The rapid spread of devices like Apple’s iPad and MacBook Air could be a boon to providers of online storage services as users seek data access and synchronisation across mobile devices with little internal storage. 

The flexibility of cloud storage “is not just a nice thing to have but a necessity when you’re dealing with storage-limited devices,” said Avi Greengart of Current Analysis.

Users can choose from several providers of cloud-based storage. As well as offering online storage, some vendors let users synchronise folders and files between multiple devices.

You can also expect to see more cloud- based applications in 2011, such as the Zoho Office-style software soon to be offered as a Cloud-based software service by web hosting company 1&1. 

Microsoft has also added cloud elements to Office for Mac 2011, allowing users to collaborate by accessing Word, Excel and PowerPoint via the web. Google Docs can also be edited on the iPad. 

Cloud services will become more popular in 2011. Fasthosts CEO Andy Burton said: “With dramatic improvements in the interoperation between IT and the internet recently, we’ve seen advances in the capability of hosted service providers offering virtualised and private cloud solutions. I expect the barriers to entry to these premium solutions and services for small-to mid-sized businesses to reduce, and for customer adoption to increase swiftly. This will be driven by the customer desire to lower operating costs and the need to focus IT staff on critical in-house operations”.

Apple already offers cloud services: iTunes Store, App Store, MobileMe and, although the last one has been in beta since it launched in 2009. Hopefully, 2011 will see enhanced MobileMe and services. Apple has something up its sleeve – it has built a data centre in North Carolina.

Macs have enjoyed increased sales in the business environment thanks to the popularity of the iPhone and solutions offered by VMware and Parallels that let Windows applications run on a Mac. The Enterprise Desktop Alliance has predicted that Macs will increase their market share here by 57 per cent in 2011, with Macs making up more than 25 per cent of new systems. 

This backs up comments made in Apple’s financial results conference call on 18 October. Both Apple CEO Steve Jobs and COO Tim Cook described how the Mac and the iPad are being chosen. Cook explained: “The Mac is increasingly being pulled into the enterprise. When people are given the choice, they prefer a Mac.” Steve Jobs added: “We haven’t pushed [the iPad] really hard in business, and it’s being grabbed out of our hands. I talk to people in all kinds of business every day who are using iPads.” 

The popularity of the iPad in such circles is set to increase with the availability of iOS 4.2, which will make the iPad a more effective business tool, thanks to multitasking, printing, new email features, new security features, device management tools and enterprise support. The iPad will benefit from software available via the cloud, with colleagues being able to collaborate on documents via the Safari browser without having to install applications.