Opinion

Charlie Mullins: Cloud tech may as well be pie in the sky

3 min read

01 September 2014

People keep telling me ‘The Cloud’ will change the face of business. Now, as many people will know, I am much happier with nuts and bolts than processors and data bytes, but I’m no Luddite and am happy to embrace new technology.

However, while I only have a basic grasp of what this mystical cloud is, I have a feeling we might still be in a position where most companies should hold on before they throw themselves head first into dumping their servers and desktop PCs in favour of having everything hosted off site in the cloud.

I say this because last week we were the victim of a 19th century crime that caused us 21st century problems. A load of copper cabling that gave parts of South London its internet connection was nicked, causing our business to be without email and web access for a whole day. 

Business is booming in many areas of the economy, which includes, so it seems, the market for stolen copper! It apparently costs the economy around £1bn a year and, although the Police are working to make it more difficult to sell stolen copper cables, there is obviously still a market for it!

While this is still the case, until every wire in the country is changed from copper to fibre or some other material that’s less attractive to thieves, then there is always the threat that business operations will grind to a halt.

While some of our departments wandered aimlessly around the place for a few hours, our engineers and call centre carried on at their usual breakneck speed because we run a manual booking and job planning system alongside our computer-based operations. 

In addition, as a plumbing business, the actual skills and services we provide aren’t reliant on the internet so there was no significant disruption to our customers.

But what about the web-based businesses that we’re told are the future of the economy? If their connection to the World Wide Web is severed then so is their ability to make money. 

Not every web business will be able to set up at East London’s Silicon Roundabout. Some will have to make do, like a lot of start-ups and small businesses, with an attic or basement office that is reliant on traditional copper wiring to transfer its Bitcoins or zip files and access information they have stored in ‘The Cloud’.

Although, so I am told, ‘The Cloud’ itself is very secure, while the actions of a few blokes with flat-bed transit vans and a penchant for copper are on the scene preventing businesses from getting online and accessing their information, then these technological advances might as well be pie in the sky.

Charlie Mullins is the CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers.

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