Have you ever had the experience of traveling – either across town or across the country – only to realize you’d left a critical file on your computer in the office or at home? The scenario is so common that for decades an entire market segment has thrived around making data portable. Floppy disks (if you remember), Bernoulli disks, thumb drives, other external drives, now even cell phones and PDAs are used to transport files between computers. The more web-centric approach has been to email files to yourself, or get an account on Box.net or a related service – such as Acrobat.com. There are three scenarios in which Acrobat.com addresses the challenge of what could be called content mislocation.
Location, Location, Location
One way to handle the challenge of location is to consciously put your content online somehow, somewhere. There are a variety of creative solutions to this, ranging from emailing yourself your own files as attachments to uploading files to a service such as Yahoo briefcase or box.net. These latter examples are useful services, and the Acrobat.com sharing utility falls within that category, with a couple additional benefits. You can upload virtually any type of file to Acrobat.com, up to 5 gigabytes worth. In addition, Acrobat.com makes it really easy to share your uploaded files with others – just click the “Share” button, enter the email addresses of your intended recipients, and they will receive an email with a link back to the document.
As we’ve described in earlier blog entries, for many common file types, you and your collaborators can view the document right online, without downloading them or launching another application. And you can even embed these files into another web page, like a blog or a wiki, for really easy distribution, viewing or downloading.
Of course, all this requires forethought, which isn’t always easy or possible. Last week, while traveling in California, I realized that there was an old file on a home computer that would be a useful reference document. To make matters worse, I knew it would be buried deep within a directory structure that only I could navigate. With just a little help from a family member, I was able to enact scenario #2 in the Acrobat.com Ubiquity series.
I called home, and asked my son Peter to go to my home computer, launch a browser, and navigate to my ConnectNow room. All Acrobat.com accounts come with their own unique URL for instant web conferencing and more. I also navigated to that room on my work computer 3,000 miles away. Then I simply asked Peter to push the big “Share My Computer Screen” button in the middle of the screen.
But here’s the great part – Peter didn’t have to do any rummaging around for the file, with me backseat driving over the phone. I just request control of the home computer, which Peter kindly granted (his allowance depended on it), and from this point on I could operate my home computer from 3,000 miles away. This included not only finding the file – which took some digging – but also navigating to Acrobat.com on my home computer and uploading the file. To learn more, this approach was discussed in a previous blog entry.
From this point, I could relinquish control of the other computer, or just end the meeting session, and log in to Acrobat.com from my work computer and access the file. I realize this scenario sounds awkward – it’s certainly not the main usage scenario for ConnectNow! – but it was both effective and free. It’s what got me thinking again about the illusion of ubiquity that the Internet, and now Acrobat.com provides.
Think Locally, Work Globally
Finally, of course, the easiest way to achieve ubiquity is to avoid local files altogether. We’ve become accustomed to software tools that exist independent of the content they create and consume. The tools – such as Word or PowerPoint – reside on a specific computer, and they spew out files that also reside in a specific place, on a specific machine. So the ubiquity problem hinges on the fact that files, like all physical objects, have a single, unique geographical location. We can feign ubiquity by cloning these files and sending them around to other locations via email, or other methods (as above). But this isn’t real ubiquity, because each clone has an existence of its own, and can change independent of the original.
No, the best way to achieve ubiquity is, to use an overwrought term, virtualize both the tools and the content. That is, employ an environment in which tools and their content transcend a specific location. This is the virtue of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Buzzword in particular. Your documents (no longer “files”) – and the tool for creating, revising and sharing – are available to you from anywhere you have an Internet connection. Your content and tool is not tied to a specific location – they are ubiquitous.
On the same trip to California last week, the team had been working on a series of documents in Buzzword. When my computer needed to spend a day with our IT wizards out there, I received a loaner machine – with none of my work files – logged into Buzzword and continued working without missing a beat.
So, the morale of these stories? Get Acrobat.com and get ubiquitous.