Work at Home: Finding the Cloud and Accessing the Information Highway

By Wayne Scaggs

If you are going to work from home, a little understanding of the cloud (computing via the Internet) may be very useful.

The cloud: the something that is somewhere that magically connects your computer to something so that you are able to work from home. Let’s not stop at just working from home, either; you can shop from home via the cloud and enjoy entertainment in the cloud. The cloud is the future of how we will communicate and stay connected to our cars, our homes, our bank accounts – and the list goes on.

Have you ever seen the cloud? It’s out there; everyone talks about it. Let’s find the cloud. A good place to start is to remember when you were just a little child and believed in Santa Claus. Do you remember when you learned there was no Santa Claus? Well, I’m sorry for being so blunt, but you are all grown up now, and I bet you can take this: There is no cloud. Just as Santa Claus is the magical myth that brought you gifts (if you were good), the cloud is also a mythical place. All you have to do is turn on your computer and you are there, anywhere in the world, provided your computer has an Internet connection.

The cloud is actually a collection of many computers, both large and small, usually located in data centers around the world and directly connected to the Internet backbone. This is important when it comes to the reliability of these connections. The cloud also includes a massive collection of cables (mostly fiber cables and some copper wire cables) that stretch around the world. And those places not connected by cables are able to connect via satellite. All of these connections have digital data moving from place to place. As technology is able to digitalize more things, this electronic data puts information at our fingertips. Do you have a question? Just go to the Internet, ask anything, and you’ll find some kind of an answer.

Your connection to the Internet can be another mysterious event. Sometimes your connection is lightning fast, and other times it seems like you are riding on the back of a snail or something is choking your access to the information highway. The “information highway” – what is that? The information highway is another description of the Internet. The information highway can be compared to our national road system. You can go anywhere you want if you have transportation and an address. In much the same way, everyone has access to the Internet.

Let’s take a short journey. Go out your front door, walk down your driveway to your sidewalk, and when you reach the street, head to a boulevard or a highway. Maybe you’ll go to an airport, get on a plane and finally takeoff. When you land, you hail a taxi and tell the driver the address you want to go. Two major things happened on our journey. First, the route accommodated more people traveling than just you, and second, the speed of your travel increased as more people traveled together.

Perhaps there were issues. On your journey you may have forgotten to pack something, or your vehicle might have a flat tire or a dead battery that delays you. There may be construction on your street. Any number of things can happen on your journey. As long as you have plenty of time and it’s only a short delay, you are okay. You have been through this before.

A short delay can be compared to looking at your computer screen when a page does not load the way it should, or you click on a button and it takes a few seconds for something to happen. You are used to this, and you are okay with it.

Your access to the Internet is subject to mishaps, too. A physical connection at your home becomes loose, someone downloads a huge file (especially via cable), a piece of equipment goes bad, or someone turns off the wrong switch. All of these things can cause Internet issues while getting your data to the intended destination.

When someone asks you, “How is your home Internet connection?” you most likely will say, “Fine, I never lose connection.” This is because you and your eyes learn to accept a level of service from the Internet that may not be the best. Therefore, when you need to connect to your office from home, you are confident everything is okay. After all, you pay from $20 to maybe $55 a month for your basic Internet connection, including your router.

Then you get the privilege of working from home. But what if you have trouble with the stability of your connection, or the caller cannot hear you? You call your Internet provider to tell them they dropped your connection, or they have done something wrong. The truth is that the issue most likely lies in the connection from your home to the Internet backbone.

Be aware of two things: First, your provider will often state that your speed is “up to” a certain amount, which does not mean you will consistently get that stated speed. Second, when working from home, the “up” speed is as important as the “down” speed. The home agent will not believe this, because their connection seems to work for everything else.

Aside from the trust you have in your remote agent, the next most important thing is an excellent Internet connection. The cost of a reliable home connection is easily $50 to $95 a month. After all, the cost of a business connection is in the hundreds of dollars, and the equipment that supports that connection costs in the tens of thousands of dollars.

The Internet has enhanced our lives while, at the same time, impacted our lifestyles so that we cannot do without it; the question becomes, “Why would we?” Continue to embrace all of the advantages good technology affords you, and see the possibilities for enriching the lives of the people around you, as well as your own – such as when you work from home.

Wayne Scaggs is president of Alston Tascom, Inc., which offers premised-based and hosted contact center solutions, which uses the cloud.

[From Connection Magazine Jan/Feb 2014]