Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Editor's Note: Living in the clouds

Here's my editor's note from the May 7 issue of Capital Business, the Washington Post's local business weekly:

By Dan Beyers

I had a moment of panic last week when my Google Docs account suddenly became part of something called Google Drive.

Google Drive, I gather, is supposed to be the new brand name for the online giant’s file cabinet in the cloud, its answer to Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s SkyDrive and independent services such as Dropbox.

I was eager to give it a try. Except when I fired up my account the files I use nearly every day were no longer where I left them. That sent me scurrying through strange menus, praying I had not lost my valuable intellectual property.

I eventually located my errant spreadsheets but the brief helplessness I experienced reminded me of those bad old days when my first hard drive crashed, taking with it many precious bits and bytes.

Will I never learn?!

Few things are more unsettling to me than to have something go missing. In my household, I’m the person everyone calls to find that which is lost. I have a knack for discovery, though truth be told, my secret is that I’m a creature of habit and routine. When something disappears it is inevitably because someone has deviated from the norm.

The thing I’m learning about the online world is that the pattern never stays fixed. One day my files might be in alphabetical order, the next they show up chronologically, or not at all.

And it is not just Google. Facebook and countless other sites can’t seem to stop tinkering with their interfaces, often without much warning to their users.

The stakes are even larger if your business is somehow tied to your interaction with those digital entities. It’s easy to find your enterprise untethered when an update is pushed through, necessitating an urgent call to the IT department: Who broke the Internet?

Some company is going to make a lot of money solving this pain point in the new world of cloud computing.
But until it does, I’m backing up my stuff.

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