I don’t talk very much about “cloud computing“, because the idea is too broad to discuss intelligently in the 500 or so words I like to keep posts to here at Answer Guy Central.
I may have to change that.
I’ve recently become enamored of Ubuntu Linux. I’ve installed it on my Acer Aspire Netbook, and I run it all the time—except when I need access to the VoIP, Windows-only application for my business phone line. I’ve also installed it on my son Gary Yablon‘s five-year-old Dell laptop computer, which made it faster than it ever was running Windows. And—bonus—Ubuntu boots and shuts down in seconds, not minutes
I use that Acer netbook almost entirely in the cloud. I haven’t installed any software on it, because Ubuntu Linux comes with everything you need already built in.
Everything, that is, except Dropbox (my preferred access-my-files-from-anywhere method) and Evernote, the tool I use to keep notes of semi-random things—again, accessible automatically from anywhere. You can see Evernote available both on my Ubuntu Desktop and in the sidebar, and Dropbox at the top of the screen with its menu dropped down.
But note that while I’ve installed those programs on my Netbook under Ubuntu, their purpose is to make that computer part of my cloud-computing-based collective presence—and not to make my computer an island.
Ubuntu comes with a suite of Microsoft Office-like software. It comes with the Firefox web browser. It comes with software that lets me access my Microsoft Exchange-based installation of Outlook. And all of them get updated to the latest versions as they’re released either automatically or semi-automatically.
It’s about as close to zero-maintenance as it can be. And never mind that both Ubuntu and all the software I run under Ubuntu are free.
While I am making a specific point about Ubuntu, and telling you that it’s a pretty good way to enact real computer/business change in your organization, my point wasn’t to praise Ubuntu so much as to say: you need to keep your software up to date.
And now Google’s upped the ante on that statement.
Google has announced that they will no longer support “old” browsers Firefox 3.5, Internet Explorer 7, or Safari 3. Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari basically make up the entire desktop browser universe, and the versions that have been written off by Google aren’t very old. In fact, Firefox 3.5 was the current version of Firefox less than a year ago.
Assuming this represents a trend—or even if it doesn’t, then so long as you wish to use Google Apps or let’s assume ultimately anything by Google—in practical terms, this means that you almost have no choice but to get in the cloud up to your waist; a toe in these waters isn’t good enough.
Of course, your other choice would be to keep all the software you use up to date, yourself. And while geeks do that, real people don’t. Most of us don’t even handle our anti-virus issues correctly.
So take this cloud computing thing seriously; it’s where you’re headed, and the real questions are when and how. “If” isn’t part of this conversation.
It’s a pretty good lesson for Fox Television, and for anyone with a business change and computing problem, don’t you think?