Linux

Cloud-ready? 74% of IT pros work from three or more computers

A new TechRepublic poll suggests that IT professionals are among the users who could most benefit from the cloud.

IT workers are often some of cloud computing's biggest detractors, mostly because of their skepticism of the security and privacy implications of the cloud. A new TechRepublic poll suggests that IT professionals themselves could be among the users who could most benefit from the cloud.

In a poll taken during the first week of September, 74% of TechRepublic respondents said that they regularly work from three or more computers in a typical week (see chart below). Only six percent said that they only work from a single computer. In the instructions to the poll, TechRepublic members were asked to count only the computers that they work from and not other people's computers that they help troubleshoot.

Here is a selection of some of the comments from TechRepublic members on how and why they use multiple PCs:

  • "I have 6 different systems running here at the moment and most are running virtual systems on top of that at the same time. " (HAL 9000)
  • "I have several test systems, 2 main systems and 2 Linux boxes, and a under the desk server (desktop system) to get me through work. At home, I have 1 desktop (well 3 but I rarely use the others these days, and 2 older notebooks, that I rarely use because of my work notebook." (The Scummy One)
  • "As a developer, I have a laptop for working from home and on the road, a desktop for development, a testing PC with many virtuals, and a few production PCs that run services and a few legacy apps." (nfrost)
  • "I have a Windows and a Linux desktop at work for my daily sysadmin stuff. Home has a Linux desktop, a 17" Windows luggable, and a 9" netbook." (geromyh)
  • "I prefer to avoid the hassles of virtualization and dual booting and prefer to use separate boxes for Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 7, and various Linux experiments. I switch between them with a KVM switch. I also have a laptop that is used periodically, and a computer in the workshop used occasionally. Does the Windows Home Server count as a computer?" (john3347)
  • "Three at work and two at home. In the old green screen days I had twenty-two terminals all at once!" (ryoung)
  • "Desktop and laptop, plus a home server that does not get a lot of attention... However, all computers are multi-boot, so I may deal with ten or more OSs (Windows and Linux) in a week." (Dogcatcher)
  • "Does my BlackBerry count as a PC? I do almost everything from my BlackBerry." (thestradas)

Cloud computing could benefit these IT pros by allowing them to seamlessly access files and applications across multiple computers without fussing with a bunch of scripts and file shares. In fact, even small cloud apps like Xmarks, which syncs bookmarks/favorites across multiple browsers and computers, can be extremely valuable to workers who jump around to different machines.

Thus, I think it's increasingly likely that you'll see more tech experts personally dabbling with cloud services like Xmarks, Google Docs, Evernote, and more, but only using them to store their own non-critical, non-sensitive files and data (look for a future TechRepublic poll to measure that).

However, will dabbling with cloud services win over IT pros to the cloud for the corporate data and apps that they manage? That's still going to be a much tougher sell. As TechRepublic member Osiyo53 wrote, "Have ... reference material, apps, etc 'on a cloud' somewhere? Chuckle, not likely. We've already experienced the unpleasant situation of having folks steal our ideas, knowledge, and work to resell as their own. The fact is we trust no system that is not under our direct control."

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

23 comments
pjboyles
pjboyles

I work on 3 - 6 physical computers, 2 physical servers and up to 8 workstation and server VMs. My files are available to all systems as they stored on a corporate network share and backed up daily. For my primary work I have a work machine with standard applications and an administrative machine with administrative applications. I can easily recover from a disaster on one as all applications are loaded on both. The other systems are for testing, development, support or problem resolution. I am going out on a limb here but most IT people have one primary system doing e-mail, IM, basic office items, and company applications while the second is an administrative and / or development system. Exactly what "cloud computing" is going to provide for them I do not see. The only thing I do truly miss between systems is synchronized bookmarks and finding something that meets my desires is difficult. It cannot place information on any non-company owned systems (corporate legal requirements), work on multiple OSs, must work across multiple browser versions and can merge changes from multiple systems seamlessly. Now, for a cloud computing item, I see moving to web based applications for many things, but only where the application is network based to begin with. Unfortunately too many are moving this to Internet rather than Intranet. These are cost based decisions that have time and again bitten us in the end. It may be cheaper initially, but it is a whole lot more expensive on the back end.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"I think it's increasingly likely that you'll see more tech experts personally dabbling with cloud services ... but only using them to store their own non-critical, non-sensitive files and data..." Key sentence.

Scott Jones
Scott Jones

Jason is addressing this on a Tech's individual usage, not in the "cloud computing is taking over my LAN" train of thought. I have two desktops at work, a personal netbook that I have with me, and my desktop at home, and a tablet at home. I use Live Mesh, and designate folders to keep sync'd file for me. I have a folder called 'work mesh' that syncs files between my two work boxes and my home box and netbook. I have 'home mesh' folders that sync between my netbook and my home desktop only. And I have an 'eWallet mesh' folder that syncs my encrypted data files between all my computers I use. Also have a 'Favorites mesh' folder that syncs my bookmarks. If you don't want it stored in the cloud, it can go peer to peer. If it's sensitive, I encrypt it whether it's in the cloud or not, period. It's a great syncing tool. Don't let misconceptions make you miss out on a handy tool.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I'm afraid there have been far too many articles extolling the virtues of the cloud as in get rid of all your staff and kit, don't worry about trivialities, like security, ownership, control and lock in. Given Mr Hiner has posted most of these articles, add in the at best iffy leap from more than one cmputer = cloud He's now coming across like the pastor of an ailing church, having a bingo night....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

traffic on TR which definitely is Mr Hiner's responsibility I have no problem. But do it consistently and you get identified with the position you are taking. To me that means either he's stating his personal position and getting mileage from it, or he believes that taking it will gain more traffic on the site, probably true to be honest, given the posters who don't agree with it, tend to be pretty active. So by pointing out the bias, I'm either correct or doing what he wants. :p

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"He's now coming across like the pastor of an ailing church, having a bingo night...." He's actually coming across as what one might expect given his current job ... a news and commentary writer. One expects such folks to report on the newest developments, trends, and ideas. And to try to predict, or speculate upon the future of such things. Also one expects, or should, that such writers also be at least somewhat slanted in his or her opinions if what is being reported or discussed is also something that a paying advertiser is selling. Its only natural. And lets not forget an important point of any sort of journalism ... the most important consideration is ... will what is being reported or written about draw a large audience of watchers, listeners, or readers. Will it stir them up enough for them to continue to follow the story, discuss and debate it with friends or associates, and/or to post replies, send letters to the editors, etc. In Jason's current job, controversy and heated debate is a GOOD THING. That's not a criticism of Jason. Far from it. In fact I read his articles and the many replies, counter arguments, etc specifically because of the debate and other feedback they elicit. I find the replies to his articles to be very informative. Often more so than the info contained in the article itself.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

I gotta be missing something here. Several of your examples indicate the people concerned have a need to run multiple OS's, for whatever purpose. I wouldn't know why in each case but, for instance, I do this myself from time to time in order to test software I'm developing to ensure that it runs properly and adequately under various flavors of Windows. Multi-boot or a virtual machine is a solution to this, not cloud computing. Within the company for whom I work, we have some engineers who use multiple platforms routinely in a day. i.e. They'll have one high powered system dedicated almost solely as a CAD machine, very large screen or even multiple screens, huge RAM amounts and the fastest CPUs and graphics cards they can lay their hands on. Then they'll have another general purpose machine for other sorts of tasks they need to do. Not wanting to load up their CAD machine with those additional chores. I could post other examples, for instance one of our developers/special systems admin who keeps a "junk machine" going whose sole purpose is to test stuff with which might well crash and burn. He has imaged a clean, new install of the OS and basic apps so he can restore the system quickly. Which he has to do on a regular basis. Just part of his particular job. i.e. Sometimes he's trying to replicate a failure of an app or particular configuration/configuration change which resulted in some other system doing a crash and burn. In any event, working from multiple computers does not automatically mean that one has the need for cloud computing. Sharing files, having the ability for multiple people at various locations to edit or add to one common doc or file, or having access to your own important files from anywhere one is at? Starting with the last point, having access to important files from where ever I happen to be. That's why I have thumb drives. Several large ones. If I have need to get hold of some file I do not have with me, or a new and modified version that's been modified by someone else (talking about work situations here, not pics of my grand-kids, and I'm not in the office? That's why I have wireless internet access, or I talk someone, where I'm at, into letting me jump on their wired network. I can access the company's network from where ever I'm at. One network drive is externally accessible, if one has the right access rights and some special software. Or I simple make a call to whomever is concerns and they attach it to an email for me (company's email server which does not have a size limitation for attachments). But I make every effort to avoid such situations. I prefer a more professional approach ... like planning out my needs and requirements for a job prior to getting there. Thus, hopefully if I've done it right, the odds are that I have everything with me. Besides, internet access from some locations can be spotty, poor, and slow. If I continuously rely upon the internet, I'm wasting a significant amount of time out of my work day. I haven't the time for that. A little delay here, and another there, and so forth adds up in the long run. Considering what it costs my employer per hour to pay me, in a years time that can add up to considerable amounts. Heck, even when I do need to access the net for things like email, while working, I use solely my company run email account. I do have Yahoo and Google email accounts (as a well as a few others), but sometimes those bog down and go slow. Remotely accessing the company email server is consistently a much faster service. I note that in one discussion I read, can't remember if it was here or not, someone mentioned that he or she loved having important docs on "the cloud" because then coworkers, associates, and such could review them, edit them, etc. A collaborative effort as that person put it. Okay, maybe that works for some. Doesn't work for me, nor anyone I work with. i.e. We work with a number of files, docs, and so forth where numerous people have input into them, and or review them and give feedback, suggest changes, or whatever. However, in each case their is a designated person responsible for that file or doc. ONLY he or she may make changes to the original. Everybody who has the need can see it, even copy it to a local drive. But yah can not change that original. Typically, if I'm involved I copy it locally, make markups and changes, highlight all changes so that they stand out bold and clear, change the file name slightly (we have a formal methodology for this) and submit it for review by the doc's responsible person. Sometimes the doc owner incorporates or rejects the change on his or her own authority, sometimes he or she sends my changes out to all the team for their review and comments and takes a vote on whether or not the changes should be adopted. In many cases just allowing changes to an original file/doc results in little more than what occurs with Wiki's. Changes are willy-nilly, some nitwit throws in something that is either not true, unverified, poorly stated, or misleading and slanted. We're a business, we don't want that occurring. While a doc or file might contain material that originated from several minds ... ONE person has responsibility for it and is held accountable. There are, of course, exceptions. For instance our accounting software. Where multiple folks have access and rights to changes certain sections of the database. However, in the case of that application it is both proprietary in itself (we paid dearly for the app) and its contents are highly confidential outside the company. We're VERY unlikely to try to put it or the database contents on some "Cloud" owned and operated by someone else. We don't even allow remote access by our own employees. If someone has the need to access it or some of the data, must come to the office or make a phone call to someone who is in the office and have them make an entry or retrieve the piece of needed data. I'm not dismissing the usefulness of "The Cloud". It has its usefulness. I can see a small business or private person utilizing it. I can see it used for non-critical, non-security sensitive material. But in the work world I live in, it has limited appeal, or need. Unless the powers that be become convinced that some method of ensuring secure access ONLY can be implemented (something better than the current methods) AND we implement our own "Cloud", on our own machines, under our own control. As concerns the responder that mentions he does everything over his Blackberry. Great for him. Doesn't work for me or the type of work I do. (1) I deal with lots and lots of very large files. And (2) much of what I work with is damned hard to read, scan through quickly, etc on any screen the size of a hand held device. Not to mention (3) that in many cases I'm looking at files created by and used by specialized apps that simply are not gonna run on a Blackberry nor is there some adequate web based alternative app. All that I say ONLY applies to my particular situation, and the company for whom I work and the type of work we do and how we do it. Cloud computing may well suit other folks.

dwdino
dwdino

Why the multitudes? Is it because certain tasks must be done with certain OS specific tools? Is it to isolate the environments for development and testing? Is it some legacy operation? The poll to me shows no link to Cloud services. Rather it highlights the need to virtualize and consolidate. I personally have 4 systems: 1) Windows 7 Notebook, 2) OpenSuse 11 VM on 1, 3) Windows 2003 VM on 1, 4) Windows 2008 on 1. This is needed for testing and management of certain processes. Thankfully, my job provided a robust enough system to virtualize the other tools of the job.

BuckRogers
BuckRogers

Since I am using Windows and MAC I have grown to love Sugarsync.com I have synced my Work Vista (soon to be Windows 7) Home XP desktop, and Macbook docs so I can work from any computer and find what I need. Extra benefit is offsite backup of those same documents.

tbmay
tbmay

Certainly not those of us who are older and, by many folks standards, a bit paranoid. Let's just pretend we arrive at a point where bandwidth and Internet dependability are adequate. How could you ever claim your data was secure if it's floating around on ubiquitous servers on the web. Call me old school, but in instances where the data REALLY matters, I want to be able to see and touch the box it resides on. I'm not anti-cloud but I'm anti-hang-your-business-on-the-cloud. That said, I expect it to gain traction and, over time, those of us who resist it are going to be rolled over. We'll probably have to support it while we protest to deaf ears. And when it does bite someone in the behind, they will probably accept no responsibility for not listening to us.

asics447
asics447

I quote "Why would IT professionals want to outsource their responsibilities anyways? Anyone that would prefer to outsource a part of their infrastructure should probably just change careers." IT professionals will not want it - but upper management will to save MONEY like everything else I.T., it is being outsourced in some way shape or form.Personally I would not trust a small business up to the enterprise level to the cloud, but for personal home user's maybe. with people saving larger and larger files ??? do you by the hardware or go to the cloud - That is the Question ? and how much money you got?

jck
jck

I can build a small office a small data server with good performance and data redundancy and backups for under $1500. Why pay someone else to administrate a system for you remotely that they can't guarantee will have 100% connectivity and can't guarantee no one will hack. That's another issue as well. Large cloud providers will become obvious targets for hackers around the world. Not only does that put your data at risk, but it means their constant attempts will tie up bandwidth you and your users could be utilizing. In a perfect world, it's a nice option. But, I see cloud computing as nothing more than an attempt to open a new market segment by appealing to the one thing that a lot of Americans have gotten incredibly good at over the past 50 years: being lazy/handing off responsibility. And if you don't believe me, I'd like to point out one things that didn't exist even 30 years ago: supercenters. People actually used to go to a tire store for tires, and a grocery store for groceries. Oh well, I guess managing to watch Desperate Housewives is more important that spending an extra 30 minutes going to different vendors who specialize for household items.

temposuender
temposuender

I saw a while ago this nice post about moving a setup workplace to another (new) laptop with "cloud" software. and Om Malik is perfectly right. It can be so easy to use Cloud software for the daily work. http://gigaom.com/2009/07/11/30-minute-mac-to-pc-switch/ I use 3 systems with similar tools like Om and I can work wherever I am with whatever system I have with me. Linux Netbook, XP Laptop at the office or the home PC. All have access to the same data and bookmarks etc.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Prove it is both secure and private and then perhaps...but only if it is fault tolerant from a datacenter and conectivity outage at their end.

jamie.pederson
jamie.pederson

Why would IT professionals want to outsource their responsibilities anyways? Anyone that would prefer to outsource a part of their infrastructure should probably just change careers. The only people I would think this subject appeals to is broke as* companies with management trying to scrap by, or people that are not cut out for IT in general. I wouldnt want to work with either of the above. The only cloud computing I am interested in is Vmware Vsphere, and that is all in house.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

odd socks to reduce the probability of a car crash. Multiple computers does not mean multiple locations to access the same functionality. If that was the case, you'd just get a portable, much cheaper. Your answer still struggles to find the correct question.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

about wanting to access your bookmarks, apps(w/ all your prefs and customizations), and non-critical data files from multiple computers without having to do a bunch of config work?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

using three computers, a Lamp server, a VAX workstantion access, and a pc with windows as winders devlopment platform devlopement. No cross over.... So multiple computers didn't require some way of porting book marks. All the machine were already configured to talk to each other anyway. So aside from me giving google a big pile of free information, and a tracking vector they can leverage for their own business purposes, what exactky would have I gotten out of it. Nothing. So in at least one case multiple computers = cloud, falls on it's arse. You only have to read Mr Kassners article on Flash cookies to see what the real impetus about the cloud is anyway. It's lock in, tracking information, and an attempt to inculcate a dependancy on their services for their financial gain. Fair enough, that's business, but I still haven't heard nothing that benefits me, so no sale. Multiple machines to me mean multiple platforms for multiple functions, I don't want them muddled. I want the right head on when I'm working on them, clean separation is a boon. Like I said solution looking for a problem...

lastchip
lastchip

The cloud concept is for one reason only; control. I've just escaped Microsoft's clutches and I'm damn sure I'm not falling in the same trap again.

mlieberman
mlieberman

I totally agree with you that I would like to be able to have all my files and settings as well as programs available to me no matter where I am. I work for an IT outsourcing (Managed Services) firm where it is vital that we have access to many resources in our home office that we don't have when we're at a client. This includes our email, favorites, remote access to computers in our home office as well as other clients, documentation about our clients, in my case IDEs, network tools, sys admin tools, etc. Currently we have several disparate systems some in the cloud owned by another company and some in our small company cloud. However I think the biggest problem is consolidating all the different services in the cloud into one cohesive system integrated with onsite datacenter components. For example we currently use our own SharePoint for hosting documentation and facilitating collaboration. We use LogMeIn and VST for remote management and so on. Some of our clients have Macs, some have PCs, some use Office, some use Word Perfect, some have IT policies that don't allow the installation of new software, others don't. It can become extremely difficult for a consultant to do work when they have to upload documents to SharePoint to then open them again on their home office PC via some remote management protocol that is often slow. This is why I think the cloud would be great, but its just not quite there yet. Right now I use PortableApps on a thumb drive to alleviate at least some of these issues. I keep Open Office, Firefox, Dia, Sumatra PDF as well as the non-install version of NetBeans. And I also have a persistent USB install of a Linux distro in case I need to do something a bit more intense like network diagnostics, password removal, or hard drive recovery. Its not perfect but it gets the job done.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

then what is the point - they touted the entire infrastructure and now it is just non-critical data files?

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Do you mean "allowing them to seamlessly access files and applications across multiple computers without fussing with a bunch of scripts and file shares"? Are we talking about doing this within our intranet? There is a lot of untapped capability in my network that we could be using. Are we talking about installing OUR OWN software on our machines and maintaining this awesome software ourselves? If so the idea is intriguing. But it sounds to me like you're talking about outsourcing our data storage. In essence we would be paying Xmarks, Google, etc to be our IT staff. Sure there are advantages to that. But the risk is not worth it for most of us. Maybe it is for non-critical data like photos, personal letters, etc, maybe not. If a vendor guarantees 100% accessibility and security they will have to charge more than a nominal charge for this service. Just my opinion.