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Summary:

Next month will see our cloud computing conference, Structure, returning for its third year, which got me thinking about the impact of cloud computing on web working. It is amazing how cloud computing has revolutionized the web working landscape in such a short space of time.

Next month will see our cloud computing conference, Structure, return for its third year, which got me thinking about the impact of cloud computing on my web working.

Coupled with the increase in Internet bandwidth, cloud computing has facilitated the development of many of the fantastic web apps that I use and love today as services like Amazon’s EC2 and S3 and Google’s App Engine has lowered the app vendors’ startup costs and provided reliable scalability for when their user bases grow.

When it comes to mobility and collaboration, cloud computing has delivered advances that I already take for granted. Because I primarily work in the cloud, I can access my work from anywhere, using a multitude of devices. This is beneficial beyond just being able to hop between a desktop machine and a laptop. When most of one’s tools live online, switching from PC to Mac (or vice versa) is much less burdensome than it could have been in the past. And if I suddenly found that my main laptop had died, my Time Machine backup was corrupted and I only had in iPad  to work on — as happened to designer Shane Pearlman recently — it wouldn’t be an absolute disaster.

Having my work available online makes collaboration far easier than it ever was before. Rather than emailing files to my colleagues and trying (and failing) to keep track of all the different versions, using a tool like Google Docs means I can have one document that everyone can access — it’s even possible to have more than one person editing that document at any one time, if I wish. Couple that kind of access with project management and corporate social networking features and collaboration with the rest of my team, which is spread all over the globe, is a snap. And developers have seemingly only scratched the surface of the collaborative possibilities.

Personally, I love having all of my main work tools available in the cloud. It means I can always get at my work, whether I’m logging on with either of my laptops, on my phone, on a desktop machine or even using someone else’s computer — I simply open a browser, load up a few tabs and I’m ready to go.  If a hard drive failure or some other catastrophe strikes my computer, I know that my work is safe and I can get back up and running with minimal downtime.

While this veritable explosion of web apps has made all of our web working lives considerably easier, it’s also made things cheaper. While running a virtual team like WebWorkerDaily’s would still be possible without the cloud, it would probably be a lot more expensive. Instead of using an array of fairly inexpensive cloud-based tools, not only would we have to either buy or develop all the software we need, we’d also have to have the infrastructure on which to run it and hire additional staff just to keep the systems running. Without the cloud, many of the virtual businesses that have sprung up over the past few years wouldn’t exist, because the costs would be too prohibitive. And I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.

Of course, working in the cloud is not without its drawbacks and risks. It requires an Internet connection, and such connectivity is not yet ubiquitous. Data portability is also an issue, because once you start using a particular web app, it can be tricky to move your data to another service. There’s also the question of trusting web app vendors with your data — what happens if the vendor goes bust, corrupts your data somehow, or is hacked? Many of these issues can be mitigated, however — by having appropriate local backup strategies, for example — and some of them are being addressed by web app vendors themselves.

Cloud computing has clearly had a huge impact on my working life over the past few years, but I wanted to get the thoughts of the WWD readership: How has cloud computing changed the way that you work?

By Simon Mackie

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  1. Cloud computing is THE business. I was stuck in the US because of the ash cloud – without Cloud, I would have been royally stuck! Instead though, I was able to carry on with a full week’s work without a single client noticing any difference.

    All my documents were accessible, and I was able to multi-task in exactly the same way as I do in the office. Indeed, it’s made me question whether I actually NEED to be in the office so much!

    As I’m that much more free to work flexibly, it seems I’m set to increase my web working jobs – and, after that, who knows? It’s made people like me far more able to be flexible, and for that, can only be a good thing.

    Richard.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Richard. Like you, thanks to the cloud, I can work wherever I please, as long as I have an Internet connection. It’s very liberating!

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  2. Well, as a matter of fact I have strong feelings when it comes to cloud computing. Especially because I honestly believe that the market might not be ready for it just yet. Besides, I consider it to be slow, when it comes to faster technology. Maybe I am mistaken because I have not tried it, but I am just giving my opinion based on other articles, I’ve read related to cloud computing.

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  3. The biggest advantage I have experienced — by using GoogleDocs — is that my work has become platform independent. I can work in Ubuntu and Windows whenever I feel like. Another benefit is that I no longer fear losing data due to computer crash because all my files reside in the Cloud whether it’s GoogleDocs or DropBox. Of course there’s this benefit of being able to work from any computer :-)

    ~~ Sarah ~~

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    1. I, too, like that feeling that my work is safe. However, my concern is that we might all get a little lax in making backups (I know that I do already) just because we think that our data is safely stored in the cloud.

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      1. Yes, some might think that a single copy of their files in the cloud is safe, but I’m a tad obsessive about backing up.

        My office uses Windows Live Mesh, and I access my work files as a drive icon on my work desktop as though it were on the C: drive. But I also back up the files to the C: drive (as opposed to working off C and backing up to the cloud). That way, at home, the Live Mesh files are the primary files (I don’t access my work machine remotely, just the files in the cloud).

        After some time using SyncToy, I am slowly starting to migrate my non-work files to GoogleDocs. I’m enjoying the cloud idea very much, but you’re right – back up should continue to be consciously considered.

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  4. Email, document/File sharing and many other productivity web based applications were all available on the internet circa 1999. Not sure whats the fuss is about if these apps are now considered part of the “Cloud”.

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  5. To echo some of the others… Google Docs has become my 3rd browser tab behind gmail and google calendar. The collaborative aspects of gdocs has truly transformed the way my team approaches, builds, and completes projects. Our timeline is shorter, and our end result is far more comprehensive due to the real-time collaboration — location/platform/device agnostic.

    Couple that with the web-based sales tools our sales teams are using; the hosted database that our admin team maintains, and the past 12 months have proven to be significantly more productive for our SMB.

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  6. Cloud computing has made collaborating with virtual distributed teams possible. Sometimes the collaborating individuals could be from partner organizations.

    I cannot underestimate the worldwide market reach and ability to seek prospects all over the world. Cloud computing has made connecting with prospects using online conferences so much easier. Conducting worldwide webinars is now feasible even for the smallest of companies.

    Ranjit

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  7. Cloud computing has definitely chnaged the way I work but not in the ways others have prsented here. I work in information security.

    Cloud computing has “unique attributes that require risk assessment in areas such as data integrity, recovery, and privacy, and an evaluation of legal issues in areas such as e-discovery, regulatory compliance, and auditing” – Gartner

    http://www.infoworld.com/d/security-central/gartner-seven-cloud-computing-security-risks-853

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  8. [...] WebWorkerDaily: “When it comes to mobility and collaboration, cloud computing has delivered advances that I [...]

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  9. Great article about working from the clouds.
    I manage a design studio that creates animation for television and film.

    Our main goal to have remote artists working on all stages of production
    over the next 2 years. Work comes together in a “hub” spot for finishing
    and delivery. We will be relying on some key web tools being developed right now including faster connections and CPU power delived via the internet.

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