It supposedly holds the key to the future. It promises to take networking and corporate organization to new frontiers. It has become a full-on media buzzword: Cloud Computing.
How is it that interest is best captured through the conveyance of bad news? Perhaps we are already conditioned in a way that it takes a disastrous headline to attract our media diluted minds. That is a question everyone can answer on their own, as to me, only since reading negative feedback on Cloud Computing a couple of weeks ago, have I been really keen to research the topic and to write a blog post on it.
What is behind this buzzword? Who is using it? What can it offer me? Read on to find the answers I formulated…
After some superficial research I came to a point where I thought that Cloud Computing was a concept just as intangible as real clouds. Wherever the wind, so to speak, blew, I found different definitions and explanations as to what it was all about.
Eventually, a blog on boche.net put it in simple terms, tailored for confused novices like me:
Basically, tasks performed by single computers are centralized to a so-called cloud, thus, making the acquisition of high-end hard- and software obsolete. All single computers are, are gateways to the network through which information is retrieved and tasks are performed.
This is especially lucrative for firms that spend thousands of Euros on keeping hardware up to date and purchasing software licenses. Besides those obvious advantages, Cloud Computing makes it possible to work from any computer anywhere, provided there is an Internet connection.
Now, let’s get to the bad news that originally caught my attention. The BBC recently published an article on devastating cloud failures in Amazon and Sony. Amazon, an enterprise depending solely on Internet orders, was faced with the collapse of its EC2 Cloud. This exposes a first critical weakness of Cloud Computing, being that when all tasks are centralized, it takes only one such event to paralyze an entire firm. I have given some rather gloomy descriptions of what a central failure can cause for the market in my early post “What if the Internet collapsed tomorrow”.
In the case of Sony, the cloud was hacked, compromising vast amounts of confidential gaming data. Cloud Computing offers hackers a single frontier to be breached to wreak havoc that could destroy a company.
Despite these all to obvious vulnerabilities, companies are increasingly investing in this new technology for the benefits it brings along which are easily as weighty as the cons. Yet, it is not only firms that can benefit from Cloud Computing, bringing me to the last question: What does it offer me?
Dropbox and SpiderOak are two very successful examples of private cloud usage. Moving data to an external storage source offers you and me the possibility of live synchronization and editing data from anywhere. Certain operating systems, Ubuntu for instance, have a personal cloud aimed at performing similar tasks.
Apple is planning the launch of a cloud music service which combines its iTunes music store with new license deals to offer users a centralized music collection.
As to whether or not the future lies in the clouds… I believe it does. Moving away from the dependence on certain hardware is a trend that is openly welcomed by the market and the benefits seem too tempting not to move ahead with it. As with all new concepts, it will still take a couple of crash-landings before the security situation is stabilized, but that is a necessary hurdle to be taken.