SaaS, the Cloud, and Distributed Work

SaaS (“Software as a Service” and pronounced “sass”) and Cloud Computing have been all the blog rage lately.  To be honest, rightfully so.  I personally remember when Best Buy and Circuit City (Who?) had racks and racks of software, distributed on CDs or floppies, in paperboard boxes the size of a ream of copy paper.

I also remember how big a deal it was to change cubicles ‘back in the day.’  Transferring all my data and applications from one station to another wasn’t a HUGE deal, but it wasn’t a picnic either.

Today, my local Best Buy has one rack in a back corner and Sony has announced the floppy is dead.  To the best of my knowledge, we’ve never sold VSee on disc.  As for changing computers…well, most of my data is on external drives that I can just connect to the new computer.  I’m seriously considering moving it all to the cloud.

Speaking of the devil, look at the title of this piece by Lance Ulanoff:  “The Floppy is Dead:  Time to Move Memories to the Cloud”.

I ask you, oh reader of a tech startup’s blog:  How many of your software purchases last year provided you with a physical disc containing your program and installer files?  I’m going to guess few or none.

Before I get to the point, let me quickly sum up other nice bits of SaaS.  Companies no longer need to buy and then expend work hours installing software on every computer in the building.  They only need to purchase enough licenses for the maximum number of simultaneous users and install-as-you-go, that is, install on each machine one of those users finds him or herself at.  All other important information is “in the cloud” and will be retrieved at login.

Which segues into the last bit:  Data storage and cloud applications.  Once all data and many apps are “somewhere else”, and you can retrieve and/or use them from anywhere, you have effectively reduced upkeep on infrastructure…and more effectively enabled remote work.  (IaaS.  You guessed it:  “Infrastructure as a Service”)

Which is where I was going with all this.  As many corporate environments transition from completely co-located to hybrid co-located/distributed cultures, we need to remember that, despite the immense benefits created by SaaS, IaaS, and the Cloud, they can also create a feeling of remoteness.  We must remember to take care of the basic desire for human contact, feeling part of a team, and simply being able to talk face-to-face from time to time.  No longer needing to go to Best Buy also means no longer going to Best Buy where there are other people.  No longer needing to go to an office…well, you get the idea.

I will blatantly plug videoconferencing here as a solution, as well as any synchronous communication, occasional travel and reminding your employees to get out of the house from time to time on breaks.  But make sure they take their netbook or smartphone with them…They may need to download that PowerPoint presentation while they’re out.

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