Cloud Computing – keep it simple

With Cloud Computing entering – possibly – its puberty, there is much discussion in the blogs and via Twitter as to its exact definition. Much has been written on the subject and there are some extremely good blogs etc out there dealing with the point.

The problem, to my mind, is that – I suppose by virtue of the nature of the subject – many of them are essentially technical in nature and thus to the average potential cloud user somewhat esoteric.

For the mainstream end user a simple definition is required to make the concept more understandable and thus more acceptable.

I have blogged previously about the Touring Test as coined by John Paterson, which defined a true SaaS (and thus a cloud) product thus:

“Next time you are on holiday, walk into the hotel lobby and log on to your application using whatever machine and browser they have. If you can access all the data and all the functionality in your SaaS application immediately, without having to download any extra software, it’s a true SaaS product.”

At the time the definition was criticised as being an over simplifcation but as time has progressed I feel that it accurately defines Cloud Computing. Web applications such as Google mail, Picassa, and even Twitter – are all applications with everyday appeal and which run in the cloud. Many users probably will not appreciate that these are the Concept made real – yet their popularity serve to enhance the Cloud.

I have just installed a Cloud based operating system –Jolicloud – on to my netbook and as most of the applications that I tend to use are web based, this is Cloud as it is meant to be.

Certainly the complex technicalities are important and will become more so as office IT infrastructures move into the cloud, but for the rest of us – keep it simple.

England ….oh England!

I should state from the outset that my knowledge of sport is less than minimal and… usually…my interest therein is non -existant. When colleagues go into rapture about the latest football match, when to listen to them, one would think that they actually had taken part themselves, sends me to sleep quicker then the strongest valium.

And yet, there is something about the Test match and the Ashes series which grabs my interest and turns me into a nervous wreck…looking at the results every 5 minutes with trepidation and cursing out loud when England bat in a style that would disgrace my grandson’s nursery. But the joy and excitement when they win is something I can’t explain.

The opportunities for taking pride in one’s country are, unfortunately, few and far between. So any success is something to celebrate.

The fact that it is Cricket and the Ashes makes it that much sweeter.

Well done England!

The Cloud – a silver lining?

When I first became involved with Cloud Computing about 9 years ago (I didn’t realise it was called Cloud Computing then let alone SaaS!), Easycounting was one of the only internet accounting models arround.

The major issue then was convincing practitioners that the concept was valid and how it would increase efficiencies and improve client service by working more closely with live data etc. A difficult task which, after all this time, has not really become that much easier.

What is interesting is that there is now a plethora of SaaS providers with a variety of excellent and increasingly sophisticated products. The market has really opened up and the end user is spoilt for choice – if only he realised it.

Whilst this is excellent news for Cloud Computing and a major step to its acceptance as mainstream, it has exacerbated the sales problems for the providers – now, not only do they have to convince the end user of the validity of the concept they also have to prove the superiority of their own product.

A natural result of the increase in popularity perhaps – but double the work!

Cloud Computing – becoming mainstream?

A four page spread on Cloud Computing in last week’s Sunday Times magazine was an interesting event. The fact that a major piece of coverage was given to the concept was interesting in itself, but has Cloud Computing become sufficiently mainstream that a major newspaper is writing about it? Or is this the start of a process that will see more major coverage and thus more major take up as the bandwagon gains momentum (forgive any mixed metaphors which may have crept in there!)

Apart from pointing out the major advantages of working in the cloud, the article – to be fairly balanced, I am sure – also points out the perceived negatives; the principal one of which being the danger of the service provider going down and thus the enduser loosing data etc.

This is, of course, a valid point and one which is highlighted by the principal critics of cloud computing. The answer, in my view, is very straight forward – apart from the obvious that anyone embarking on a SaaS route needs to thouroughly research the market place and be satisfied with the credentials of the provider.

No – the answer to which I am referring is  comparing the position with the alternative. Take a typical SME that has half a dozen PC’s in the office – a server of sorts and possibly someone in the office with the grand title of IT manager whose main role is turning things on and off and ensuring that backups are taken every evening before the office shuts.

A familiar scenario, I am sure. How many times does it happen that either the backup doesnt work or – more seriously – noone notices that it hasn’t worked. It is sods law that the next time the server goes down it will be just after a failed backup (..that after all is one of the first rules of computing – disaster strikes when you are least prepared for it).

Doesn’t happen very often I hear you say – I bet it does. But the point is that the chances of that scenario becoming reality are a lot stronger than a wellfunded and organised Cloud provider going down with the loss of all data.

I appreciate that the above is an over simplication – but the point is that when critics point out possible negatives of Cloud Computing they should also compare with the alternatives.

ITV – not keeping up with the times

The news that ITV has sufferred from a loss in advertising revenues is not really surpriisng. Obviously, the current recession will have been a major factor but so would the change in in peoples viewing habits.

With an increase in the use of systems such as Sky +, viewers can now choose what to watch and when – and more importantly, skip through the numerous and somewhat annoying advert breaks. I am an unashamedly ardent tv viewer and I would estimate that 85% of my viewing is now at my time specification from programmes I have recordedon Sky+.

ITV and other commercial broadcasters need to change their financial model as “shift” viewing increases in popularity. I am not suggesting what that model should be – cleverer minds than mind need to address that – but change they must.

Online viewing will increase in popularity – viewers  have been enfranchised and can now decide what to watch and when to watch it – and TV providers need to adapt to survive.

Technology – then and now.

Looking back at over 30+years in the profession, it is fascinating to see how the technology has evolved over that time.

I remember when I was under articles (as it was quaintly called) that we weren’t allowed to use the one armed bandit type adding machines until we had passed our intermediate exams (no one seemed to be too concerned about costings and efficiancies in those days!). Whilst it might take longer to add up a column of figures – at least we learned how to add up a column of figures!.

I was on audit when I came accross, at a client, my first electronic calculator – big thing it was, about the size of DAB radio – and my colleagues and I spent many a happy hour seeing how it divided and multiplied (time budgets – what were those?).

It was in 1982 that I introduced our first computer to my fathers practice. This was after much heated discussion on why we should actually need one of these contraptions – I honestly can’t recall what my justification was at the time – and the result was my father saying that I could get one but he wanted nothing to do with it.

It was an Olivetti 3030 – the size of a desk and with a floppy disk as big as a dinner plate – but it did the job and we were soon producing our first sets of accounts – avoiding the need for accounts typists and all the other, now antiquated processes involved in compiling a set of accounts.

Our first PC’s had a massive capacity of 20 megabytes and very happily operated on Microsoft DOS (which is a shortened acronym for “Quick and Dirty Operating System”) and we used Word Perfect for our word processing and Lotus 123 for spreadsheets.

I remember the discussions at the time about the move to Windows and what that would involve. I had someone working for me who dealt with our Payrolls and administration and who had been a comptometer operator. Her keyboard speeds were so quick that the Windows operating system couldn’t keep up with her and there were many occasions that the system crashed as a result.

And from then on the growth has been exponential. The technology that we take for granted today would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. The extraordinary (and in some respects slightly frighteneing) growth in Internet use has changed the face of accounting beyond belief.

I suppose the arguments about cloud computing are not disismilar with the discussions I had with my now late Father when I first suggested getting a computer. I knew it would be more efficient but how do you prove that to someone who couldnt grasp the concept in the first place.

I wonder what the next 30 years will bring?