There is no more storied relationship in human history than the one between man (and woman and child) and disaster. Though the news may only report the most significant catastrophes of nature, arriving every few months or so, earth-borne crises arise and affect life daily. Quickly catching up to that man-versus-nature dynamic in terms of scope is the concept of man and technology, which has rapidly emerged as a tool of expedited progress, for better and for worse. Thankfully, the newest poster child of technological progress — our very own beloved cloud computing — is emerging as of late as a force of positive change in the face of disaster.
As well all know very well by now, cloud’s usefulness, even its existence, is not at all new phenomenon. Products such as e-mail, web video, and even search engines are all previously cloaked examples of the cloud. That these products also prove vital in helping a person or community find assistance and recover from an emergency already attests to cloud’s ability to prevent a disaster from completely assailing the afflicted. Yet now that cloud computing has removed the veil of its name and purpose, several new products have germinated, specifically geared toward promoting progress in the wake of a dire situation.
WebEOC, for instance, stands out as a prime example of cloud computing as a collaborator in a relief effort. The application allows for emergency staff at every social tier — from the neighborhood to the state’s offices — to unite in the design of a targeted response. Microsoft Share Point similarly provides galvanic support during a crisis through the cloud. When implemented in a community — a workplace, a university campus, a government office — the program facilitates a collaborative dynamic between enlisted members regardless of their location, exchanging documents or distributing lists of vital resources and help centers.
Ignoring the cloud’s weak points in terms of emergency management would be folly, however. Well-trained experts will be needed to expand and improve the idea of infrastructure-as-a-service during a disaster; issues with bandwidth and connectivity should not interfere with a response time or an effort to communicate. And we can’t forget that old chestnut, cloud’s trouble with dats protection and power outages, which can be remedied with backup clouds, deeper collaboration between networks, and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, FedRAMP, which will endow cloud computing with certification protocol.
Head to Emergency Management for a continuation of the complex yet promising conversation of the cloud as a tool of relief and rescue.
By Jeff Norman