I’ll admit, when I first read about Google and Sun’s big announcement (a bit late I might add – we were in Madrid at the time) I couldn’t help but think: what would the world be like if I could get at my documents and spreadsheets from anywhere? While in Spain, we used a few different websites to help us get around and we kept in regular contact with the family back here in Minnie via my gmail account. It was only during our second week, when we didn’t have free Internet access in our hotel, that I realized how cutoff we became without that connection. Of course being out of touch isn’t always a bad thing – with the already Shrinking American Vacation, I have to wonder, is it a good thing that someday soon I might be able to get at any document? What demands might an employer make if we really could check those numbers while on a trip? I know, many people take laptops or at least a Crackberry with them but still – what if Word really was accessible anywhere?
Frankly some of this falls into the Web 2.0 meme what with the mashups and all. I hate to disagree with Joel Spolsky‘s piece Architecture Astronauts Are Back but I do think there is something to this Web 2.0 thing. Sure, it’d be nice to have a more concrete definition but Tim O’Reilly has his What is Web 2.0 and recently Paul Graham has gotten in on the action with his Web 2.0 post.
Anyway, something’s happening here, I’m certainly not going to hazard guess as to what, but when you see the tremendous success of 37signals with fantastic tools like Basecamp and Salesforce.com with their CRM solution, you’ve got to wonder what is the future of the massive in-house IT departments many companies employee to keep their systems running? Sure some (heck maybe most) of that work is being outsourced to the accentures of the world but just think of what this idea means to small and medium sized businesses. They now have access to affordable solutions. My family used to own a hardware store – we certainly couldn’t have justified an SAP installation but maybe we could have taken advantage of other options.
With all that in mind, today one of the major issues with this approach became blatantly clear to me. Around lunch time or so, our network went down. No email, no voicemail, no access to our servers, no access to the Internet…nothing. For about an hour or so, we were effectively shutdown. Some meetings were still going on and a lot of people just went to lunch but still, that cost us some money. I don’t know exactly what the problem was, but it involved our Internet provider so I doubt it was an isolated incident. Luckily for us, the problem was fixed quickly but what if it had taken longer? What if all our documents were on a website somewhere?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing against the hosted model – in fact I think it makes a ton of sense for a lot of businesses. However, in the brief time without a connection I realized how helpless we were without it. It’s quite remarkable to think that just a few years ago, many of us thought a 56k modem was out of this world…now our T1 line goes down and we get the shakes.