As I embrace the concept of cloud computing, I’ve been asking myself if it’s possible to live completely in the cloud. To get a picture of what I’m talking about here, imagine doing all of your computer-related work at an Internet cafe or on a diskless netbook. And I mean “all” of your work.
My revelation that living in the cloud could be a real possibility came to me about a month ago as I was walking into one of my clients with my laptop bag strapped over my shoulder. As I had done almost every day for the previous several weeks, I put my laptop case on the floor under my desk and proceeded to log in to my client’s computer and carry on with my day. My email, complete with contacts, tasks, notes, sent items, etc. is all totally accessible from the cloud through my hosted Exchange account. I very seldom need my laptop at work any longer and I’ve started leaving it in my car to be used only in case of emergency (my security blanket).
There are a number of potential obstacles that must be overcome for a complete transition to livin’ in the cloud:
- Where is your data? Yesterday, I stumbled upon a cool service, DropBox, that allows you to synchronize your data between all of your computers and the web. This is nice if you do work on multiple computers, but what if you don’t have a computer? You can still use DropBox on the cloud, but it works best if the software is downloaded and it is constantly synchronized with a folder on your local PC. To work completely on the cloud, we’d need a solution that not only stored your files, but also integrated with *any* hosted application vendor, such as Google Docs or SharePoint sites, or even your webmail provider.
- What about redundancy and backup? I currently use MozyPro to backup my primary laptop online. Again, this involves loading software on your local PC and having it connected to the net to provide background transfers. If you no longer have data on your local PC, this service becomes unnecessary. Now I’d be relying 100% on the backup of my service provider, whether it is my email provider, my file storage provider or my web site provider. If one of my providers happens to go away, what are my options? Do I have an alternate provider who can deliver the same application and/or my data?
- What about my applications? There are hundreds of applications I use on a fairly consistent basis; Office is probably the single biggest part of my daily life. With Office 10 on the horizon as an online offering, most of my life might be available as an online offering. Currently Office Live enables me to store up to 5 GB of data online with Microsoft’s servers, but I’d still need Office locally for it to be of any value. The only other product that I likely can’t live without is Simply Accounting. A quick search on the Internet revealed that there are several online accounting applications that could likely replace Simply, but again this involves a lot of work and a fairly steep monthly commitment. My accounting will likely be the last item I move to the cloud and only after I’ve got the redundancy/backup issue sorted out.
Over the next few months, I’ll continue writing about the possibility of livin’ in the cloud and my success at weaning myself off of my laptop and any local data.