- Author: Karl Krist
I'm doing it.
I'm moving my entire worklife to 'The Cloud'. It's a leap of faith that I'm taking in the same way that I take most leaps: headfirst with my eyes closed.
So last Wednesday I started a grand experiment: I formatted my entire computer, without copying anything.
I didn't have ANY backup.
But, I did not lose a single file.
About 4 months ago I put my MyDocuments folder up on Microsoft's SkyDrive service. All of my files live there now. (Instructions if you want to try this.) When I installed the new operating system, all I had to do was re-connect my SkyDrive, and all of my files were instantly available to me. Easiest computer upgrade I have ever done.
As my 'first review' of the updated service I will say this: SkyDrive is nice. I can connect to my files from ANYWHERE. I can be out in the real world- at a CE office, on campus, in the car (not driving of course) or on my patio and I can open any of the files I typically work with.
Just a few weeks ago I was at the Sonoma CE office and Stephanie Larson made a request related to a project I was working on. I was able to update the pertinent file on my phone as she talked to me. That file was also shared out to someone else on my team. They were able to take action and get things done before I even arrived back in the office.
SkyDrive also includes Microsoft Office programs online.
You can be at Grandma's computer and access all of your work files even if she doesn't have Office installed. (Now if only you could get rid of that purple dinosaur cursor... ) Skydrive has a web version of most Office applications included. The online versions of these programs are good...not perfect, but definitely serviceable. And they are going to get a whole lot better soon. In 3 weeks, I hope to be using the online version of Office as a replacement for my desktop applications. I'll provide updates on that experience.
With the cloud, I can access my files from my phone.
I recently switched from an iPhone, to a Windows Phone. Call me kooky, or call me a Microsoftie, but I think the Windows Phone is a big step up from the iPhone, especially for work. For one thing, Windows Phone runs Office. In my job, I use Office all the time and having it on my phone is great. On the personal side, the integration with Facebook and other services is fantastic. (With that said, I would not recommend you buy a Windows Phone today. The next version of Windows Phones will be out in the Fall and the current crop of phones is incompatible with the new OS. I will try to give you a full rundown when I am able to get the new version. But if you can avoid the siren song of the the iPhone 5, you may find that there are better alternatives available.)
This is my new phone- I really do like it a lot.
Backup. Who needs backup?
With all of my files on SkyDrive, I don't need to worry about backup at all. Frankly, I trust Microsoft's ability to back these files up much more than I trust ANR's ability to do it...and I'm in charge of ANR's data backup. Using SkyDrive also keeps a copy of the file on your computer. If the Internet goes down, all is not lost. Explaining the whole thing would take a few paragraphs but I can summarize it in two words: it works.
SkyDrive by itself is really nice, but it is only one small piece of my experiment - I need to go much further.
Windows 8 and Office 2013 will be launching this Winter- I've already installed the preview copies of both of them on my compuer. I'm the technical guinea pig for the Division, and testing new software is part of that job. Both Windows 8 and Office 2013 rely heavily upon the cloud. Both of them will tie into storage systems that are NOT on your computer by default. Tying these with SkyDrive is really the way to go- and like I said earlier, it really works.
But wait- it goes a whole lot further:
I am hoping to move to Office 365.
Office 365 is a service provided by Microsoft, and an extension to the Office products you are familiar with now. It adds some new features you may be interested in:
- 25GB or UNLIMITED mailbox sizes. Currently our default Exchange mailboxes are 500MB in size. This means you will have 50 times as much storage as you have now.
- Web-based versions of all Office programs. Many of you have used Outlook Web Access (OWA) (UCD Link) which is a fairly serviceable version of Outlook available via your web browser. They've got a version of Word, PowerPoint and other Office programs available. These are pretty darn good. Not as good as the 'real' versions of the programs, but I think they are a heck of a lot better than the Google Docs offerings. As I mentioned above, I will be moving to these 100% to assess the usefulness of the service. In addition, you will have access to the desktop versions- but it is the web version that is new and exciting.
- Shared storage. Not only will you have your own private cloud storage (probably 25 gigabytes) but you will also get a place to SHARE your files with colleagues. No more uploading/downloading of files, or sending them via email. You'll have a giant shared drive available from anywhere. It will be up to you to determine who can access the files, and who cannot.
The cloud is working. My own experiment has shown me that my files are available from anywhere. I can rely on the service, and I don't need to think about backup. After a thorough test of Office 2013 (Which so far is good, but nothing thrilling) I will delete the Office Suite and move entirely to the cloud.
It is my goal to be able to find a computer anywhere, and have the same experience I have at my own desktop. The current technology is getting very close to making this a reality.
How will YOU benefit from all of this?
My goal is to remove the necessity of people sitting in the same chair for 8 hours a day 5 days a week. I want all of us to be able to move around and still be effective. If that means I can sit on my patio at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon and get my job done, that is a good thing.
Being tied to your computer is an artifact of the way our work lives have been arranged for the last few decades. 10 years ago the promise of telecommuting was exciting- and a huge disappointment. We're moving into an era where the technologies will make your physical location less and less important, while making your work more visible to everyone.
This experiment falls into the same category as two other projects I'm working on: Videoconferencing2 (not to be confused with our previous videoconferencing project, because the first round of videoconferencing was on par with the first round of telecommuting- just not that good) and what I call 'Scan and Store'- which is a matter of digitizing every piece of paper in the Division.
The common theme is that you will have access to the information or people you need from wherever you are. Making us truly mobile workers.
Being a mobile worker isn't too bad really- especially from my patio at 4:00 on Friday.
Patio work time...