Thursday, April 02, 2020

Let's Hear It for the Cloud

Since March 19th I have worked out of home. I've had virtual meetings, sometimes seven or eight a day, on Zoom, Bluejeans, Google Hangouts, Google Meet, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and Microsoft Teams. I take notes on my iPad using Penultimate which syncs with Evernote. I store my files in Dropbox and collaborate in Google Drive. I communicate by Google Chat, Gmail, Facebook messenger and a dozen other platforms. I continue to tweet and occasionally post in this blog. 

A billion of my closest friends around the world are also working out of home and using the same and similar tools. Yet outside of some pretty minor issues, all of these services continue to work and work well. Little of this would have been possible fifteen years ago. 

As Amazon scaled up their web operations to handle their growing business in the early 2000's they realized they could sell computing services. AWS, Amazon Web Services, started in 2006. Microsoft Azure, Google and others followed. These sites powered smartphones and their apps that push heavy processing to the cloud, small startups who don't need to run their own servers, and companies like Zoom when they need to scale up quickly and scale down like Expedia when they don't need as much use. Amazon and Microsoft makes most of their profit on cloud services. Amazon can't get me toilet paper but they can make sure Blackboard continues to work when all of our classes move online. 

Just for fun I like to occasionally look over the large collection of Amazon Cloud Products. Transcribe an audio recording and translate to Portuguese, not a problem. 

The cloud can't allow all of us to work from home. We have many who still go to work including front-line health care workers putting their lives on the line. Many have lost their jobs. Then of course there are those sick with the virus, many of whom will never recover. We can't forget about the reason we stay indoors.

But every now and then it's good to look back and see how a technology has changed our world in a very short time. If we had this virus in the 90's we'd still be having to go to work, or simply stop teaching and other activities all together.

And how will our universities and other work spaces look like in the future now that we find we can work reasonably well from home and even better technologies develop? Only time will tell.

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