You are probably using “the cloud” every day, from pictures on your phone to documents on your PC.
You may already know that at its most basic level, cloud computing is essentially storing, accessing, and interacting with data and applications over the internet instead of locally, like on a hard drive. And, if you are in a technical profession, you’re likely to know a whole lot more about the cloud, what it’s good for, how it’s built and deployed, and what it’s made up of.
But, what about the rest of us? Why should non-technical folks care about the cloud?
Long hailed as a greener alternative to traditional server rooms and data centers, the cat is out of the bag when it comes to cloud. Technical or not, most of us understand there is some kind of physical infrastructure tied to the services we consume—in the cloud era, that means this infrastructure is a data center, either operated by the direct service provider, or by third parties. In other words, even your grandparents probably recognize that the cloud isn’t really a nebulous, free floating deliverer of photos and documents.
No matter who is in charge of the actual servers, your phone, your internet habits, and your smart fridge are sucking up a lot of power. Greenpeace’s annual Click Clean Report, for example, puts IT sector electricity consumption at 7% of the global energy footprint. Industry watchers will have already seen this stat, which is creeping ever upwards, but the real question is what to do about it.
For individuals, trending towards greener services is a start (watching YouTube instead of Hulu means the electricity power the service is comprised of 56% of renewables instead of only 20%, for example), but it’s not enough.
At work, ask your IT department what they are actively doing to mitigate energy consumption. If they’ve outsourced, ask if they’ve seen the provider’s sustainability report. At home, evaluate if you’re using too much data on your mobile device (and remember, when it comes to overall energy usage, data is data, whether you are connected to wifi or not), and consider metering your connection on your PC.
Back when B2B SaaS applications were much newer, marketing departments would get sales messages like “Build landing pages without help from IT!” from one of the many landing-page services that abounded in those early days. And we just kind of wondered… Was building landing pages something other people’s IT departments really helped with? Then, we slapped down our credit card number for an app subscription.
Now that we’ve shifted to a much more self-service model, where in fact, as my coworker wrote, shadow IT is not the enemy, but rather the buyer, IT departments are focused on bigger-picture challenges like application integration, automation, advanced network security, and strategic modernization initiatives (especially in legacy orgs).
Your IT department does not have time to build a storage solution that works exactly how your department wants it. Your IT department does not have time to figure out why your Outlook notifications are not showing up after you upgraded to iOS 10. Your IT department has an ingrained bias towards large attachments and ZIP files and I promise they are not going to change this for you—just be grateful they allow HTML email and move on. Your IT department is not going to prioritize your last-minute request to get a new login for the web-conferencing tool. And marketers, IT is definitely not going to be building you a landing page any time soon.
Luckily, there are free or very cheap cloud services that will help you out with each one of the challenges above.
Being indifferent towards the cloud and how it works leaves you open for privacy violations and information exposure. Internet privacy can be tricky and complicated at best, and navigating the basics even on popular apps like Facebook can be a challenge.
The advice that has been around forever like creating strong passwords and limiting the personal information you make available is more relevant today than ever, but ultimately, all of us have to wrap our heads around the way the cloud actually works.
Yes, your phones is listening to you, and Google, Microsoft, and Apple are logging your searches and your location and collecting many other data points, and they are using cloud technology to do this. If you are connected to the internet, your information is discoverable, period. That doesn’t mean freak out. It means be aware.
Ultimately, each one of us has to decide how comfortable we are with information collection, and act accordingly. You might simply want to turn off your location settings, or have a friend set up a firewall. Or you might decide to go back to your flip-phone and only get online for occasional, specific tasks while using a VPN.
Whatever your approach, understanding how cloud technology touches nearly all of us can help you on your cloud journey, even if you are not a techie.
Posted by: Vice President of Marketing Wendy Fox