Cloud Alone v. Cloud + Laptop

This last week I had an interesting experiment with the sufficiency of the cloud.  Somehow, in the rush of packing up for our road trip to Orange County I managed to forget my laptop at home.  I suppose one of the downsides of having such a light laptop (Macbook Air) is that its absence is not palpable and I didn’t notice until we had driven too far to go back home.  I figured it wasn’t a big deal, I had my smartphone, my iPad and access to many other computers – Steve, Margot and Adam all had their laptops with them and since we are on vacation they would not need them most of the time.  I could access my work email via webmail and all my files would be available to me using SugarSync.  This was a good test of the cloud to get work done.

What work did I need to do? SugarSync was officially on vacation this week but our board meeting just recently got moved up from second to first week of January.   The first board meeting of the year is when we review our annual operating plan – this is an important meeting and Peter (our CFO) and I were finalizing the detailed financial model and operating plans.  These are relatively complex documents – linked spreadsheets, presentations etc.

The main problem with my plan arose with the internet connectivity.    We were staying in a wonderful hotel on the Newport coast – there was wifi but it was very slow (or at least slow when divided by the holiday quota of guests).  My connectivity backup 4g mifi was slow as well – forget 4g and 3g was limited.  So bottom line I could work using the browser but very very slowly.    Similarly, accessing my spreadsheet and presentation documents from SugarSync was doable but painfully slow.

By contrast when Todd brought my laptop 2 days later that same limited connectivity was much less of a problem.  Email would upload and download in the background.  Ditto for the files in the folders I was sharing with Peter.  I could work on my files and email with the speed of local data – the cloud was there powering my laptop but I didn’t have to wait every time I clicked and wanted to open a file or email.

My conclusion from this experience was that while the cloud and internet access enabled me to function without my laptop I could work much more efficiently and enjoyably with it.  Perhaps this is why we are not yet seeing rapid adoption of Chromebook style computers.