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Posts Tagged ‘cloud computing’

Telecommuting

It looks like everybody has broadband Internet at home these days.

It’s definitely a good thing. However, what I can’t understand in this age of broadband Internent we’re living in today is why so many people still commute to and from the office every day.

I mean, I can understand when it’s some kind of a manufacturing facility where people need to be physically present to oversee the process or even to manually assemble something. There are still plenty of operations like that out there, especially in Russia. But why do office workers still keep sitting in traffic jams every morning and every evening after work? All those sales reps and accountants, why drag them all the way to the office if in today’s connected world they could do their jobs just as well from home or from some cafe that has wi-fi?

The recent leaps and bounds advances in cloud computing mean that these days even the traditional popular ‘tried-and-true’ ERP solutions, like those based on 1C Enterprise are now available in the cloud as a service. You no longer have to buy them, you can pay a monthly subscription fee and have your accountant do everything from home.

The only explanation for this phenomenon I can think of is inertia. People are simply doing what they’ve been doing for years. Technology pulled ahead too fast and most people can’t really appreciate the full potential of cloud computing yet.

In this situation, I think boot-strapped start-ups can really take advantage of cloud computing and achieve savings by dramatically cutting down on office space. Governments are talking about supporting small business by building start-up farms but seriously who needs those farms if you can do everything from home or from wherever you want to be, staying in touch with your colleagues via skype?

People, seriously, the fruit of cloud computing is ripe and hanging really low, all you need to do now is pluck it – ditch that expensive office space, slash your prices and run your competition into the ground, or at least out of their offices. And the best thing about it is that by doing this you’ll also be helping to save the planet because telecomuters don’t drive cars as much.

When online services go offline

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Software as a service is a great idea but what happens if an online service, or even just a website, that you’ve come to depend on over time suddenly goes offline – there is a first time for everything. For instance, there’s an oxford collocations dictionary online website that I have pretty much come to depend on in my writing/translating work and a couple of times over the past two months it has gone offline for no apparent reason. Both times it was down for only a day or two but still I was forced to install a local version even though, the local PC version is rather sluggish and works slower than the website. (That’s probably because my laptop is usually running a whole bunch of apps and processes and is probably nowhere near as powerful as the server or even servers that run the online app).

There is another website that I’ve come to enjoy that’s been down the past few days and it’s been quite disheartening. When a website or an online service is there, after a while you come to take it for granted and then when it suddenly goes away one day it feels personal, it feels like they’ve pulled the plug on you rather than on their services because you’ve come to depend on it so much that it felt like it was part of you and now it’s gone. Well bummer.

If there is just one good thing about locally installed applications that store all their data on your hard drive that’s probably the fact that they never go offline unless you wreck your OS or your computer is destroyed.

It’s an interesting philosophical question, actually, why is it that we always feel better after we’ve passed on the responsibility for taking care of our own shit (computer data in this case) to someone else, someone in the cloud. It’s as if we’ve got this innate belief that other people are bound to be better than us at doing this job, but why on earth do we assume that?

Cloud computing may not be for the faint of heart just yet

That’s the conclusion that I couldn’t help jumping to after reading this piece:

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/bt2p2o

In short the guy writes about how he spent months painstakingly  migrating all his other email accounts to his one gmail account and uploading all his documents to his google docs account only to have his google account deleted (or suspended) by google.

It’s sort of like when you have all your info on this one laptop that you lug around with you everywhere you go and then you drop it and it breaks into tiny little pieces from which no information can be recovered only it’s probably more like having somebody grab your laptop from you and smash it to pieces as you stand there and watch helplessly.

Well, maybe  it’s not all that bade and who knows, google may eventually reactive the poor fella’s account and he’ll once again have access to all his stuff. However, what this story really calls attention to is the risks people are invited to take when they are encouraged to switch to cloud computing.  On the surface cloud computing looks like a very cool idea – software as a service, a new digital utility that allows you to rent digital space and applications, however at the end of the day what cloud computing boils down to is that you let someone else handle your (sensitive) data. Cloud is a very cool metaphor, but in actuality what it sort of conceals is that fact that your data that is in the ‘cloud’ is in actuality sitting on someone’s hard drive.

It may not really be that much of a problem from a purely technological viewpoint as in all probability those data will be backed-up and there will be some redundancy built into the system so that even if the actual server your data is stored on should go down, some other server will pick up the slack; in the worst case scenario loss of data will be minimal and 9 times out of 10 you probably won’t even notice anything. However, what do you do if your cloud computing provider decides you’ve violated some obscure terms of use (which most people hardly ever read anyway) and pulls the plug on your account. And what if it’s a major provider of cloud services like google with millions of users that can afford to ignore complaints from the likes of you for weeks on end or even to never get back to you at all? Yes, probably in most cases they will reactivate your account eventually but still what if it’s at a critical point that they shut down your account; suppose you’re finishing an important project and all of a sudden poof, you can’t access your data anymore and you write them an email and they tell you that you’ve violated their terms of use and that they’ll get back to you next week but your project is due tomorrow.

So what’s the lesson we can learn from this cautionary tale? – for the time being it would appear that the best policy is to store all your most important files locally and to only use the cloud for backups.

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online ERM

These days broadband internet is something that more and more people are taking for granted. The first wave of computerization in companies was about embracing LAN technologies, from peer to peer to client server, well initially it was mainframes and terminals. Now it looks like the next big thing in enterprise resource management is going to be about placing this function in the proverbial ‘cloud’. You no longer need to have a LAN at the office, just broadband internet connectivity on all the computers and/or devices your employees use; and these don’t have to be traditional desktops or laptops, since the whole thing’s in the cloud and you’re accessing it via a web browser, a lowly net book will suffice or even a smart phone.
This approach offers a number of advantages, apart from doing away with the necessity of having a LAN, potentially it also does away with the necessity of having an office. After all if it’s all on line and in the cloud, you just have to make sure your employees have broadband access to the internet, then you just give them the login and password to access your online ERM system and they’re good to go, they can issue invoices, work with customers and what not.
Another advantage of this technology which may be especially appreciated in some countries is that you can store all your information off-shore, i.e. you may be doing business in, say Russia, but physically all your sensitive data will be stored on a server in Germany, which means that the local authorities won’t be able to access them without a ruling by a German court. So they can go and seize all your computers all they want, there will be nothing on them. Pretty neat, isn’t it.
Anyway, some conservative minded people may sill be wary of the technology, after all it means that you’re pretty much at the mercy of your service provider and if its servers shut down your business shuts down and you can’t just chew out the ass of your sysadmin until they get your system up and running again, you’re reduced to having to call your provider’s tech support line and they’ll either put you on hold or transfer your call to some extra-polite help desk professional in India who will simply inform you that everything is being done to bring the system back online and you don’t need to worry.

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