The Economist had a very interesting article in its Work-Life Balance Computing article of 19-Dec-2006 entitled "Consumer technologies are invading corporate computing."
The gist of the column, like so many articles over the past few months about the impact of consumer computing on IT, is that corporate computing departments can't hope to keep up with the advances in consumer electronics, web-services, and other consumer-focused technical advances. This time the case-study involved a forward-looking IT Manager for Arkansas State University who moved student email from the university servers to Google.
65,000 students are having their email accounts transferred at the rate of 300 per hour to Gmail while retaining the university's domain of asu.edu. They get web-based email at no additional cost to the university, along with instant messaging, and shared calendars. Not a bad deal!
But what really sets this IT Manager apart is his rationale for the move. He knows that the pace of consumer-driven technical change isn't something that corporate environments can match easily. But companies like Google can introduce web-based services like Google Apps for Your Domain (which, by the way, is still in beta), and then add new services like word processing and spreadsheets, or wikis and blogs without requiring the legions of technical support staff that rolling out new services like that in a corporate environment would require.
What about security and backup? Again, corporate IT departments need not worry. One of Google's data centres burnt to the ground - but nobody noticed! Because the other data centres picked up the slack and continued to provide the service required. Massive redundancy and massive storage capacity means that Google can offer these web-based services without compromising security and backup.
You can bet I will be watching developments like this very carefully over the next few months!