Cloud company sales pitches imply the device you use is unimportant. Others fail to make any mention of the hardware needed. There’s rarely discussion of the CPU, memory or graphics requirements.

In theory cloud services are independent of local hardware.

It can be true, but it’s not always the case. In fact, it is more often not the case.

The same applies to the browser used to connect to cloud applications. There’s scant regard on sign up pages about browser brands. In most cases, they say even less about the browser version, loaded extensions and so on.

And yet the way you experience cloud services can vary enormously from device to device and from browser to browser.

There are some cloud apps which don’t run on some operating systems or processors. That quickly becomes clear when you try to use them from the wrong device. What’s less obvious is when a cloud app doesn’t run well on a particular set-up.

Cloud is a broad term. We tend to assume it means a powerful server handles most or all the workload remotely and yet some so-called cloud products leave the bulk of processing to the local device.

Even the purest cloud service, where all the processing is remote, leaves local devices to handle incoming data and drive the screen images while also handling the user interface.

Another way physical hardware affects cloud service performance is with network latency. The best cloud software runs so smoothly that it may as well be processing data locally.

Again, that’s not always the case. This can be a problem with some services hosted on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. In my experience, latency problems are most noticeable when you only have a so-so wireless data connection.

Ideally, this would all be perfectly clear before you pay for a service. Often, it isn’t.

The good news is most cloud services let you try before you buy. Make a point of checking the service on every device you intend to use before plonking down a year’s subscription.

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