Cloud computing & netbooks open the horizon to remote and telework.
Cloud computing & netbooks open the horizon to remote and telework.

You’re a road warrior who travels the region, nation or globe.

You’re a business owner or teleworker who works from a home office. Your life is managed by a BlackBerry in the palm of your hand, or a clunky laptop that steals an inordinate amount of space in your carry-on or life.

Today, the tech of your life is shrinking. And your universe is expanding.

Enter remote computing. Parallel to the growth of “cloud computing” or the concept of information and software being accessed or delivered through the Internet available anytime, anywhere from any device, is the prevalence of netbooks.

Over the next few blogposts, we’ll look at the growing set of tools that make remote computing a reality for home officers, teleworkers, business owners – and even heads of households who rely on out-of-home access to keep their affairs in order.

The Cloud
If you rely on GMail, Hotmail, some online data storage and retrieval service like Carbonite, Mozy or Xdrive,  then welcome to the cloud (Read a previous discussion here).

NPR’s Weekend Edition discussed cloud in  Counting on the Cloud to Drive Computing’s Future, saying, “Anyone using Yahoo Mail, Hotmail or Gmail is working in the cloud. And the same goes for users of Amazon’s popular wireless reading device, the Kindle. And there are a host of applications people use on the iPhone, the G1 phone loaded with Google’s Android software, or other smart phones that bring people into the cloud.”

Plantronics in 2008 hosted a contest to give a name to those who work remotely or in the clouds. Hence, “cloudworker” was born. The term, they said, “more clearly defines those of us who work from several locations in one day; communicate on multiple devices and with multiple applications; integrate work and personal lives; and provide 24×7, always on service to customers.”

My own reliance on and peace of mind from the cloud hit home when I was sucker punched by a virus in summer 2008. My PC went down, but all my documents were available through HP’s (now-defunct) Upline data back-up and retrieval service.

As a home office worker and occasional road warrior who’s worked virtually for years, I’d come to rely on Google’s Gmail. Not so much as a primary email app, but as a security blanket should Outlook crash and fail. Since the crash, Gmail has become my only email (ditto for Google Calendar); with its bloated, resource-devouring nature, I committed to No More Outlook.
And for the most part, I haven’t looked back.

The Netbook
Netbooks are small “laptop” computers that defy the definition of a true laptop (Read Wikipedia’s take).

On last summer’s Home Office Highway, my HP Compaq 2710p Ultra-Light Tablet Notebook PC (from around $2199) was a pint-sized powerhouse that proved a winner on the trip. Faster than my workhorse HP Pavilion, it won kudos all around — from family (who fought over using it and its nifty tablet / stylus capabilities), and even guests from our Office Depot stops en route. Its 12.1-inch screen, the sub-four pound size and generally lean design facilitated in-an-instant computing; have something to blog or write, pull it out of the Workmate, power up, and you’re good to go. Very cool indeed.

For a review of various netbook devices, hit Engadget.

Many home officers, road warriors, teleworkers and anyone else who works from a non-traditional space love gadgets. We dig stuff that simplifies our lives – and in no small way brings familiarity and comfort to our workspace. The netbook does just that. It’s a pint-sized notebook computer designed to anything but mimic our  desktop. It’s small and functional, portable and powerful.

And when tied in with the Cloud, it’s a one-two kick that untethers the business from the office. Afterall, ask any veteran workplace thinker than he or she will tell you, “Work is not a place. It’s a thing.”

For the contrarian POV, a must read would be NPR’s Weekend Edition’s discussion of the cloud in  Counting on the Cloud to Drive Computing’s Future.  From privacy to permanence, issues persiste. The piece noted, “A lot of people are in the cloud and don’t even realize it,” says Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster and a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Media X research network. “Most people are not even going to notice that their life is migrating into the cloud until something goes wrong.”

Just as you would carry a rain coat into a sunny day with clouds on the horizon, so, too, should you treat cloud computing as promising — with a chance of rain…

Clouds and netbooks make that thing one of beauty, simplicity and satisfaction.