My Personal Journey To The Cloud: From Angry Birds to Business Critical Applications

Thinking back on it, I can very specifically remember when I started to really care about “The Cloud” and how drastically it has changed my current way of thinking about any services that are provided to me. Personally, the moment of clarity on cloud came shortly after I got both my iPhone and iPad and was becoming engrossed in the plethora of applications available to me. Everything from file sharing and trip planning to Angry Birds and Words with Friends … I was overwhelmed with the amount of things I could accomplish from my new mobile devices and how less dependent I was becoming on my physical location, or the specific device I was using, but completely dependent on the applications that I used on a day-to-day basis. Now I don’t care if I’m on my iPad at the beach or at home on my computer as long as I can access applications like TripIt or Dropbox because I know my information will be there regardless of my location.

As I became more used to this concept, I quickly became an application snob and wouldn’t consider any application that wouldn’t allow me cross-platform access to use from many (or all) of my devices. What good is storing my information in an application on my iPhone if I can’t access it from my iPad or home computer? As this concept was ingrained, I became intolerant of any applications that wouldn’t sync without my manual interaction. If I had to sync via a cable or a third party service, it was too inconvenient and would render the application useless to me in most cases. I needed applications that would make all connectivity and access magically happen behind the scenes, while providing me with the most seamless and simplistic user interface possible. Without even knowing it, I had become addicted to the cloud.

Cloud takes the emphasis away from infrastructure and puts it back where it should be: on the application. Do I, as a consumer, have anything to benefit from creating a grand infrastructure at home where my PC, iPhone, iPad, Android phone, and Mac can talk to one another? I could certainly develop some sort of complex scheme with a network of sync cables and custom-written software to interface between all of these different devices …

But how would I manage it? How would I maintain it as the devices and applications change? How would I ensure redundancy in all of the pieces so that a hardware or software failure wouldn’t take down the infrastructure that would become critical to my day-to-day activities? And how would I fund this venture?

I don’t want to worry about all of those things. I want a service … or a utility. I want something I can turn on and off and pay for only when I use it. I want someone else to maintain it for me and provide me SLAs so I don’t have to worry about the logistics on the backend. Very quickly I became a paying customer of Hulu, Netflix, Evernote, Dropbox, TripIt, LinkedIn, and a variety of other service providers. They provide me with the applications I require to solve the needs I have on a day-to-day basis. The beautiful part is that I don’t ever have to worry about anything but the application and the information that I put into it. Everything else is taken care of for me as part of a monthly or annual fee. I’m now free to access my data from anywhere, anytime, from any device and focus on what really matters to me.

If you think about it, this concept isn’t at all foreign to the business world. How many businesses out there really make their money from creating a sophisticated backend infrastructure and mechanisms for accessing that infrastructure? Sure, there are high-frequency trading firms and service providers that actually do make their money based on this. But the majority of businesses today run complex and expensive infrastructures simply because that is what their predecessors have handed down to them and they have no choice but to maintain it.

Why not shift that mindset and start considering a service or utility-based model? Why spend millions of dollars building a new state-of-the-art Data Center when they already exist all over the World and you can leverage them for an annual fee? Why not spend your time developing your applications and intellectual property which are more likely to be the secret to your company’s success and profitability and let someone else deal with the logistics of the backend?

This is what the cloud means to business right now. Is it perfect for everyone? Not even close. And unfortunately the industry is full of misleading cloud references because it is the biggest buzzword since “virtualization” and everyone wants to ride the wave. Providing a cloud for businesses is a very complex concept and requires a tremendous amount of strategy, vision, and security to be successful. If I’m TripIt and I lose your travel information while you’re leveraging my free service, do you really have a right to complain? If you’re an insurance company and your pay me thousands of dollars per month to securely house your customer records and I lose some of them, that’s a whole different ballgame. And unfortunately there have been far too many instances of downtime, lost data, and leaked personal information that the cloud seems to be moving from a white fluffy cloud surrounded by sunshine to an ominous gray cloud that brings bad weather and destruction.

The focus of my next few blogs will be on the realities of the cloud concept and how to sort through the myth and get to reality. There is a lot of good and bad out there and I want to highlight both so that you can make more informed decisions on where to use the cloud concept both personally and professionally to help you achieve more with less…because that’s what the whole concept is about. Do more by spending less money, with less effort, and less time.

I will be speaking on this topic at an exclusive breakfast seminar this month … to reserve your space please contact Shannon Nelson: snelson@idstorage.com .

Picture Credit: Shannon Nelson