Have we been living in the cloud longer than we think?

In 1900, the founders of Mercedes Benz forecasted that the total demand for cars would never exceed one million. Why? – because there were not enough chauffeurs available.

So, how was the traffic on your journey to work this morning?

That very same decade, a panel of British experts stated “The telephone may be appropriate for our American cousins, but not here, because we have an adequate supply of messenger boys.”

I remember PhONEday in the early 90’s when the 01 prefix was introduced for UK phone numbers. Why? BT were running out of numbers.

Proves that it’s easy to predict the future, right?

So, what about this “Cloud”. Well, there are more definitions than you can shake a stick at, but they don’t matter if people don’t want “Cloud Computing”, we’ve got our desktops after all.

Thing is, it’s likely that we already taking advantage of “Cloud Computing”, I just don’t think we know it yet. It might well be the telephone or automobile for a new generation.

Hotmail was launched in 1994, I signed up in 2000, it turns out I was cloud computing all along. I just didn’t know it. I’m assuming that most people now have a “webmail” account? You get your airline tickets emailed to you, maybe some concert tickets? You leave them there for a bit then print them safe in the knowledge that, should you lose them you can just find the email and reprint them? Welcome to the cloud friends.

I know being in “the cloud” is the current vogue. A little of that hype might just be justified.

I believe that I’m moving (knowingly or unknowingly) into “cloud world”. My email was first, then online backup for those photos I’d been meaning to back up because I would be devastated if I lost them. I use the online music streaming service Spotify*. It’s subscription based, basically I’m renting the music off them for as long as I pay my subscription, I can even sync to my mp3 player. It doesn’t change my listening experience and I have access to a much bigger music collection than I ever did buying CD’s in my high street record store (I spend less each month too).

As for business applications of the technology, I’ve used Microsoft Office 365 to help friends with Excel formulae, I’ve collaborated on writing a presentation entirely online. I’ll admit that I’m by no means one of the leaders of the new school, but I am very interested in how technology can help me.

I’m a dropbox user, I use Spotify, I make calls with Skype when I work from home. I use Hotmail, gmail and online back-up. They all work for me and with me to make my life easier. I even tried a virtual PC in the cloud, it didn’t really work for me but I could see the possibilities. I will revisit it though as I am sure having everything I need at my fingertips, pretty much anywhere in the world will become increasingly important as time goes on.

Each journey starts with a single step and for most, if not all of us, that journey has already started. It’s ultimately a matter of personal preference but I hope that the day soon arrives that I can have all the tools I need to do my job in the cloud. Once the office is out of the equation, imagine the possibilities (and environmental benefits for that matter).

Think about your working day, have you taken that step already? Could you consider taking that first step today? I bet you could.
A parting thought, in 1943 Thomas Watson the head of IBM said “I think there is a world market for as many as 5 computers.” I’ve got four of them, I wonder who has the other one?

*It could be argued that Spotify is not a cloud service as you really need a desktop client to take advantage of it and it doesn’t store your own music in the cloud. With that in mind I present to you DropTunes, it’s a browser based music player that allows you to stream music you store in your dropbox (dropbox is a web based file hosting service).

Mark Knights, Sage Accountants’ Team