Living and Working in "the Cloud"

How Digital Services are Reshaping Our Lives

June 2, 2011

Digital services are seductive and addictive. Cloud computing is becoming commonplace. Whether you’re consuming digital content on your mobile phone, doing business using email on your Blackberry, watching a movie on your iPad, or using Google search—you’re using digital services in the cloud. Don’t be seduced into thinking that your information is secure or private. Don’t neglect to back up and keep local copies of the things you care most about. Do appreciate the belt and suspenders world we now live in. The chances are pretty good that if your computer or your phone breaks or gets lost, you already have most of what you need to recover in the cloud somewhere! Here are some things to think about as you use more and more digital services in your consumer and business roles.


Many of us now use dozens, if not hundreds, of digital services for both work and leisure. These online services bring us information, entertainment, and applications. Most are delivered via the Internet, although many of the applications actually run on our various devices (computers, phones, pads, GPSs, cars), getting updates via communications—Internet, telecoms, and/or satellite. Some of these digital services are hosted in the "Cloud" (as in cloud computing or cloud storage). Others are provided via Software as a Service (SaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). We now consume many digital services as "apps" on our handheld devices. Whatever the acronym du jour, we've become so addicted to the ubiquity and availability of these digital services, that we become really uncomfortable when we don't have access to them.

There's a downside to relying on digital services. We're becoming dangerously dependent on them! Like any potential addiction, it's a good idea to unplug occasionally, just to prove that you can. It's also important to recognize the extent to which you may be depending on digital assets that might suddenly evaporate. Will you be able to reconstruct your life? What basic skills are your kids missing because they learned how to do so much with digital aids? Are you so dependent on your digital tools that you can't really function well without them?


We Use Digital Services So Much, We Don't Realize Our Predicament

Most of us know the boiling frog metaphor: the myth goes that if you put a frog into a pot of warm water and raise the heat slowly to boiling, the frog won't jump out. It will be boiled alive. I've never tried to boil a frog, but I have tried it with lobsters, and I can assure you they'll try to escape! I can't believe that a frog wouldn't also try to escape a pot of water that got too hot for comfort.

Boiling in the Soup of Digital Services

Boiling in the Soup of Digital Services
(Click on image to enlarge.)

Credit for original Boiling Frog graphic:; Logos Added

1. We are so surrounded by the digital services we use everyday, that, like the boiling frog, we don't realize the danger we're in. We're becoming addicted to and dependent on our digital services!


Nevertheless, lately I've been feeling like that proverbial frog, basking in a comfortable soup of online digital services that only occasionally malfunction. I have realized that my business and my personal life are both so intertwined with online digital services that I would have a really hard time living without them. Like most of you, I use an amazing number of digital services in my daily life. Here are just the few of them that are top of mind at the moment:

1. Gmail (Google's email service) for personal and business email – it's also where I can find most of my work-in-process, since the chance is pretty good that I emailed a draft of whatever I'm working on to a colleague. In fact, I can reconstruct most of my personal and work life by searching my Gmail account (when I can't remember something or I've mislaid a file).

2. Google Search (sometimes others, like Bing for image searching) – used so often throughout the day I've lost track!

3. GPS Systems – I use both TomTom and Garmin, depending on which car I'm in, along with Google Maps printouts as my belt and suspenders.

4. Basecamp (which is based on Amazon's S3 "storage in the cloud") – This is where I store and archive all the shared documents for all the projects I'm working on.

5. Amazon's S3 storage – which we use for company files, like back ups of our research reports and our books, that aren't project-related.

6.'s address book – I've probably sent a gift to almost everyone in my circle of family and friends at one time or another. When I lost my mobile phone and its contact list (which I hadn't backed up online), I was able to reconstruct most of my contacts from my address book. I found it fascinating to realize that I keep most of my personal contact information up-to-date as a byproduct of sending small gifts to people in my life.

7. DropBox – an online file back-up service that "automagically" backs up files from my computer every time I'm online.

8. Apple's TimeMachine service – a digital service from Apple that automatically backs up my files onto a local Passport hard drive....

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