Well, it’s nearly Christmas and I’m betting you are all looking forward to your holidays as much as I am. It’s been a long year, with significant serious events in the last few months. Those of you in Christchurch are still experiencing aftershocks, and some of you will still be trying to get your homes and businesses back in order. The Pike River mining disaster has reminded us that some jobs are inherently dangerous, and we can never take our workplaces for granted. It has also reminded me how small New Zealand is – even in a community like the West Coast which Aucklanders in particular might regard as isolated, many of us (including me) know families of the 29 miners who died. On the tech front it’s been an interesting year from the perspective of a mere customer. I read a great deal about cloud computing – interestingly, it took me ages to figure out what everyone was talking about because all of the articles seemed to assume that we mere potential customers knew what it was. So you shouldn’t be surprised at the reluctance of potential customers to enter it – with that introduction, how do we know that our concerns about security, availability and backup facilities (if the internet or network grinds to a halt) will be taken into account? Keep it simple, people. Just because you know all about it doesn’t mean your customers do. The speed of growth and development of the internet has tended to fool our sense of timing. Let’s look at it this way: the World Wide Web specifications were created by Tim Berners-Lee only 19 years ago – August 1991. Google and MSN were launched only 12 years ago – September 1998. We are so dependent on these facilities that it is quite scary. One of my tasks with young lawyers is to teach them how to use law text books. Books? What are they? Sorry chaps and chapesses, but when you are researching something from scratch, there is still nothing that beats a good fat book. Once you really know which direction you are heading for (as against – just think you know) then by all means use the online resources. Because if you start off in the wrong direction with a search engine query, you’ll stay in that direction – and you won’t ever find out what the right direction is, because online searches are deep but narrow. As you may have guessed I’ve always been a Plan B person (and sometimes Plan C and Plan D). So when I read about the internet fast running out of IP addresses and I don’t read about any coherent plan B, I do get worried about our reliance on it. What are the alternatives? How would your business cope if internet access was rationed, or worse, those with deep pockets paid megadollars to take priority? It might pay to think through some options. Those of you in Christchurch know just how easy it is for your world to be turned upside down even for a short while. Charles Dickens’ character Mr Micawber was always saying “something will turn up” at times like this. Our experience with the internet so far has been that things turn up that we never ever expected, and quickly. But just remember that it has only been 19 years since the internet became available. Have a happy Christmas and (if you are able) a great holiday. Perhaps sitting under a tree thinking of a plan B? Or was that Newton and the apples I was thinking of? Rae Nield is a solicitor specializing in marketing law. This article is intended for general information, and should not be relied on as specific legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice relating to your own specific legal problems. Rae Nield can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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