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I feel as though there’s a mantra which every marketing and tech blogger should repeat whenever they write a piece on cloud computing:

“I’m not going to bore you with buzzwords, nor coo how cloud computing is the future of all industries. I’m not going to claim the cloud is the only solution to all your problems, nor am I going to ignore its flaws.”

Well all that said: today I’m going to discuss how you, as an event management professional or not, can be served by cloud computing. When used properly, the cloud is an extremely powerful tool in the hands of any professional. At the same time, it’s just that: a tool, and one with its own faults. Keep this in mind.

All right, that’s enough beating around the bush. Let’s get started.

First things first…exactly what is the cloud, aside from a buzzword designed to excite business owners and marketing professionals?

Basically, the cloud an abstract term used to refer to a large network of computers or servers that communicate with one another remotely and in real-time. To give an example, cloud storage is a term which refers to the process of storing information on a remote server – one to which the user doesn’t actually have physical access – yet at any point they information can be retrieved as the user has access to the Internet or a mobile network.  By that same vein, a cloud application is a program, platform, or service which pulls the majority of its data (and processing power) from a source other than the users’ own system.

It’s not a new concept – it’s just an old one that’s been given a new coat of paint and a shiny new word to associate with it.  That said, more and more programs and applications and data is stored and accessed in the cloud. For most of us the cloud is a repository for our digital life, while more businesses are using traditionally offline resources online and the output lives in the cloud.

That is, cloud computing’s greatest strength is inarguably tied to our ability to remotely store, access, and share information – in real time. Services such as Dropbox can be used to grant employees, vendors and clients quick and easy access to scheduling information, venue details, spreadsheets and marketing materials. Further, it’s a fantastic means of backing up important data – something that you should be doing anyway.

See, the thing is, local copies of our work provide us with peace of mind, but hard drives fail and devices get lost, damaged, or stolen. If you’re not properly prepared for such an eventuality, you could be faced with a complete catastrophe. Keeping your data backed up is imperative – and the cloud, thanks to its ability to provide remote access, is an ideal storage medium.

Another strength of the cloud is tied to the fact that you’ve a variety of cloud-based event management apps at your fingertips. We published as other have, a post detailing some of the most powerful mobile event management apps – most of those applications actually make use of the cloud in one form or another. By making use of cloud-based apps, event planners can streamline their jobs; disseminate information to teams, managing their event without ever stepping into an office.

Now, I’ve mentioned that the cloud, while incredibly useful, also has its weaknesses. The greatest perceived weakness is security. The cloud isn’t inherently less secure than physical storage. It’s just saddled with a host of security risks that can seem foreign when compared to the common concerns regarding more traditional computing methods.  Many people don’t understand how to mitigate cloud security risk.

You need to exercise caution regarding where and how you connect to the applications and services you utilize. Something as seemingly benign as connecting to an unsecured wireless network could end up having disastrous results for your organization, while failure to encrypt the data you send to and receive from the cloud could be equally as problematic. Further, be careful what applications you use and who you store your data with – some vendors are notoriously lax with their security, and the last thing you want is a data breach compromising all the details of your event – primarily attendees’ financial information.

Cloud computing may be an old concept wrapped up in a new shell, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an invaluable, constantly developing – and important – technology for any profession. If you know how to use it, the cloud can make your job (and personal life) significantly easier. Just don’t get caught up in the hype, and take steps to mitigate the risks generally associated with cloud computing.

The cloud’s a powerful tool…but just like with any other tool, if you mishandle it, you’re bound to wind up hurt.