Late last year blogger Allen Stern of CenterNetworks self-funded a new venture called CloudContacts with a simple idea: Take all the business cards you have and put them “in the Cloud.”
All you had to do was buy an account ($30 for up to 100 cards), send the cards to CloudContacts and Stern’s company would take care of scanning the cards for you, making the contact information available to you from any computer or mobile device that could connect to the Internet.
Best of all, the contact information could be integrated with CRM applications such as SalesForce, you could export your business card contact information to your desktop email client, even reach contacts directly through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Now, you can even cut Uncle Sam out of the picture by taking photos of the business cards and emailing them to CloudContacts, saving on postage and avoiding the delays associated with snail mail.
Follow after the jump to learn why this is a well-meaning, but dumb idea.
Yes, a business card scanner is a relatively expensive device. A good one will run you about $250. But if you are the kind of networking monster who is apt to collect enough business cards to be considering a card scanner in the first place, its really not a lot of money.
With your own card scanner you control all of your information, with the ability to do everything CloudContacts can do for you and more, without the risks associated with giving up personal information to a 3rd party or having it possibly lost or mixed up with others’ “in the Cloud.”
Essentially, CloudContacts doesn’t do anything for you that you couldn’t do for yourself if you weren’t as lazy and disorganized as Allen Stern suspects you might be.
Because, guess what? If you just entered the information on the business cards you collect into the contact manager you have already sitting on your computer, or on your company’s Exchange server, you can do things like export your contacts to your favorite email or mailing list application and integrate them with CRM systems, just as CloudContacts makes possible for you.
Are you really worried about losing your contact information to fire or theft? Well, you are likely worried about plenty of other data too and, in all probability, have some sort of disaster recovery plan in place that includes secure backup of your contact information.
Need access to your contact information from your mobile phone? You probably already have it, synched with your company’s Exchange server or with your personal PC through either physical back ups, bluetooth or via something like Apple’s MobileMe service.
CloudContacts is a great example of the headlong rush many people and businesses are making toward keeping everything “in the Cloud.”
But the the Cloud remains somewhat untested on a large scale over time. ISPs and cable companies are known to go down, briefly, temporarily in many cases, but extensive outages are not unknown and when everything is in the Cloud and the cloud is inaccessible, then everything becomes inaccessible.
Local access starts to look pretty good for mission critical information – such as contact information – at that point.
So, how many business cards do you collect in a given month? 10, 20, 100? In the amount of time it takes you to take their pictures and send them in email to CloudContacts, you could just enter the information into your own computer’s address book and have as much control, security and flexibility as you want with the information.
And then you can toss the business card in the recycling bin and feel as though you’re doing something good for the planet.