Cloud Computing – Methinks not!

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I know that so-called “in the cloud” computing is becoming increasingly popular especially with the kind of PCs with little if any proper hard disk drive.

Other people who like the idea of “in the cloud” computing are those that are constantly on the move and those that have to do lots of collaboration work on documents and such with others many miles away.

They like the idea if “in the cloud” computing as they can, generally, access their data, their documents, their bookmarks, etc. from any Web-enabled computer from anywhere in the world.

While access to one's documents and other data from any Internet enabled computer from wherever in the world might be a lovely idea, however, and this is why I said “generally” a moment ago, what if the online service goes down for some reason or throws an extended wobbly? Or, if the problem that I am currently having with Yahoo's “My Web 2.0” where I can only get access at times for a short while and then it will not acknowledge my sign in for days on end.

If that happens the user is then “up the creek without a paddle”, as the saying goes, and especially and even more so if there is no other virtual or better still physical location where this data is held. If it is just in that particular cloud that is gone down then “oops!”

My advice would be rather to have but the data that you need to use when on the move and such on removable media, such as USB sticks – and those should, ideally, be encrypted ones – external portable hard drives or such. Do not rely in any way whatsoever on “in the cloud”.

This also applies for stuff when working in fixed locations.

If you want to use one of those new micro PCs or Laptops then have external portable hard drives as storage devices. Attached peripherals, including hard disks and others such as floppy drives and even, when they arrived, CD drives, used to be the norm in the early desktop computers like they were used with the military. Everything was attached on the outside, basically. With today's technology of USB 1.1 and USB 2.0, as well as Firewire, such devices are damned fast.

I know that I am rather contrary here to most people and I know that a lot of “web workers” love the “in the cloud” computing and storage but... I certainly advise against the “in the cloud” approach

While I know that this does set me at odds with a lot of people, if not indeed all of them, of the Web 2.0 field, it is my belief that online data storage and document storage is not a good idea. At least not without holding duplicates, and maybe even triplicates, of the information that is put up into the cloud, stored, back at base.

In addition to this, that is to say, data being inaccessible if the server of the host should have problems or whatever, my other concerns with regards to “in the cloud” computing are what if (1) the provider changes their rules and a free service suddenly is one that needs paying for or (2) what if service gets withdrawn, as most EULAs state that changes can be made without prior notification, or (3) what if the provider simply folds?

I know that those above are a worse-case scenario type of thing but, if you do not hold that data that you have in the cloud elsewhere that you may have lost it all.

The other question that goes with “in the cloud” computing in the security and privacy of your information and document. Many companies that provide online storage facilities, especially that that do so for free, have it in small print on the EULA that states that the data, the documents, the photos, the what-have-you, that you upload to store in their cloud becomes their property and they can share it, display it, etc. Duh? Sorry, not the way I am playing. I value my privacy and that of my data.

Therefore, as far as I am concerned, there maybe, in the future, some “in the cloud” computing for me, but certainly not much, and if I am going for some of those E-PCs then they will have HDD and other stuff attached on the outside. My data stays securely where I can control it, thanks. And where I can get to it when I want to and need to and where I am not reliant on a server that may, or may not, be working at that particular moment.

© M Smith (Veshengro), July 2008