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Does the Cloud Matter?


By steve - Posted on 15 December 2009

I was asked the question,

What do think about "Cloud Computing"? Do you think it is the future for computing?

The answer is "yes". But, it will take a while before it gets really pervasive, and it won't ever be 100% of computing...

I already use it extensively. I can tell you, if someone gets "syncing and cache" right, that will make all the difference in growth of use. I have a couple of clients that are starting to use it as well.

My Concerns

* How do I keep my data? As services and data mingle, how do I get my data back and move it somewhere else? Every service I sign up for, that is important, must provide a (preferably automated) export feature and (hopefully) a sync feature, otherwise, it is just a toy.

* Who can look at my data? Will Google be serving me ads based on the contents of my spreadsheets? Yuck.

* Connectivity is not 100%, so how do I get to the cloud when there's no link? This means sync and cache are important. I hit this sometimes now with my google phone where I can't make an appointment if there's no cell signal.

* Is it more secure or less secure than managing my own data store (and carrying the data with me)?

What do I do in the cloud?

* My google phone is cloud-centric. All of my google data is automatically sync'd back to the google apps cloud which is then available via browser or in my Outlook client.

* My current backups are done using Carbonite. All my backed up files are available at any time from any browser. I still image my drive every week, but Carbonite keeps up with what I do during the days in between.

* My websites are run from a VPS in St. Louis. While looking like a typical Ubuntu server, it really is just a virtual server running what I tell it to, which could be anything. All of my business apps run in the cloud, except Quickbooks (Quickbooks online is really limited and too expensive for what it is).

* I use a file-share capability for key files and sort of a redundant backup of my main system.

What I won't be doing in the cloud

* Software development. I might host my software development in the cloud, but my IDE (Eclipse) will probably always run on a client system.

* All my backups. I always need a backup that I can physically get to, but my most current backup will be in the cloud.

* Major editing of any kind (video, software, graphics projects, etc.). These will probably need to be in hand for quite some time.

Why this matters

* I think we'll look back in a few years and wonder why we ever tolerated the maintenance it takes to properly support a laptop and desktop model of computing. We'll be running on a "cloud top" interface that looks like a browser that actually works.

* We can disengage from brain-dead vendors, as long as we don't just switch from software/hardware lock-in to cloud lock-in.

* Access to anything, anytime, anywhere is powerful and liberating.

* Consumers of the cloud will need some protections. I think a "bill of rights" for cloud users makes sense, but personally I'm not waiting. Any cloud service I use has to meet my base requirements about who owns the data (me) and my ability to backup/export the data.

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