I confess, like many IT professionals to being a sceptic. In my experience, most technological ‘breakthroughs’ whilst promising an easier, enhanced coexistence with technology somehow manage to make my life more complicated. The point could hardly have been better illustrated than when I was passing through airport security a few months ago. “Do you have a computer in that bag?” the security guard asked. A computer – I wish!! Somewhat embarrassed, I took out my Laptop, iPad and Android tablets (…don’t ask!), Smartphone and a lightweight Wi-Fi printer putting each (as instructed) in separate trays. Watching the array of equipment passing through the scanner, it occurred to me that I had more computing power on my person than had been necessary to run not just one, but several Apollo moon landings.
Obviously, things had gone too far. Unless the entire airport passenger boarding systems across the world were to slide toward total paralysis, drastic action was required!
And it wasn’t just the technology I felt I had to carry. No, it was the preparation required to travel! Even for a couple of days away on business it would be necessary to – ensure my laptop was synched with my mail server (for ALL the e-mail addresses I seem to have acquired) – copy files I thought I might need onto my laptop – synch my tablet with key libraries on my desktop so I could work at the airport and synch my smartphone with whatever the hell it synchs with (it appears to have a mind of its own on the subject). Sadly, even then, when I reached my destination, inevitably, I would not have the one key file necessary nor be able to find that particular e-mail with the vital information in it. Then, on my return, I would have to remember to update the files on my desktop that I had edited on my laptop, clear the e-mails off my laptop and tablet and try and make sure I didn’t lose anything… In short, life was pure digital hell.
Of course, with more than a hint of smugness, Apple users would look pityingly at me assuring me that if I used all Apple devices they would all synch automatically via iCloud and the world would in the perfect harmony originally envisaged by Mr Jobs. (An assertion which doesn’t sound so convincing if you ask an Apple user what happens if they delete an e-mail on their iPhone. Does it also delete it on their iPad and Mac? What if I want to keep it on my desktop but delete it from my iPad and iPhone? Or delete it from my iPad and leave it on my iPhone and desktop, but not on my laptop? This normally results in a surprising quick change of subject).
Don’t get me wrong! iCloud is great. In fact all clouds are great – if you use them as clouds and not just remote backup servers!
The airport incident was my personal epiphany. The light slowly dawned. What if all my e-mail, messages, calendar, and all my files were stored in just one place? And all my devices (Smartphone, Tablet, Laptop and Desktop) could all access and, more importantly, process those items and files? Surely in the 21st century this must be possible? ….Finally, I had understood what cloud computing actually was!
Armed with Microsoft Office 365 on ALL of my devices (yes even my iPad), life is now very different. They can all access the one copy of my inbox, the one copy of my calendar and the one copy of my messages. Current projects are organised into separate SharePoint websites with single source libraries that are shared with the associated clients and updated in real-time and all my current or archived files (Word documents, PowerPoint files, Excel Spreadsheets, pdf files, videos, and images) can be read, edited, forwarded, and, in the case of PowerPoint, projected on any device. And the best thing is – there is NO SYNCHRONISATION REQUIRED! Now when I travel, the choice of which device I need to take is based solely on what I need to do with the files when I reach my destination rather than which device they are on or which format they are in.
I know you don’t hear this too often but… Thank you, Microsoft.
…It doesn’t get much better than reaching across to someone in a meeting who is frantically searching their iPhone and presenting the screen of my Android Smartphone with the words “Is this what you were looking for?”