Vacation Reflections On Personal Cloud Possibilities

I'm on vacation this week, traveling with a small group of my extended family out on the Dingle peninsula of Ireland. I'm mostly focused on vacation, but have done a little checking in on work things. Trying to stay connected - and figuring out how to adjust my Internet habits while on vacation with a Dad and brother that are decidedly less interested in computing is interesting. Here are some random thoughts from the experience.

I'm using a temporary Forrester computer, so none of my files are on this computer. I'm putting new files in the Dropbox folder, so they'll automatically be synced out for access when I get back. And I'm using a SugarSync account to retrieve needed files from my main PC, when I can find a connection. Our B&B doesn't have Wi-Fi, and it is rare in Dingle, so I'm using an ice cream shop that hands you a code if you want to use their Wi-Fi. Which means I connect about every 2 days, because it is several hundred meters away - thankfully it still works when they're closed and they don't change the code!

The biggest pain is mobile phone roaming! I turned off mobile access on the iPad. I signed up for AT&T's roaming data plan, which is the only east option for data but expensive. Even with the international roaming, mobile voice is $1 a minute. And there's no plan for roaming texting, so it's something like 25 or 50 cents a shot. So I bought an Irish SIM at the Post Office - which offers voice and text. But for some reason the old BlackBerry I put the SIM in can't send text, only receive them. And even though it is supposedly only for in-country calls, my brother was able to call my mobile with the Irish SIM when his Guinness factory stop in Dublin didn't work out.

All this simply reinforces my sense that we won't be able to count on ubiquitous connectivity any time soon, especially when traveling away from home, and internationally especially.

As I think about getting set up on a new computer for Forrester, I'm trying to figure out how to make my master file storage sit at an online service, with local caching on the PC(s) I'm using. I think that means I keep older files mostly online as an archive, with recent files, the last couple of years, on my primary PC. But where do email archives live, and how do I access them? I wonder if Gist can serve as that long-term integrated email archive, rather than the collection of 6-month Outlook PST files I have now.

Another headache - using Forrester's blog editor on this temporary laptop means that the blog software's browser-based spell checker doesn't remember any of the words I added to its dictionary on the last PC. Another example of device-centricity that makes life difficult for the customer.

For vendor strategists, all this shows how early the market is in rethinking the personal computing experience to move it from being device-centric to information-centric. I'm drafting a new report on the Personal Cloud landscape later this summer, based in part on the panel at Forrester's IT Forum in May, and the teleconference I did in early June.