Saturday, May 14, 2011

Clouding Around

In my short avocational writing career, I began handwriting a page each day.  It was more or less five hundred words.  It all began on June 25, 2002.  I dutifully wrote page after page, in several notebooks.  Others would call it keeping a journal but I prefer to call it my daily writing.  In the beginning, I thought I was writing a novel 500 words a day.  That didn’t quite work out.  While the novel did not work out, the exercise of writing everyday was therapeutic, improved my analytic skills (or so I think), and definitely improved my writing.

In February 2004, I began writing and sending out a monthly letter, This Side of Fifty.  I have been doing that every month since.  I first hand wrote and then typed theses letters.  After another of two years, I began typing my monthly letters directly into my PC.  It was much easier.  

Two years ago, as I began writing for our business blog, I began to write more and more directly into my PC for those postings as well.  I was at about at 70% handwritten pages and 30% directly typed in.   Last year, I was a bit tired of my daily writing with no purpose.  Most of the postings were drivel.  I committed to improve the quality of my daily writing.  I had already begun posting my month;y writing on a blog.  It eventually dawned on me to begin posting more often on my personal blog.  

For my monthly letter, personal and work blog postings, I have been typing directly directly in Microsoft Word and saving the files on my hard disk.  I missed the handwriting and the pens, but it was much more efficient and effective.  The typing and handwriting flip-flopped and became 70% typing and 30% handwriting.    I worried about backing up my hard drive but what can I say?  I like a little risk.

With clients and teaching, I find myself using many different PCs.  I used one at my primary client, several others at the colleges I teach at, and my personal computer at home.  It was not easy to work on things at all these different venues.  I used thumb drives and I emailed the files to myself.  

Then I learned about Google Documents.  Google Documents is a virtual file storage and retrieve system.  Google saves my documents on their servers.  I can retrieve and edit these files from any PC anywhere that has internet access.  They call this operating in the cloud.  I guess it is because your files follow you around like a cloud over your head.  Google Docs even has a suite of software that is like Microsoft Office Lite.   So, it is not even necessary to have the suite of products that cost me hundreds of dollars to buy and then to upgrade.  The suite on Google Docs is free and they are constantly upgrading it and the upgrades are instantly available to everyone for free. I am typing this on Google Docs using their word processor.

This is all good as long as I have connection to the internet and as long as the good folks at Goolge maintain their servers and software so that my files are reliably available to me.

Sometimes Google Docs is slow.  I type and nothing happens for a second or two and then they letters appear like they are typing themselves.  Earlier this week, I saved a document but could not see it in the directly.  That was odd.  I was a bit miffed.  It showed up a few hours later.  As long as these issues are rare events, I can live with them.  If these kinds of issues become more prevelant.  I may have to consider a return to the non-cloud past.

I use Blogger for my three personal blogs.  It has been  relatively easy to use and is almost WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) in the editing mode.  Actually, for my finished bloggable pieces, Blogger and Google Docs back-up each other for me.  That is cool.  

This week Blogger had the first issue I have ever experienced the website.  I could view my blogs but I could not post or edit for the better part of two days.  It made me feel susceptible to the systems maintenance of others.  I am getting both Blogger and Google Docs for free.  They are both Google products, I have a bulk of my recent writing on these systems and I realized that I am dependent on others to keep my files intact, safe, and available to me.

Earlier today Blogger posted the following on twitter:

We're making progress restoring comments, some blogs with a lot of content are taking a little more time. Thanks for bearing with us.

It is funny because I have admitted that when everything was only the hard drive of my laptop, I never backed it up.  If anything happened, I could lose all my files.  But, as long as I was the one NOT backing-up it seemed OK.  I was responsible for my own maintenance and if I didn’t do anything I was somehow more comfortable than if I were relying on that people that run and maintain Google Docs and Blogger.  That is crazy.

Another dichotomy is that our consulting company, Cadent Resources Inc., is built around a cloud based demand planning and inventory management software that our founder Ara Surenian has developed.  Reliable availability of the our DemandCaster software and back-up of their data is a critical requirement of ours and certainly our clients.  We sell a cloud based solution and yet that I feel is a sound reliable product, yet I am leery about losing a few blog files.  It is pretty funny.

While I am leery, I really do embrace the cloud.  I used Google Docs all the time.  it is just to convenient and easy.  I will used it with greater frequency.  I am sure it will lead to more and more blog postings.

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