Emma J Webb-Hobson (UK) - Cloud: The Death of Email

Teenagers are funny things. Traditionally depicted in the media as antisocial, their use of social networking tools shows them to be anything but. Almost half (49%) of children aged 8 - 17 who use the internet have set up their own profile on a social networking site*. Most teenagers (an estimated 75% in the US in 2009**) use social networks to stay in touch, meet new friends, make plans, and flirt. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace allow dynamic, instant, conversational communication.

As teenagers enter the work force, they will bring their methods for communicating with them. People will be constantly connected, all day every day. The lines between work and home will blur, as users struggle to manage different profiles for Facebook verses LinkedIn, different twitter accounts, different mobile devices for work and home, different email addresses and so on and so on. The next generation isn't going to put up with that! They will demand efficient, convenient services, intuitive, interactive and compatible with everything and everyone else.

Compared with this brave new world, email seems static and cluttered. All those fields, lists of senders, receivers, dates, subject lines. Little boxes in case there is an attachment, sizes that I don't care about, and a million ways to mark, flag, prioritise and set reminders. All that space on the screen, for a couple of lines of text - that's not efficient, that's not what I want to see. I want to see my message, bang, straight away. Updated in real time and prioritised for me based on customisable criteria. Store my software licenses and confirmation emails for me, I don't want to read them, but I might need them later. Hold that email from my dad, I'm glad he landed safely in America, but I'll reply when I get home. Tell me what I need to do today, now. Show me what actions are due, which email got buried last week telling me I need to do a presentation tomorrow....

And then there is trying to collaborate on a document, a presentation or a spreadsheet by email. Half a dozen versions with different comments in different places. Why am I merging this? Oh look, my mailbox is full again. Who has the latest version? Who else has it been forwarded on to? And in six months time, when the same question has to be answered again, will anyone remember this document, and be able to find it?

Document management by email is horrible. Much better to have a central single source file that can be accessed from anywhere, by anyone, as dictated by the creator. Now I have version control, I can manage who can access it, for how long and whether they can distribute it. Even better, when someone else in the organisation starts working on something similar, a quick search will find it for them. It will include my profile information; they can call me about it! Other relevant parties can be tagged in it, and automatically updated with changes. There will be one central location with the most up-to-date version available. Ah.... efficiency is bliss. I don't mind working hard, but I resent reinventing the wheel every day...

And now those dreams are a reality. Cloud file storage the document is easy to share with internal and external collaborators. It can be accessed through a browser, from any device, from anywhere. Better access control means it is more secure. The file isn't stored on a device which can be lost. Email traffic and size is reduced. Version control is more efficient, saving time and effort all round.

The next step is intelligent filtering and prioritising, I want to see Amazon style "You may also be interested in...." when I open a document. I want to be offered other documents by the same author. I want to tag files with relevant keywords to allow people to search for them, and have fuzzy searching to identify documents close to what I want.

In the future, workers will demand that the technology works for them, not the other way round, and I can't wait.


*  Social Networking - A quantitative and qualitative report research report into attitudes, behaviour and use, OFCOM

**  Teens on Social Networks, emarketer.com

Emma Webb Hobson graduated from Royal Holloway University with an Information Security MSc in 2004 and became a Digital Forensic Investigator. She is now a Cloud Technologist at QinetiQ, looking at Secure Cloud technologies and specialising in Cloud Forensics and Investigations. http://uk.linkedin.com/in/emmawebbhobson



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