The cloud is generally used as an expression to describe something that is stored on the internet and not on your PC. Two major areas there are ‘Cloud computing’, where your applications aren’t stored on your machine, and cloud data storage, where your data isn’t stored on your machine but on an internet connected server.
Basically the cloud relies on your data and applications being stored on other people’s web servers and you accessing it via the internet.
- Frees up resources locally
- Low initial outlay
- Enables you to access data and applications wherever you go
- Backups are all handled for you
But my personal opinion, for most small businesses – despite all the massive hype – has always been, and always will be, “you must be totally and utterly mad to consider Cloud Computing“.
Strong words, but let me rephrase my explanation of cloud computing – “Cloud computing is when somebody charges you a monthly fee ad infinitum to store your own data on their servers, which you have no idea where they are based, what security levels they have, and how they are backed up, and then give you access to it down an unreliable and slow connection”. Doesn’t seem like such a good deal to me APART from the ability to access your data anywhere because it is all internet based.
So forget the Cloud right? Absolutely not. I firmly believe we are on the edge of a revolution – another step change in the way the world works, and not before time. Here’s a few steps in the history of computing:
It’s all about the hardware. IBM PC XT and AT ruled the roost until…
- Operating system-centric
Who cares about the hardware as long as it runs Windows until…
Who cares about Windows, it’s all about the applications you’re running, you don’t care what it runs on until…
- The next step: Data-centric
Who cares about what device you’re using, what operating system or what application, it’s all about the data. Got an iPod, iPad, PC, TV, iDontCare – I just want to read my documents, listen to my music, look at my photos wherever and however I want.
So I see the promise of The Cloud to deliver data-centric solutions as a revolution – but just not the way they are currently selling it. I have a love/hate relationship with a type of device called a NAS (Network Attached Storage). These devices are just tiny computers with a large hard disk in them which allow you to share files across your machines on a network. Big deal, OK it is easier to share data rather than sharing a folder on your hard disk but BUT they are now maturing to be far more than that. They are now maturing to storing your data and sharing it with your network, and any other devices connected wirelessly, AND over the internet (with appropriate security).
Now I can store my data in my house for no annual fee, I know where it is, I know I back it up (in fact it will do that automatically), I know what the security is, I can access that data locally (no reliability issues) and quickly (because it is wired into my network), I can access that data on my Playstation, look at my photos on the TV, play music via my smartphone or a cheap device plugged into my stereo, look at files whilst working remotely, share photos with people remotely, listen to my music remotely, never mind the same again for video. This truly is a revolution in the making – currently these devices are hard to setup and have a really techy slant, but they will eventually evolve into simple ‘plug and play’ consumer devices.
So I believe the Cloud is indeed the future, but just not the one that people are trying to sell us – instead of being centrally run cloud based servers it will be each individual controlling and accessing their own data through a simple, cheap to install box wherever they want, however they want… now that is going to be a revolution!
FOOTNOTE: Interesting to ponder what this will mean to Apple, Google et al.