Years ago, Tonido pioneered the concept of the personal cloud. Their small ARM-based “plug computers” gave users the ability to attach large hard drives or arrays and make their music, movies, documents, and just about anything else available anywhere/anytime on the Web. They were a bit ahead of their time and adoption was strong but not what it would have been had it been introduced today when both consumers and businesses of all sizes are very comfortable with using cloud-based storage and collaboration tools for accessing and sharing files on the Web.
Tonido is still going strong, with a variety of apps, remote desktop access software, a next-generation plug server, and scalable on-premise private cloud tools. It’s joined by the likes of Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, Iomega, Drobo, and many others offering both Web-based and on-premise solutions for consumers and businesses looking to ensure that they only need an Internet connection to get to their “stuff,” whatever that might entail.
Increasingly, there are a number of very significant factors that make the idea of a personal cloud, even if it’s implemented as part of a larger private cloud initiative or public cloud service (like Google Drive):
- Mobile devices: Employees are frequently either assigned or have their own that can access rich content on the go. Smartphones are nearly ubiquitous and tablets aren’t far behind, enabling access to documents, presentations, data, and other business-critical assets, allowing them to work while traveling, at home, in a meeting, or otherwise away from a traditional desktop and cubicle.
- Mobility in general: Workers are on the move. They simply aren’t tied to their offices and cubicles the way they were even a few short year ago and use this for everything from client meetings to more effective staff meetings to telecommuting.
- The global economy: Why come to an office when 80% of the people with whom you work and interact are scattered around the globe? And who can afford a physical office anyway?
- Rising fuel costs and increasing urban congestion: Telecommuting saves money. Period. It saves money for employees, for employers, and, indirectly, for customers. Yet just because someone is remote doesn’t mean they don’t need unfettered access to the aforementioned “stuff”.
We have the technology right now, at remarkably low prices, to make remote work feel nearly indistinguishable from work in an office. When every document you create, share, or might need is available through a personal cloud, why not go remote? Businesses can create private clouds on premise and easily provision personal and collaborative storage for end users. Countless SaaS offerings can do the same without any on-premise investments. And technologies ranging from Tonido’s personal and business offerings to more traditional remote access software can make anywhere look and feel like a work desktop. Entire desktops, Windows applications and all, can even be delivered via the cloud.
The take-home message is that remote workers or telecommuters need no longer feel like second-class citizens. The technology is here to bring their work with them wherever they are in the form of the “personal cloud.” Better yet, cloud technologies are sufficiently flexible to let businesses deploy personal clouds in whatever form best suits their business needs and their users.