For anyone working from the Midwest today, we’re watching the landscape transform into Ice Station Zebra – the PERFECT time to talk about working from THE CLOUD.
First of all, a quick definition – cloud computing simply means you are working with resources that are based somewhere on the Public Internet – which in most network drawings is referred to as “THE CLOUD”. Maybe it’s because everyone used little lightning bolts to depict your Internet connections to the Public Network, or maybe drawing an actual network of thousands of servers, switches and routers seemed a bit daunting for the folks who had to come up with a network diagram. Anyways, we now call this collection of public networks that connects phones, computers, and any other “smart” devices THE CLOUD.
The cloud is actually bigger than the web – it’s the tangle of fiberoptic, cable, copper and wireless connections that make telephone, radio, cellular, computer and other communications work. When you connect to the cloud, you are riding this global network.
If you share information via social media sites like Facebook…if you share files with co-workers from a web server….you’re using the cloud. Companies have been taking advantage of this public network for years, but new tools have made it easier for users scattered across the planet to share information, create projects together, and communicate with a much wider audience than what they can reach in their local zip code, state…even country.
Using web pages, social media identities, and a variety of hosted sharing platforms (YouTube, Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, Terminal Servers, etc.) we can work from ANYWHERE, practically, and still connect to our co-workers, clients, friends and a host of potential partners / collaborators.
It’s WONDERFUL to be able to help our users across many states, from the comfort of my living room, when the snow is flying and travel is hazardous. We’ve built a network of servers that makes setting up for business almost anywhere a matter of days, not months. Our little piece of the cloud is working very nicely, even in the worst weather.
There ARE some issues with cloud computing that need to be considered – like, how reliable is your Internet connection when Mother Nature drops a hurricane, blizzard, or other natural disaster on you? You CAN flee the disaster and connect from higher ground….but sometimes, you don’t realize your connection is about to be cut. Sometimes, you’re going to be out of service for a while.
Second, having all your systems (computers, files, etc) in one section of the cloud – as in, perhaps, the basement of an office building near the lakefront – can mean that a catastrophic event (like the great Midwest power failure – or a flood) takes EVERYONE down, regardless of what the weather is like in THEIR zip code.
Last, when you share information from a public platform, you need to make sure it’s accurate and secure, and that the people you share it with know how to safeguard things like customer files, employee records, inside gossip – anything that should NEVER be made publicly available.
It’s a challenging environment to work in – which is why I love it (most days, anyways!) The flexibility, reach, and potential it brings my company is awesome, and we’re learning new ways to capitalize on these technologies as they evolve.