Advisors and the Cloud: Welcome to the New World of Computing

By Brian Gannon, Technical Relationship Manager on Friday, August 26th, 2011

It's official...the Cloud is here, and it's not new anymore. 

The other week, I embarked on an ambitious project, one which I have tried every now and again over the past ten years and which has invariably proved to be a fool’s errand: create the elusive “unified calendar”.  By that I mean a calendaring system that is correct no matter where it is viewed, and no matter where appointments are created or modified, whether it be in Outlook, a phone, the Internet, etc. I’ve tried and failed so many times, and scoffed at the promise of the Internet as a result. There was always a snag. I had to sync my phone to my laptop at least once a day, or my workplace’s Exchange server was locked down, or appointments could be viewed but not made on my personal laptop. If it didn’t include everything, and/or relied on some manual step, it didn’t count. Well guess what. This time, the result was different. This time, IT WORKED! I was as excited as Doc Brown when the DeLorean hit 88 miles per hour. iCal + Google Calendar + Outlook + Google Calendar Sync = Unified Calendar. And that can only mean one thing: the Internet, or the Cloud I should say, is finally, positively, without a doubt, here.

In my world, the arrival of the Cloud is marked by the momentous occasion described above. However, it won’t be much different for everyone else when Apple’s iCloud shows up later this year, free of charge. When everyone who uses an Apple product, and there are quite a few, realizes that all of the media on their iPhone is also on their laptop, and also on their iPad, and also on any computer with a web browser, without them having to do anything, they will suddenly “get it”, and the idea of information being something that lives on a specific physical device will finally be over.

Even though we are inundated daily with messages of how a new technology is here and how everything will be different now, I think that it is important to take notice of events that have the potential to subtly, yet swiftly, shift perception of a concept from being new to being normal. Because while something new is met with awe and often skepticism, something normal is met with expectation and trust. Just as RIA’s today are beginning to expect that custodian systems like WealthCentral, Veo, and NetX360 have mobile versions, so will investors begin to expect that their advisor’s market commentary and guidance is wherever they prefer it to be, and so will users of 3rd party solutions expect those solutions to be 100% virtual, without any dependence on a particular hard drive, laptop, or network. And at the same time, accompanying concerns around privacy and security that are so often discussed in the media today, and which are often quite valid, will slowly begin to fade in the face of the overwhelming “normalcy” of it all.

So what does all of this mean? Well, for starters, it means that I can be in a meeting and rely on my iPhone to remind me if I have another appointment I need to get to. That is huge…it is a “so long 8-tracks, hello cassettes” moment if there ever was one.   And other than that, I think it’s just something that all of us in the financial services industry need to see coming and recognize it for the rich opportunity that it is. A year from now, you won’t have to convince your clients that delivering quarterly statements via Dropbox or executing an LPOA via EchoSign are safe and reliable alternatives. A year from now, they will think it odd if you didn’t do so.

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