By: Andrea Bridges-Smith, Content Marketing Manager, Spanning
We here at Spanning pride ourselves on knowing everything there is to know about the cloud and cloud computing. We know that a lot of times, “the cloud” can seem like a mysterious, confusing place, but it doesn’t have to be! With this in mind, we bring you Cloud to Ground, our monthly podcast that discusses all things cloud. This month, we spoke with Charlie Wood, Founder and CEO of Spanning to find out what the best things are about the cloud, where the cloud is going, and much more! We hope you enjoy the discussion, and we’d love to hear from you in the comments here or on Twitter or Google+. Thanks for listening!
Andrea Bridges-Smith: Hi everyone! Welcome to the very first ever Cloud to Ground podcast. This is going to be a podcast that discusses everything about the cloud including our favorite things about the cloud, where we think it’s going, some of the security issues around it, etc. I’m your host, Andrea Bridges-Smith, and with me is Mr. Charlie Wood, CEO and Founder of Spanning, the company where we are both currently employed. So, Charlie, welcome.
Charlie Wood: Thanks, Andrea.
ABS: How’s it going today?
CW: [laughing] It’s going pretty well.
ABS: Excellent. Alright, so we’ll just go ahead and dive right in. You are pretty much an expert on the cloud, having been in the business of doing cloud stuff for how many years now?
CW: Well, yeah, I would say that I’m a cloud native. I don’t know, it’s before people started using that term, so, I’ve been doing Internet stuff since slightly before it was legal to conduct commerce on the Internet, which changed I think in ’94, so it’s been a long time.
ABS: OK. Hopefully that won’t get you arrested. [laughter]
CW: Yeah. Oh, well.
ABS: [laughter] OK. So…we’ve established that you’re definitely an an expert, legally and illegally. [laughter]
CW: Sure. Yeah.
ABS: More legally… So, I wanted to ask you, what are some of your favorite things about the cloud, because you’ve been in this for a long a time, I’m sort of newer to the world of the cloud and I’m finding out about it, and it’s very exciting, so…
ABS: Be my, Sherpa. [laughter]
CW: So, so you know, I was thinking about it the other day, I was cleaning up my attic at home and I found this CD that had a Netscape Enterprise Server on it, so that was the, you know, when you buy the web server, buy the software to run a web server, and it came on a CD-ROM and you installed it on your computer.
ABS: Like the AOL disc?
CW: Yes. Absolutely, and so it was so quaint and so funny. And I realized that, we had, you know, gotten past the idea of physical media for software and in a lot of, you know, in a lot of cases, even operating these things yourself. You just sign up for a service, you go to a website, you know, you use it for free, you use it for pay, but there’s no idea of software maintenance anymore. I don’t have to worry about the fact that Google made some improvement to Google Drive last night; I don’t even know that, right? And in the bad old days it used to be that, you know, they would ship me a bug fix, they would ship me a new version, if it was a complicated piece of software, it goes through a whole change management process in my company and now, somebody else takes care of that. So, that’s – that’s actually one of my favorite things that’s maybe a little bit prosaic to, but…
ABS: So, this is – that’s actually an interesting point, because one of the things that I really hate right now is, you know, every time you log into a browser or whatever, you know, and it would say, new version or there’s a new version of Flash or whatever, and you’d have to click the button to update it?
ABS: Do you see us kind of heading towards a world where we can stop clicking that button and they can just do it in the background?
CW: So yeah, absolutely, I mean, you know, that we’re in this weird state right now where you’re still your own IT person, for a lot of stuff like that, like the things that run on your laptop. And, you know, even in the case of your iPhone, you know, you are still responsible for saying, yes, you know, update all my apps. But then there’s this whole other world that we’re also a part of with clearly all the Google apps, but things like Facebook, things like Twitter, things like, you know, who knows how many improvements they make every day, they own that, we don’t have to worry about it, so we’re not IT people, responsible for that and I think that it’s sort of – almost an accident in history that consumers, that normal people had to be their own IT people and that’s one of the biggest things we are getting away from with the cloud.
ABS: Yes, that is definitely a good thing; I would make a terrible IT person, I think. [laughter]
CW: Yeah, and it’s no fun, right? I mean, you know I, I don’t know if you’re like me but, you know, every time I go to my mom’s house, and she says, I hate do this but will you come look at my computer?
ABS: Yes, every time. [laughter]
CW: And so, and so you get to be the IT person because she’s, you know… She doesn’t want to or can’t do it and that’s been true for, you know, for as long as PC’s have been around, and I think it was kind of an aberration, and I’m glad that thing is going away.
ABS: Yes. Let’s get all of our grandmas off of our case [laughter].
CW: That’s right.
ABS: OK, well some of, some of my favorite things are, I’m starting to kind of get into the cloud, one of the first things I think I really noticed was my husband and I would, you know, try to schedule things, you know, hey do you mind if I go out to happy hour with my friends on Wednesday night, you know, do we have anything going on? We’d email each other back and forth or text back and forth, and now, we can sync up our calendars so we can see, you know, if there’s anything scheduled on our mutual calendars, so that we can kind of, you know, plan our social life around that and it’s a small thing but it’s really been a big help.
CW: Yeah, it’s an important thing right?
CW: Because, you know, in your family, you would never use this term but what you’re doing is collaborating, right?
CW: And you’re communicating, you’re collaborating, and that turns out to be a huge strength of cloud stuff, is that now we sort of take it for granted. You can share a calendar with somebody or you can share a document with somebody, you can just share stuff and they can get to it.
CW: And you just drop it on, Drop Box, or you just, you know, in your Google Calendar, or whatever it is…
CW: And you don’t have to, you know, have a series of e-mails going back and forth and then each maintain your own, in that case, you’re own calendar.
CW: And so, yeah, I think that’s, super powerful.
ABS: And the other thing that is my favorite is that, even though I’ve been a Mac person forever, I mean, I worked at, Apple, and, you know, the place I worked before this, I’ve always used a Mac for the past like, you know, seven or eight years of my career. But I always had to use Microsoft. You know, to use Excel and Word and things like that, and now for the first time, I don’t have it on my computer …
CW: You still can. We can install Internet Explorer on your computer. I think they have a version still for Mac.
ABS: I’m, I am totally fine with not doing that. [laughter] But, I mean…
CW: Yes. Yes. The cloud finally gets us out from underneath the thumb of Microsoft, doesn’t it?
ABS: Yes. Yes.
CW: Isn’t that nice, really?
ABS: It is, it is. I don’t save documents anymore. Every once in a while I still catch myself hitting, you know, command “S” to save something and then I’m like, oh right, I don’t need to do this anymore. It just saves and nothing gets lost and you don’t have to… pick up some weird auto-recovery file off of your desktop and try to figure out where you left off, you know, it’s just instantly there. So, not to bag on Microsoft or anything, but I…
CW: Feel free to bag on, Microsoft. I don’t mind.
ABS: I’m happier to not use them.
CW: Me too.
ABS: So, yeah, I think it’s much better that way. So what are some of your favorite apps that you use with the cloud and how do you use those?
CW: Yeah. Gosh. Let me, you know, I wrote a blog post just recently, and I was talking about, sort of my day, from the, from when I get up in the morning to when I go to sleep at night, realizing how many, how much the cloud sort of affects all the things that I do, in my personal life and obviously at work. But some of the apps that I use the most that are useful, really only because of the cloud, are things like Evernote. So, I take notes on my Phone, on my iPad, on my computer. And in all those cases, there’s an app running on that device, but the thing that makes it powerful and the reason that I use it is because it’s all synchronized through the cloud. So, Evernote is definitely one of my favorites. The, you know, I think there’s sort of a common thread among a lot of these, these apps that I like. Google Drive, similarly, the fact that I can keep files on a Google Drive and just like you say, I can share it with my wife or with somebody I work with or just one of my friends or whatever. And it’s just sort of incredibly simple… and I don’t have to email files around, I certainly don’t have to, you know, give somebody a disc … a CD or whatever. So, Google Drive, I think, Google is doing a great job with that. You know, a lot of people I know use Dropbox, same thing. I think that, you know, Google is doing a good job at catching up and it’s just included, we already use Google Apps, and so it’s free.
CW: And then there are a couple of things that I realize that I use every day. One is an app called Instapaper, which is, there are several of them, there’s Instapaper, there’s Pocket, there are a couple of other ones. But, it’s that read it later functionality.
CW: So you’re reading something on Twitter or in Flipboard, which is another one of my favorite apps, or on the web. And I think, hey this is a long-form article, this is something that I don’t have time for right now but I wanna, I wanna read it later.
CW: And so I just click the bookmarklet, or you know click the button and in Twitter, on my iPhone, whatever it happens to be. And it queues those things up, and it keeps them for me, in the cloud, ready to go to where when I am ready to sort of sit back, you know, lean back, do some more long-form reading, then they’re all just there for me.
CW: And the thing, you know, about all of these that they have in common is that they don’t live on my computer. Right, there may be a bridge app that’s on my computer or on my phone, but the data, the important part, is in the cloud. So I can get to it from anywhere. You know, I’m, I’m not too proud to admit that, you know, when I go to the bathroom, I’ll just whip out my phone and read something for thirty seconds.
ABS: Oh, I think you’re the only person that does that, though.
CW: Yes, yes.
ABS: You’re the only one. Just you. [laughter]
CW: Just me. I’m telling you, I’m not too, you know… I will admit it though, that’s the difference, other people will not admit it. And, and the fact that, you know, all of these applications, they’re hooked together through the cloud and they free me from, you know, my, as much as, I love my Mac Book, it’s not the center of my world anymore. It’s just one way that I access all this stuff.
ABS: Yeah, absolutely.
CW: What about you?
ABS: Some of my favorites… one that has been really cool, that we use a lot is something called Grocery Gadget, where you can put in your list, your grocery list on the phone and it will sort it by, you know, all these different ways. My favorite is by section of the grocery store…
ABS: Which is really helpful.
CW: It knows about the layout of your grocery store?
ABS: Well it, it doesn’t go in the order of the grocery store…
CW: Oh, it just says that area.
CW: Now see, you need to be able to do, you need to plug in, like, my HEB is laid out this way, and it could plot a route.
ABS: Yeah, I think there are some apps that do that. This one in particular, I don’t think, so get to work people! [chuckle] But it’s nice because how many times have you gotten home from the grocery store and it’s, you know, oh, here is a list of things that I forgot to get at the grocery store so…
CW: Really? So do you use this, do your husband and you use this to like, you add something while he’s shopping and you’re like…
CW: You’re not banging on there. You don’t have to call him and go, hey don’t forget to get the milk.
ABS: Yeah, exactly, because I used to have like a written list and all the text messages that he would send me of the things he would suddenly remember that we needed, you know, five minutes after I left the house.
ABS: And we both did it. It just, it’s just a fact of life that the grocery list that you leave the house with is never going to be the full grocery list that you need, so…
CW: I’m hearing, I’m hearing a common theme here about the cloud and marriage.
CW: Communication between couples.
CW: And that, that maybe we need to worry less about business productivity and more about relationship help, enabled by the cloud. What do you think?
ABS: It’s, it’s about the love, you know?
CW: Well, there you go, OK, it’s about the love. [laughter] We can include all this and the customers as love.
ABS: [laughing] Yeah, absolutely.
CW: Good. It’s all about the love.
ABS: Yeah. And then the other thing that I love is, we used to have to use iTrip. So I live in Austin, and our family lives in Houston, and so, on road trips down there, you know, unless you want to listen to some really staticky radio stations for twenty minutes and then change them over again.
ABS: Or if you wanted to listen to Tejano music, you know, we’re in Texas, you can get a Tejano station anywhere you want.
ABS: It’s, it’s a miracle of technology. [laughter]
CW: Well, there you go. You don’t need the cloud.
ABS: No. It’s great now to just be able to turn on Pandora and listen to it all the way from one city to the other.
CW: And you get uninterrupted, whatever, 4G, 3G…
CW: Service the entire way?
CW: That is pretty good.
ABS: Works exactly the way it is supposed to and, you know, we don’t have to flip around for different radio stations. Before, we were using this plugin thing called the iTrip…
ABS: That you had to tune to a radio station, which was a little weird, then there was a big plug that, you know, you were trying not to step on when it wasn’t plugged in, and so this is just a much better way to go about it, I think.
CW: Yeah, I can see that.
ABS: So kind of, you know, we talked about… how this is changing relationships and businesses like… how, how do you think overall that the cloud is changing the way that we do things?
CW: So, I think that the… maybe the most general way that’s specific enough to be useful to think about is that, you know, for me personally, like I said, my laptop is no longer the center of my world. It’s just one tool that I use, but it’s not like my digital life lives on my laptop. That was true ten years ago, but it’s not true now, and now whether it’s my laptop or my phone or my Kindle or an iPad or somebody else’s iPad or when I go visit my in-laws and I don’t bring my computer but I still need to work, I, you know, still need to do stuff, I just hop on their junky old 1998 Windows XP, you know, [laughter] compact computer.
ABS: XP? [chuckles]
CW: And, and I’m able to get to all my stuff, and it’s because that stuff doesn’t live in any one machine. And as a side effect, I think it also frees people from having to be the IT person for that machine. You know, if literally if my, you know, laptop fell out the window of the car speeding down the highway, that would be tragic, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world because I can just go literally go to the Apple store, get a new one and sign in to all my stuff and apps, all my stuff is still there.
CW: And so I, I think that there is something…very profound in that, and that there’s been this shift from, you know, the PC and even the local network, as sort of the center of the computing universe for individuals and for businesses for the last you know, twenty, thirty years to, you know, moving that stuff out and elevating the burden of maintaining that stuff and pushing that stuff out to companies that can do it for you and do it invisibly. And so you don’t need to worry about it anymore. And it frees you to do, you know, what you’d rather be doing. Whether that’s, you know, personal or business or, you know, things that are more enjoyable or higher productivity. But it really sort of gets us out of the, the dark ages of having to be our own IT people.
ABS: Yeah, so we can spend more time playing Angry Birds.
CW: Yes, Angry Birds, which you can now get, by the way, in a Chrome browser, so even there…
CW: Boom. [laughter] Cloud.
ABS: Also let us not forget what the Internet is truly for and that’s for watching videos of kittens. [laughter]
CW: Yes. That’s what…not what I thought you were going to say, but I am, I am glad to hear it. Yes, yes.
ABS: [laughter] Kittens… they’re important. [laughter]
CW: For kittens I think we were just talking about that.
ABS: Yes, if not there should be.
ABS: So, in terms of, you know, what’s coming next. It’s, you know, it’s the beginning of the year, it’s January, everybody’s making predictions and resolutions. So, what do you think is coming up next for the cloud overall as a whole?
CW: So, you know, at Spanning, we spend a lot of time thinking about this, and I don’t know that it’s gonna happen broadly by the end of the year, but what I think is next is that we’ve got to this point where, there’s a huge, you know, wide array of applications and functionality and value that are all living in the cloud. But it still is incumbent on an individual for herself or for a business to integrate all those things together. And I think that’s going to change, where all those things are going to become much more user-centric. So instead of me, instead of my having to know, oh, well, his piece of data lives in this cloud application and I need to look over here for this, and I need to store this here, and I don’t have those now, I, between Google Sites, Google Drive, and Evernote, I can’t remember where I wrote something down.
CW: So I had to go and search each one of those. And I think what we are going to see is more, you know, single unified interfaces for the individual that then acts as sort of a broker, a go-between, between the person on all his cloud apps. So I think we’re gonna see a lot more user-centricity. The other thing that I think we’re going to see, we’re already seeing this, but I think, right now, it’s, it’s really sort of hitting the mainstream, mostly just the early adopters is we’re gonna see business adoption and cloud applications, which has started the last couple of years in a big way but where the other shoe’s gonna drop, which is that the IT folks and the compliance folks and the lawyers and all the people who make sure the stuff runs correctly and that the compliance is getting taken care of, that those, that level of requirement is going to start to be baked into all these things. So an easy way of saying that is, I believe that we are going to see business ready for business-friendly controls, layered on top of all of these services that we’ve grown used to using in our personal lives, but that really require it for serious uptake in the business world.
ABS: Gotcha. So like automatic SOx compliance with…
CW: Yes. Yeah.
ABS: … the stuff that you do.
CW: And yeah. It’s basically just going to be, you know, not only can I share this file, but I am also going to be able to, you know, the compliance person in my company is going to have assurance that I am not sharing that with someone who’s not allowed to see it.
ABS: Gotcha. That makes sense.
CW: What do you think is coming next?
ABS: Self-driving cars.
CW: Self-driving cars. Oh, I cannot wait.
ABS: I am so excited about this. How much time do you spend commuting to and from work every day?
CW: More than an hour.
ABS: More than an hour? I spend, by the time I swing by daycare and everything, it’s probably about an hour, maybe slightly more.
CW: I cannot wait. I had a dream the other night [laughter] that I was in the backseat of a self-driving car…
CW: And it kind of dawned on me that there’s nobody in the front seat. It was like being in a limo, with no driver.
CW: And it was like one of those flying dreams.
CW: It was like, this is awesome! [laughter] And I cannot wait. And my kids who are, you know, young boys, they don’t distinguish between electric cars and self-driving cars. So when we like see a Tesla, they’re like, Look! Look! It’s one of those cars. [laughter]It’s cool; I mean it’s just cool.
ABS: Yeah. Yeah.
CW: It’s not, you know it’s not as cool as a self-driving car.
CW: But, you know, I think that by the time they’re driving, which will be in eight or nine years, I think that we’ll, you know, electric cars will be all over the place and self-driving will be actually be some of the cars on the road.
ABS: Yeah. What I’m excited about is I think that, you know, we’re gonna have to reconfigure the whole way that we, you know, lay out cars, like I’m, you know, thinking that you’ll still have the back seat where it is, but the front seats will be able to swivel around towards the back and maybe there’ll be like a little table in the middle.
CW: Sort of like the club seating on a Southwest jet?
ABS: Yeah, yeah, something like that.
CW: I was thinking more like a bed.
CW: Like, you know, like a sleeper sofa?
ABS: Yeah, totally.
CW: So you can just sort of sack out?
ABS: Yeah, that would be ideal.
CW: So like, dim the windows?
ABS: Yeah. [laughter]
CW: Let me know when you get there.
CW: Be like a little Lear jet.
ABS: Yeah. That would make sense too. That would be a good configuration. I was thinking like the table, you know, you could…
CW: Alright, the table. Yeah.
ABS: You could drive the family to grandma’s house, you know, and play…
CW: All of a sudden, it’s like a Downton Abbey carriage. Just like you’re, you know…
CW: OK. Yeah, we should talk about that more on the next one.
ABS: Yeah, definitely.
CW: I think that’s an idea worth exploring.
ABS: The self-driving car?
CW: The self-driving Downton Abbey carriage.
ABS: Yes. That’s a good one. I like that.
ABS: I’ll write that down [laughter], but yeah, I mean, I think that that’s going to be, you know, it’s going to allow us to sneak in extra work…
CW: Oh, thank God. [laughing] I don’t get to work quite enough.
ABS: I know.
CW: Now, so…
ABS: I know, you get in the car and you just start missing it. Just right away.
CW: Yes, yeah, if I could squeeze a little bit more out.
ABS: No, what I’m planning on doing is, you know, having a cup of coffee and some breakfast and reading the newspaper on my iPad, you know, FlipBoard like you were talking about, I love that app.
ABS: You know, and just kind of cruising into work and laying back for a little bit, you know, before the day gets started. And it’s, you know, you’re kind of by yourself and…you know…
CW: And then you can tell your car, you know, go park yourself.
CW: I’m not dealing with this.
ABS: Yeah. Parking, oh…
CW: Drop me off in the front, and I’ll let you know when I’m ready to go.
ABS: Yeah. Parking is a dark ages problem, we need to solve that.
CW: That is, talking about, so there’s a cloud on one side…
CW: All the way over on the other side of the spectrum, parking.
ABS: They are opposite. Parking is the past and the cloud is the future, I think. [laughter]
CW: That’s right. Isn’t it great?
ABS: Well cool. Well, this has been a really fun chat so thanks very much for taking time out of your very busy schedule…
CW: I can’t wait to do it again if…[laughing]. If anyone listening could see the, the environment that we’re in, the studio setup, as it were.
ABS: Yeah. [laughter].
CW: You know, there’s… Maybe we should post a picture, but, you know…
ABS: Yeah we should. That’s a good idea.
CW: You’re…yeah you don’t know what you are missing, that’s all I can say.
ABS: Yeah there’s literally a freaky bearskin rug-type thing hanging on the wall.
CW: It’s a wampa.
ABS: A wampa. OK, is that what it is?
ABS: OK. Good to know. [laughter] But yes, we will do this again; we’ll be back in February with another episode. And for all of your cloud needs, please visit us at http://spanning.com. It’s not enough to just have your stuff in the cloud; you should probably back it up too, just to make sure nothing happens to it. So thanks very much Charlie, and we will see you guys in podcast land next month.
CW: Thank you.