but having the notes on my phone in SkyDrive and syncing to all my systems in OneNote has been so useful I've transferred the big OneNote notebooks I use for writing and research up there, along with the spreadsheet in which I manage all my writing and invoicing. I haven't put all my accounts information and other personal details up there; I'm assessing how comfortable I am with that personally and in a business context. But what we did do was write our entire book in the cloud.

With our business Windows 8 bookhttp://www.sandm.co.uk/post/25093729976/windows-8-for-it-decision-makers we worked from the Windows Server and used offline files to get copies on notebooks to take out of the office (and urgh, VPN to sync on the road). With How To Do Everything in Windows 8, we knew we had to work with a technical editor in the US - and the official FTP server didn't work for him at first. So we quickly moved the chapters from our server to SkyDrive where we could all work at the same time, and that's been a great way to work with only a few hiccups when we started using Windows RT.

But I'm still not all in on the cloud in the sense that I think it's all anyone needs. I'm not switching from a Surface to a Chromebook. I want rich local software, like Office 2013. And if I had business systems more complex than spreadsheets and email and OneNote I'd want the option of running those in house as well as online, maybe splitting things so the the confidential information stays in the building. When I looked at business cloud applications, the really interesting ones weren't web apps you only use in the browser; they were cloud subscriptions that integrate storage, sync and services with those rich desktop programs like Excel and Photoshop that web apps can't rival more than a couple of features at a time.

This piece on Integrating with the cloud started out as just being about private clouds, where you treat your internal systems like a cloud - standardising and automating. But it quickly expanded to add the idea of hybrid clouds because there are things you want to keep in house. Like the SQL Server 2012 and Business Intelligence services I looked at a few months back - but even then, the data you're making sense of might come from whatever the Azure Data Market is called this week as well as from your own servers.

I'm more positive about cloud than I was when it was all hype and Salesforce, but I'm positive about it as another layer to add the other tools we have.

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