Slouching towards MyHardDisk.com
Web Informant #158, 14 June 1999
This may be the year that many of us start using the Internet in a new way: to run our applications and store our
data. Enter MyHardDisk.com.
This isn't to say that thin clients have finally arrived: I still want lots of software to run on my local hard drive.
(Would it be too much to ask for a reliable operating system?) But what has happened is this: I can now easily offload more and more of my PC computing tasks, like backup and paying my taxes to the web. And I can run applications
off the web using a browser and a reasonably fast connection.
No longer just a communications medium or an information repository, the Internet is becoming more like a public utility.
The key technology that got me there was continuous access: I now have a cable modem at home and Covad DSL service at
the office. Because the Internet is always on, it it's easier to access web-based services and resources. And since I store my files on the net, I haven't needed to carry a laptop in years. When I want to work on the road, I almost
always have Internet access nearby. (You can even connect to the web from Burger King, not to mention the local library, Kinko's, cybercafes and even some hotels and airports.)
Here are some of the ways I have begun using the Internet to run my own applications:
- Contact management. Tracking contacts was actually my
first Internet application. I created a simple database
using Lotus Approach that I have maintained for years. I
upload the files to my web site and can access my contacts
via a simple web form or via my CDPD cell phone. Not only do
I get the benefits of having access to phone numbers and
addresses when I travel, but I have an offsite copy of this
critical information. To find out how you can do this, see
- File backup. I used to backup files to tape or even burn
my own CD-ROMs. Not today: I just copy files to a secure web
server that I set up. For those of you who want a more
packaged product, there are now plenty of service bureaus
who perform Internet-based backups -- although I have found
most of them lacking. Companies like Connected, @Backup, and
others are fairly limited and not as reliable as I'd like to
- Internet faxes. Once upon a time, I used to send faxes
from my PC's fax modem, or even directly from a fax machine.
But with the advent of numerous Internet-based faxing
services, I can send faxes from my email client or by
filling out a simple web form. (fax4free.com is one service,
although your faxes will contain ads. Jfax.com is another.)
Once you try these services, you'll be hooked on the
- Internet taxes. Years ago I did my taxes on a PC or a
Mac. Every December, I went to the computer store to find
the software for both the federal and state forms, and then
had to get the updated programs in the early spring before I
filed. Then of course I had to store the programs and data
so I had a record of everything. This year, I did my taxes
over the web at Intuit's web site. I also filed my forms
electronically and got my refund checks deposited directly
to my bank account. No massive copying of forms, no hassles
with running outdated tax software versions. Everything was
done with just a web browser and Adobe Acrobat (which I used
to print out the few forms I did have to file the old
fashioned way). It was incredibly easy and efficient. And it
was cheaper than purchasing the physical disks.
What else do all of these applications have in common? None are from Microsoft. The ultimate irony, as Windows 2000, or should I say Office 2000, becomes more Internet-capable is that there will be more and more of these browser-based applications that have nothing to do with Windows. All of this points towards using the web as more of a utility. The days of buying pre-packaged applications is quickly coming to an end.
I'm not alone here in thinking that the web is changing how people interact with their applications. Dan Gillmor wrote a terrific piece on the topic in his last week's San Jose Mercury column
This is just the beginning on MyHardDisk.com. I'd love to hear innovative ways you are using the Internet to run your own applications.
Copyright © 1999, 2000 media.org.
Web Informant copyright 1999 by David Strom, Inc., reprinted by permission
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ISSN #1524-6353 registered with U.S. Library of Congress.