Back up in the stratosphere

Stop! Does that document you’re working on actually exist? Techy reasoning goes… if a digital document doesn’t exist in three places, it doesn’t exist at all. Enter ‘the Cloud’. If you haven’t heard of the Cloud, where have you been? What I’m about to describe is cloud computing – the use of computing hardware and software resources delivered as a service usually over the Internet.

So, this is how I make my data exist in three places:

I use the free version of Google Apps. I have a Google Drive folder on my hard drive. I save everything I need to it. It gets instantly synchronised with my Google Drive folder on the web. It also gets backed up with my Seagate wireless external hard drive. Three places: my hard drive, Google Drive in the cloud and on my external hard drive. It exists. If in a disaster I lose one I still have two copies to recover from.

Cloud computing also happens to be the best way for me to manage my emails and calendar, folders and document sharing. This isn’t an ad for Google – I’d be happy for someone to show me another system that works as well it’s just… it’s free (ads aside) and works well.

Computing wasn’t always thus. Before the cloud I used to be forever losing documents. It doesn’t surprise me that people and businesses I know still lose data due to shoddy practices. Yes, losing data.

In fact, backup and the online office as Cloud services are now so necessary that my friend, Andrew Davis, has turned the Cloud into a business – Boxless. Boxless helps organisations work more effectively with web-based software and then Andrew trains staff how to use it… properly. I recently spoke to Andrew about the Cloud.

Even though the past 10-15 years has made it dramatically easier for organisations to improve productivity with the aid of technology, we don’t know quite how to take advantage of the changes. The best way Andrew’s found to explain it is in metaphor:

Buying software is now like buying electricity. It can be purchased cost effectively as a service on a pay-as-you-go basis. Back in the 1990s, organisations didn’t have this option. IT projects involved high upfront capital investment in hardware and software. It was sort of the IT equivalent of installing a diesel generator in your office. It seems to me that many IT consultants are still stuck in the 1990s. They’re supplying generators to their clients, when they should really be connecting them to the electricity grid.

Andrew works directly with his customers to provide the benefits of Cloud computing.


Even with the technological advances we’ve made, people are still people.

On his projects Andrew says, “it all comes down to trust… engagements tend to progress well when I’m working with a business owner (or decision maker) who is good at thinking conceptually.”

For me, I managed to solve my own productivity and disaster recovery problems in the Cloud. As Andrew states, “business owners are often pretty clear on the problem, but unsure of how best to solve them. If I’m able to earn their trust, then we’re often able to get staff working ‘smarter’ quite quickly.”

Social media organisation

Andrew is also an expert on social media in organisations so I couldn’t resist asking him about that, too, as it is related to the future world of rapidly changing communication technology.

What are his thoughts on social media in the organisation? “My experience (with Yammer) is that it can dramatically flatten the organisational hierarchy. It can facilitate good discussion, and enable people to find answers to questions far more quickly than via other media. However,” Andrew goes on, “for it to work well, it still needs strong support from an organisation’s leadership. They really do need to ‘walk the walk’.”

Be mindful

Andrew plans to work more with his clients on the mindsets and behaviours their staff need to develop if they are to be able to work effectively in the new communications world. Like me, Andrew is interested in the theory and practice of ‘mindfulness‘. In an increasingly busy world we recognise that, as workers – especially ‘knowledge’ workers, we need sometimes to observe life from the stratosphere.

I started off with data and now I’m back to people. Funny that. We can’t get away from the fact that people will always be the purpose of technology – even if we forget sometimes.

Man watching kites