We Need to Get Our Heads INTO the Clouds

Do you remember the days when PCs were first making the scene in the business world, and how it was predicted that they would revolutionize the way business is done? Back in the early 1980s, when personal computers first began to be affordable, the naysayers and the "if it ain't broke ...," resisters to this change predicted the technological fad would fade. I seem to remember people, some of whom I worked with, thinking those of us in love with the technology had our collective heads in the clouds.

Fast forward to today, and you will be very hard put to find a business that isn' operating using electronic technology — whether it's a computer, smart phone, or tablet.

We recently commissioned a study of readers of both Contracting Business.com and HPAC Engineering magazines to see how they use the Internet and Smart phone technology to operate and manage various aspects of their business. The survey went out to a total of 41,000 readers, and more than 1,300 responded.

Interestingly, 68% of the respondents say they use the Internet daily for business and they average 74 hours per month online looking for product and technical information. Is this more or less time than they spent online last year? Eighty-five percent of them say this is more time online.

Furthermore, contractors and engineers are using the Internet for training and educational purposes. More than half our respondents have already participated in "virtual" tradeshows and 66% have registered for and attended webinar events.

Obviously the "fad" of the 1980s is the requirment of today. In fact, it became the basis for the technology evolution that lead to smart phones and tablet computers like the iPad. These items are the forerunners of the next evolution in information technology — cloud computing.

Smart phones and tablets and the apps that make them run (bit.ly/App_For_That) are the rage that are changing the world of computing like it’s never been changed before. HVAC contractors and engineers are starting to embrace this technology for daily use in their businesses, and though these changes are only slowly making their way into the mechanical systems marketplace, it's being embraced and will change the way we all do business.

In our survey, 64% of our respondents are currently using smart phones for their work, and 48% are using smart phone apps as part of operating their businesses. This includes blog reading/subscriptions (23%) and using social media for their business/engineering work (43%).

This is heady stuff. But wait, there's more — on Tuesday, June 28th, Microsoft Corp. announced their latest product: Office 365. This productivity suite is a combination of communication, collaboration, and productivity software delivered through the Internet. Microsoft is calling this the "next generation cloud service." Read more about it in the article, "Microsoft Challenges Itself in the Clouds," at http://on.wsj.com/ms_365.

By definition, cloud computing uses a network of computers to store and deliver applications and content via the Internet. There are already a number of major players blazing the trail including Google, Yahoo, and VMware. The above-mentioned Wall Street article says it will "power a wave of technology expansion" and that will impact how HVAC contractors and engineers work, design, and manage their projects, their businesses, and even their lives.

This technological change very much reminds me of those early days of the personal computers. How ironic that the naysayers of the early 1980s actually had it right: some of us do have our heads in the clouds. Isn't it time for more of us to follow suit?

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