Some people hate the cloud. There, we said it. The reasons for this range from not understanding what the cloud is to being concerned about the safety of your data right through to the extra expenses that can sometimes be attached to this way of working. However, all things considered, there are far more pros to working in the cloud than cons. In this post, we’re going to explain what the cloud is, give you some extra information to help you feel safer working in the cloud, and explain why it is hugely beneficial for you to make the leap to cloud working if you haven’t already.
What is the Cloud?
The cloud is a term given to saving data in a centralised location online. Before the cloud came along people would save their data ‘locally’. This meant saving something to your PC or even to physical media like a USB stick or floppy disk – remember floppy disks!? When data is stored in the cloud it is the case that the data is stored on a server and accessed via the internet. A server is usually a physical machine that can store a large amount of data and serves other computers within its network. A better understanding of what a server is can be found here.
You can still save your data locally and a lot of programmes that enable cloud saving also enable local saving at the same time for ease of use.
The problem with local saving or saving to physical media is that those saves can be deleted, corrupted, or destroyed easily. When that happens, the data can be lost forever. With cloud saves this is not the case. Even if a local copy is destroyed, the data still exists in the cloud, and this enables you to recover the data that was lost locally from a different device.
Why Does Cloud Work Benefit Landlords?
Have you ever been in a situation where one minute you’re happily working away at your laptop and the next minute you’ve spilled a drink all over that same laptop and now it won’t switch on? Or have you ever experienced the absolute stomach twisting realisation that you’ve left your laptop somewhere you shouldn’t have – like on a train or in a service station? Even if you haven’t, you can imagine how you’d feel if this did happen or any one-off a few similar scenarios.
Now imagine, as a landlord, that your laptop was full of your property related files. Your gas safety certs, records of communications with your tenants, inventories, tenant data for right to rent checks, mortgage letters, tenancy agreements and so much more. If you’d damaged your laptop and these things were locally saved you can say goodbye to them forever unless you can recover the hard drive, which is expensive, time-consuming, and not always possible and impossible if you’ve lost the hard drive completely.
If you’d been working in the cloud, you could recover all this information and all these documents by simply logging into your cloud-based programme from a different device.
Cloud working also allows for collaboration, especially across documents. Google is great at this, and Microsoft keeps adding these features. This means that if you want to work with someone on the same document or spreadsheet etc, you can both work in the cloud, so you don’t have to send the person you’re working with a local version of your document every time you make a change. It is updated as you work and when they access the document, they always get the most updated version. It even means you can both work on the same document at the same time if needed.
Is Working in the Cloud Safe?
Working in the cloud is quite secure. Firstly, all your data and documents are stored on a server and this server will usually be in a dedicated building and afforded a lot of security both physically and remotely as well. Servers are generally protected by firewalls and software that prevents hacking. Data stored on these servers is usually backed up, so if a server is damaged, the data is still safely stored in another location. Data stored in the cloud is usually encrypted. This means that the data is scrambled either where it is stored or in transit, ideally both. Some cloud-based drives will advertise themselves as end to end encrypted, this is the ideal level of security as it means data is scrambled in transit. This makes data in transit pretty much useless to anyone who happens to intercept it.
Best Cloud-based Programmes for Landlords
The best cloud-based programmes for you will depend on what sort of data and documents you want to save in the cloud and how much space they take up.
Cloud-based Drives for Landlords
To start with, you may want to look at some general programmes that act just like a computer drive would and allow you to store a wide range of documents. Some of these are free and some of them you need to pay for. Generally, the cost depends on how much you want to store. Some of these are easier to use than others so you should take the time to pick the one that feels most suited to you. Here are the three most used:
Google Drive is free up to a point. If you sign up to the Google Suite – i.e if you have a Google login, you will automatically have a drive and access to the Google Suite of products. You can find it by making sure you’re logged into Google on your browser and then clicking ‘apps’ in the menu beneath the address bar. From here you can select Google drive.
It has a drag and drop function so it’s easy to move your existing documents into the drive and it comes with 15 GB of storage which means it can take a hefty number of documents before it starts to hit that limit. You can also upgrade the storage for a reasonable price (£15.99 per year for 100 GB at the time of writing).
If you want to store photos and videos that will naturally take up a lot more space than documents, but Google has you covered here as well. Google photos is also free and comes with your g-suite, so you automatically have access if you have a Google login.
The benefit of using Google is that if you want to store just documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoints, and that kind of thing, then the standard free Google drive is probably all you’ll need. It’s easy to share documents from Google Drive and it’s universal so there are apps available for Google drive on almost every device.
One drive is the cloud-based storage solution for Microsoft. So, if you were to buy a new laptop or computer one drive would likely come as part of the package. With One Drive you can get 5GB of storage for free, but anything over that is chargeable, however, the cost is reasonable at £1.99 per month at the time of writing for 100 GB. You can opt to pay a higher subscription cost to also get access to the Microsoft Office Suite of apps too.
Just like with Google there is a drag and drop function to add your documents and files, but it also integrates with your usual computer file system, so if you save something locally, you can set it so it also uploads to the cloud. This is likely a good solution for you if you save locally because uploading to the cloud is as simple as saving files to your computer.
Unlike Google, One Drive doesn’t have a dedicated photo and video management cloud drive, so videos and photos would all be uploaded to the same place.
The pros of one drive are its integration with the standard Microsoft Office and computer file save system. If you’re a dyed in the wool Microsoft user, then you’ll likely find it a simple and intuitive system. You can find one drive apps for almost every device so accessing your documents is straightforward, you can also create shareable links easily so it’s also good for collaboration. The cons are that it doesn’t give you as much storage for free, 5 GB really won’t get you that far.
Dropbox is a great tool for anyone who is already a little bit familiar with cloud working. Just like Google and One Drive, Dropbox allows collaborative working, so if multiple people are working in a document, it will keep the changes synced. It boasts a lot of safety features and it’s a sleek piece of kit making it easy enough to use.
You get 2 GB of data free with Dropbox and what it’s great for is sharing documents with people who may not have a Dropbox account, so they can still get to files and documents without having to set up an account. This isn’t as easy or straightforward with Google and One Drive, so if, for instance, you need to send a lot of tenancy agreements around to different parties, Dropbox should make it easier to do this without having to deal with access issues.
One of the things that makes Dropbox so popular is its integrations with third-party apps like Slack, Zoom, Trello, Google, and Microsoft Office, which makes it easy to share documents over multiple communication channels.
What might especially appeal to landlords about Dropbox is that their plans also come with e-signatures. The number of signatures you can use is limited by your plan, but it’s a handy feature, nonetheless.
The drawback of Dropbox is that it tends to be a more expensive solution than Google and One Drive, but you also get a bit more bang for your buck with the storage space and extra features that you get alongside it. If you collaborate a lot and frequently with other people, then these features may well be worth paying for. At the time of writing, plans are around £7.99 per month for 2000 GB of storage.
Using the Cloud to Manage Your Properties
Of course, it isn’t just drive storage that works on the cloud, most software these days runs in the cloud entirely allowing you to access all the features from multiple devices and geographical locations. This is, in fact, one of the reasons we developed Landlord Vision.
Our previous version Landlord Property Manager was a great piece of software, but it ran locally from a download. We found more and more landlords were wanting to work on the go, so we developed Landlord Vision to run in the cloud.
We built our software in conjunction with landlords, so we are aware that there’s a lot of data landlords need to store. From tenancy agreements to safety certificates and everything in between. With things becoming more compliance-focused, it was more important than ever for landlords to store everything in one place while being able to access it with just a few clicks.
With Landlord Vision you can store all your property related information in the cloud. Not only can you upload receipts, documents, and photos to Landlord Vision, but there are also dedicated sections of the software to help you organise your data by property, room, or tenant. You can store all kinds of useful information about a property such as alarm codes, bin day, fixtures, and fittings – you can store as much or as little information you need. Landlord Vision also has a suite of legal document templates, reports, and its own accounting engine as well. This cuts down on the need for any kind of additional software. Everything you need is in one place. Before we stop waxing lyrical about our cloud-based software and move on, we’ll also just mention that Landlord Vision is also Making Tax Digital ready.
Tips for Shifting to Cloud-based Working
If you haven’t been working in the cloud and you want to make the shift, there are a few things that will make the transition a lot easier for you:
Find the Best Cloud-based Programme for You
Take the time to find the right cloud-based programme for you. Use the list above as a starting point. Consider what you want to use the system for and try to stick with just one or two cloud-based systems rather than spreading your work across multiple systems. This means that it’s easier to access all your data in one go rather than having to remember multiple logins across lots of different programmes.
Don’t Sleep on Uploading Existing Data to the Cloud
When you first start you might have a lot of locally saved documents. Don’t put off shifting these all to the cloud. Most cloud programmes have a drag and drop feature allowing you to highlight all your locally saved documents and drag them into a cloud drive. They will all begin to upload to the cloud when you do this.
The odd upload here and there doesn’t take very long, but if you’re trying to dump years’ worth of documents into the cloud, they may take hours to upload depending on how many you have. Be aware of this so that you can choose the best time to upload all your documents, but don’t put it off. You’ll want to ensure that your documents are backed up to the cloud as soon as possible otherwise you’re missing out on one of the biggest benefits of working in the cloud in the first place.
Get Into the Habit of Using Your Cloud-based Programme
Old habits die hard, so when you first get your cloud-based programme you may forget to keep saving your documents and data to the cloud. If this is the case, you’re not going to get any of the benefits of cloud working, so take the time to change your habits and make using your cloud storage second nature. When you next experience a blue screen of death or your computer just turns off for no reason when you’re in the middle of writing something, you won’t lose hours of work because you’ll have been working in the cloud all along! When you start any new document make sure it’s saved to the cloud before you start working on it. If you’re using Google this will happen automatically because you’ll be working online, if you’re using One Drive and a Microsoft app then you might need to physically turn autosave on and save your document before you start working to ensure that all your document changes save.