You know all the computers, routers, backup devices, wires, server closets that plague most small offices? The stuff that you have to pay to set up, are held hostage to when it breaks, and are forced shell out for when it needs an upgrade?
It turns out, all of this stuff has a historical precedent, as Nicholas Carr points out in “The Big Switch”. In order to make horseshoes or candles, for example, 19th century manufacturers required a power source, most likely from a waterwheel or steam engine. This energy then had to be distributed to the machinery in the mill through a system of belts and pulleys, a bundle of contraptions known as “millwork”.
The analogy works for today’s production environment: the modern office. The aforementioned computers, routers, backup devices, wires, and server closets are referred to by Carr as “digital millwork”.
Millwork went away. Once the electric grid became available, machines could plug directly into a socket, eliminating the need for millwork and greatly increasing the efficiency of factories.
With Software as a Service and Cloud Computing, digital millwork will follow it’s 19th century predecessor to the grave, as small businesses outsource their inefficient, security-prone, and high-maintenance computing needs to software providers.
Why set up a complicated network when all you need is a browser?