Who out there remembers POP email accounts or Outlook PST files? C’mon now, raise your hand, I promise I won’t tell…
Back then, for those of you who don’t remember, your email was tied to one device, usually a desktop computer that was fixed to one spot like an old-fashioned rotary phone attached to a wall.
If you did have more than one device, you’d have a different set of messages on each one, depending on when you connected to the internet or what device you worked on last.
What a difference it made to move to Microsoft Exchange or IMAP-based email like Google’s Gmail. Suddenly most everything on every device matched, including calendars and contacts, and a hardware failure was no longer a catastrophe. Your precious data lived ‘out there’ on the internet.
In other words, if you’ve been using a reasonably modern email system, you’re already taking advantage of cloud computing. And good for you!
These days “cloud computing” seems to be more commonly used to talk about internet-based file storage and applications, but the principle is the same. Your data lives in the cloud and the device you use merely provides a window to it, like watching a streaming video rather than a video file stored on your device or on a DVD (or VHS tapes for some of us, and no you don’t have to raise your hand this time…).
Like the communications technology we discussed last week in our article “It’s not about how, it’s about who…” I pretty much think it’s magic.
And last week, this magic saved me. Let’s just say I had a forgetful moment and the magic of the cloud came to the rescue.
A co-worker and I were scheduled to work on some website updates from their living room (the whole other magic of the anywhere workplace) but I’d forgotten my laptop at home… again. No problem. I just hopped on their laptop, pulled the passwords I needed from the password vault on my phone, logged into WordPress, and we got to work. Naturally, we also needed a draft story that I had been working on from my laptop. No problem, since all my work was synchronized to our company SharePoint site. Sure, it took seven or eight whole mouse clicks to get the extra folder synchronizing to my co-worker’s laptop, but the alternative was an hour of driving if I’d had to go get my laptop from home.
I just as easily do work for a client in Sydney, Australia, from my living room in Edmonton, Canada. Just drop the work in a specific folder on my computer and literally seconds later they are checking the files and emailing back corrections. The only real challenge is timing. Trying to finish off something in real-time before they leave for the weekend, I need to be in front of a computer at 9 pm Thursday to catch them at 3 pm Friday. But the alternative? Numerous long distance phone calls and faxes, or a series of $200 packages shipped back and forth over the course of several weeks.
Just yesterday I had a contract emailed to me that needed my signature. A few taps on the screen of my iPad and it was signed and returned within minutes… a nearly frictionless transaction.
Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and I could not agree more.
What technology now allows us to do in our personal lives and in the business world… is indeed magic.
Yes, sometimes the spells go awry and a Reparo a la Harry Potter just doesn’t work as it should. However, I think for the most part our technology runs so smoothly that we don’t even notice how enmeshed it is in our lives. It’s not even that we trust it to work, we just assume it will and rarely even think about it.
(At least that should be how it works for you. If not, may I humbly suggest you take a look at who you’ve got around as your wizards? I happen to know a few that can really make the magic happen!)
So, if you get a moment free today, between the buzzes of your smartphone and the beeps of your computer, take a moment and consider what your life looks like today compared to five years ago, ten years ago, even one year ago. Sure, some technology may be a little too present in my life, but on the whole I am simply amazed and, like my colleagues, constantly curious to learn more.