Fifteen years ago, the prime way of moving documents from one computer to another, or to share with a friend or colleague, was to save to a floppy disk and physically move the file to the new location. The practice of emailing attachments was just emerging. Today, computers are manufactured with pen drives, and any kind of disk is considered a relic. Email is still a popular method of sharing documents, but the technology world is rapidly moving toward working within the cloud, without the need for any type of physical local storage or even resource heavy servers.
File sharing is just one example of the needs of the remote working trend, which has exploded in the last decade. Mobile working is becoming increasingly common, and workers demand access to all of their usual tools remotely. Software as a service (SaaS) may not be a new concept, afterall web mail exemplifies this very process of all access, however tools now account for a myriad of purposes. From accounting software to word processing, custom servicing to time management, more and more business tools are moving to a cloud based infrastructure.
So how far is the UK willing to let go of traditional IT infrastructure? According to the Guardian, the G-Cloud strategy, one of the coalition government’s initiatives after chancellor George Osbourne’s sharp review of government spending, could lead the cloud trend across the public and private sectors. G-Cloud, a proposal to move the government’s current set-up of on-site systems to secure data centres, is predicted to save the government more than £3 billion of its £16 billion IT budget. The cloud-based plan would support such capabilities as “pooled” data centres, and shared email, tools, and “wikis”. These benefits can be translated to business in the same way, including resource sharing in open source communities, “green” practices, and cost savings.
Understandably the cloud industry is confident of the future of the cloud. Cloud Expo Europe, one of the biggest cloud conferences in Europe, suggests cloud computing is a disruptive technology, in that it is a big enough development to alter current technology use practices for the better. Whilst it has always been difficult to keep IT costs in check, the cloud provides an area of optimisation that does not rely on expensive, on-site equipment, while still meeting internal technology demands. As such, about 50% of organisations are now using a cloud infrastructure in some capacity.
The main technology players have invested in the cloud already, establishing offerings such as Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Dropbox. Users can deposit documents in these sponsored cloud depositories, and get to them from any device and any location with Internet access, as well as give other users access via shared folders. Gone is the need for users to email documents to themselves or others, and dig through overflowing inboxes, label old emails for reference, or save documents to different locations. Cloud depositories also improve version control, cutting down on confusion over which version is the most up to date, if changes are always saved to the designated shared folder.
Cloud computing is one of the biggest buzzwords in technology in recent years, and it is just hitting its peak. Industry experts have been talking of the advent for several years, but organisations have only recently begun to venture beyond their apprehension of the new developments. It is both a revolution in the world of the mobile worker, and another move in the trend toward outsourcing to streamline business costs without compromising quality.