Prior to the pandemic, there were countless articles written about how our world was growing ever more interconnected and global. Indeed, it is that very global nature of our world that has aided in the pandemic’s rapid spread across nearly all continents. At the same time, technology has played an outsized role in helping us remain connected to each other. One piece of technology that has done so is the cloud. I wanted to discuss the cloud a bit and illustrate how it has and will continue to play a big role in helping us all stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues.
Let’s start with what the cloud is. The cloud refers to what are essentially countless servers located all over the world that store lots and lots of information. It is these servers and their links to other servers that enables individuals to access globally the same set of files and applications regardless of where the individuals are located in the world.
Let’s look at a few categories of activities that the cloud has enabled/facilitated:
Entertainment and Social Networking Tools
Services that we rely upon to entertain us like Netflix and Hulu, to socialize or to share ideas and accomplishments like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all cloud-based services. We can access them from any computer anywhere and share news of births, deaths, travel adventures, and other activities with our friends and family no matter where they are in the world.
Work and Collaboration Tools
Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) and Google Docs as well as products like matter management tools and contract management tools also rely on the cloud to provide global access to their users and allow for those same users to work with others at the same time on projects without needing to be in the same physical location. To put this into perspective, consider this anecdote. I was working on a big project on my laptop. I had it saved and was ready to send it off when I spilled vitamin water on my computer, essentially rendering it useless. However, thanks to the cloud, I had the document saved to my Google Drive and was able to access it and send it along without a hitch using a backup computer I had available. Hence, I now save everything to the cloud – for easy accessibility no matter where I am or what devices I have available to me. You also can share links to such documents with others instead of sending an email attachment and/or as mentioned earlier work on such documents with others without much work at all.
The now ubiquitous Zoom and similar tools like Skype, Slack, FaceTime, and Microsoft Teams also use the cloud to allow for each of us to communicate via voice and video with others via a multitude of devices from anywhere on the globe.
Now consider that there have been numerous companies including law firms, service providers, and other companies that have quickly adapted to remote working using cloud-based tools. Also consider that cloud computing is not a new concept and yet many companies are just now realizing the benefits to be gained from making use of the cloud.
You may think that I am now going to question why it has taken these companies so long including many big law firms, to make use of cloud computing or that I am going to say that this pandemic will radically transform how legal services have been provided. Frankly, there’s just not enough data for me to comfortably say that will be the case, so I’ll leave such predictions and futurist thinking to others. What I do want to say is that it is important to recognize how we all have been able to continue operating without much interruption thanks to the cloud. Moreover, if we can work effectively now remotely in the middle of this pandemic then we certainly can continue to do so after.
Ultimately the beauty of the cloud is its inherent connectivity – connecting things, people, and places. No longer is driving or travel necessary, even if right now given the pandemic it seems extremely appealing for the sake of its novelty and escape from our home quarantines. The cloud has facilitated the creation of complex digital infrastructures to support business operations, which in today’s world is critical. In addition, the cloud has enabled flexibility – flexibility in terms of where work can be performed and how it can be performed. Consider the example of telemedicine, which has become a rapidly growing part of the medical industry and an incredibly important one given the pandemic.
The cloud is not going away; just the opposite – it will likely grow in importance to businesses worldwide. It will also more than ever help us remain connected to one another which is something we all need now. Our innate desire to be connected with others is a reminder of our human need for socialization and for being with others. Let’s use the tools we have at hand, including the cloud, to fulfill that need as we each find our way through the fog of uncertainty that envelops us all right now.