It seems almost impossible posting this in 2020 to imagine the world before gmail, Dropbox, Evernote and iCloud. But as recently as 2010 the adoption of Cloud services was seen by most as a risky move. I originally wrote this article in 2014 when I started writing Coworking Inc - at the time I had to spend quite a lot of time explaining what “The Cloud” was to people who worked in corporates and particularly real estate.
At the start of the Global Financial Crisis, in 2007 a little company called Dropbox was founded. Dropbox was based on the idea of having a little box on the internet that allowed you to access your files from anywhere. Dropbox in my opinion was one of the most influential companies of our time; the company humanised cloud computing and made it friendly and accessible to the everyday user. Over the course of just a few years, almost everyone I knew had and was using Dropbox and couldn’t remember what they did before they used it - it was just so convenient
Also in 2007, Google launched the now ubiquitous GSuite - then known as Google Apps Premier Edition - the enterprise version of the consumer apps like gmail. Google Apps offered cloud-hosted email, cloud storage, Google Docs and Spreadsheets (a simplified productivity suite of software that ran in a browser - radical a the time) and cloud-based calendaring. For those of you that don’t remember - Google Apps was a suite of applications that almost entirely did away with the need for corporate servers.
Users could even access their email on their BlackBerry mobile devices. Remember Blackberrys?
Real innovation is resistant to and sometimes catalysed by financial crisis, the technologies that were developed fundamentally changed the ways companies and individuals organised their data and managed their information. Google Apps and Dropbox essentially eliminated the need for a physical server inside most companies and with it limiting concept of Local Area Networks.
Even at the earliest stage of my coworking business in 2012, 98 percent of my customers used cloud software (they were true early adopters), 100 percent used some form of cloud email provider and many used cloud productivity software or file storage. For the new PLRD business owner, the cloud was and is the only option that will move fast enough, offer the option to scale indefinitely (without paying for that option) and offer the mobility and redundancy that outperforms most corporates - all in a cost-efficient, pay-as-you-go package.
In my own businesses, we use cloud email, cloud storage, cloud CRM, cloud accounting, cloud desktop syncing, cloud inventory management, cloud calendaring, a cloud asset management system, cloud archiving and cloud chat systems. The beauty of this system is that it will scale as we scale - faster and in a more linear fashion than anything we could do ourselves onsite.
For PLRD businesses, being able to tap into the processing power and capabilities that previously only large businesses could afford has brought down so many industry barriers. Access to these new capabilities means that large clients suddenly become within reach for. Small teams become more productive and able to punch above their weight. Cloud computing created freelance and virtual work culture.
The cloud represents the normalisation and democratisation of computer systems and technology that used to be prohibitively expensive. (Its The Coworking Method in action in Tech) The result has been not only an amazing boost to small business, but a critical component to the success of coworking.
Coworking wouldn’t exist without the development and normalisation of cloud technologies. These systems have become so ubiquitous now that we almost forget what life was like before smart phones and file-syncing. When you look at the growth of the industry there is an extremely strong correlation between the growth of coworking and the adoption rates for cloud technologies and web-enabled devices like smart phones.
The advancement of cloud technology liberated most traditional businesses from physical, on premise servers. It gave people the flexibility to live and work in a way that they’d never been able to do previously, when reliant on all hard-wired technology.