If not pre-empted by a neighbor’s dog, one of the first things I hear each morning is the weather report. This time of year, there’s usually some reference to clouds – partly cloudy, high clouds, low clouds, cloud cover, clouds clearing by mid-morning, clouds arriving in the late afternoon. A world of many clouds indeed.
When it comes to conversations about technology, it’s hard to escape talk of clouds, cloud computing, and cloud this, that, and the other thing. But here’s a question: I’m not an IT person, so why should I care about cloud computing?
How about this? Clouds give you what you need to do collaborate more effectively — when, where, and how you need it. Add in reduced costs, increased profitability, improved efficiency, and support for innovative business models. OK, I’m listening.
There’s a lot of talk about how “the cloud” is changing everything. Maybe my neighbor’s dog is affecting the quality of my sleep, but putting “the” in front of “cloud” makes it sound like some superhero thing I should be able to see, accompanied by a overly dramatic theme song. A single giant ominous thing floating in the sky (hopefully in a good guy way rather than a villainous one), maybe with the occasional lightning bolt. What can I say, I’m a visual person.
Mental imagery aside, cloud computing is in fact changing a lot in the way we collaborate – and in the ways we can work together going forward. Clouds provide new degrees of flexibility in how we can access applications and information. Flexibility, options, choices? Not such a bad deal.
As in any good hero-villain story, it’s important to make sure you’re fully prepared for the episode. A lot of companies throw cloudy words into their marketing mixes to stay on the bandwagon, but not all really deliver on the promise that cloud computing offers.
On the user side, cloud should be simple – invisible really. You have what you need, when and where you need it. You can do what you need to do without having to learn 14 new applications or tricks and worrying about making it work. Behind the scenes there’s a bit more to making that happen, of course. The nice thing is that Cisco has all the pieces of the puzzle: the intelligence of the network and the power of the data center with business applications.
Add in mobile devices and you have at hand what you need nearly anywhere, on any device, at any time with the security, performance, and reliability previously possible only in deskbound deployments. Let me do what I want, when and where I want to? Let me access the same applications and information on different devices? OK, I get it. Cloud good. I care.
Your workplace can be as portable as the devices you carry. Organizations are increasingly deploying people in the locations where they are most effective, which means they need to optimize the productivity and accessibility of these workers. Cue clouds. Cue mobility. Cue collaboration.
So, what would it look like if I had a magical application that ties together mobility and clouds to improve collaboration? I’m so accustomed to using it that I didn’t think about it as a cloud-based application, but cloud it is. It lets me participate in meetings in my cube, from my kitchen table, on my smartphone, or using my Cius. Any time, any place, any device… And the experience and features are consistent across devices.
It’s WebEx Conferencing.
This isn’t one of those special “I get to use the new stuff before you” things. In fact, there are more than 5.5 million registered hosts worldwide, more than 1.4 million downloads of the mobile client, and people use it for more than 1.5 billion meeting minutes each month. (I’m glad I’m not in all of those meetings.)
It’s better than just a phone call – there’s much more to it. Not only can I see the files we’re sharing, but I can see you. If you start nodding off, I know I need to make a right turn at boring and veer back to interesting. There’s a big difference between talking to a herd of disembodied voices on a conference call and being able to match names to faces to voices with WebEx. Does that help me be more productive? Absolutely.
Nearly every meeting I have during the day involves someone connected through WebEx. And there’s that cloud making it happen. As much as the word itself is tossed about, it’s sometimes hard to grasp what cloud is really about. A lot of people are trying to explain it. Search “cloud computing” on Google and everything on the first page is trying to define it.
But there is something to this whole cloud thing, especially when it comes to collaboration. So, even though I’m not an IT person, cloud computing is worth caring about. It makes my job easier. It makes it easier to communicate. It makes it easier to share. Mrs. Blackburn (my kindergarten teacher) would be so proud.