Until I learn to fly… (Are we ready for the Cloud?)

If you are not so familiar with IT and mostly the technical part of it, terms like ‘the cloud’ might sound confusing. But if you are in the IT, the ‘cloud’ might be something very interesting, or absolutely not. I personally still have to form my opinion over it.

The first mentioning of the ‘cloud’ for personal use came with the introduction of the network-pc’s in I thought 1994. These PC’s would only run on the network, with software from the network. For me personally, that computer would be anything but interesting, because it was a horrible game computer. But things have changed, because the concept of a computer ‘only’ for the network productions is now a powerhouse, and with the age of the Internet upon us we simply do not have to worry about connectivity. We are all daily using ‘the cloud’, storing our videos on YouTube, files on SkyDrive and our personal information on Facebook. You don’t know where your data exactly is, and you do not care.

But, should we worry about that? The cloud, or grid-computing was the personal obsession of one of my co-workers back in the Netherlands at Logica-CMG, and what Sun was doing with it. Not simply storing data, but using the computer’s own resources to add to a giant mega computer that formed the ‘cloud’ (grid).

NASA has been running one of the oldest well known cloud program, SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) which you can download from the NASA site. They use the power of the computer that runs the program to analyze the data gathered from their telescope arrays and external information.

The ‘cloud’ brings a lot of good things. But… I am not too happy with it on a personal level. That my personal computer becomes part of the internet, I have accepted, and I lock it down. But using tools like Google Apps, SkyDrive, YouTube… my stuff is out there. I do not store any data that is of importance on SkyDrive. Not even because of the security, but what will happen if, through a series of events, Microsoft pulls the plug on the project, or worse, tumbles down itself? Where is my stuff? My photos? Of course, everyone says you should not use cloud services as your only copy or only back-up copy. But how many other back-ups do I need to manage then?

Then there is the issue of security. I don’t know what Google really has running as a fence around their systems, and how secure and well tested it is. And what about smaller companies. We have seen it with LifeGuard, who told the media they would protect against identity theft and in the end they were only able to check how many times your credit was requested. You never know what the truth is.

Somehow I like to have my data local, where I am responsible, where I can decide how to store, what to back up. That I can padlock my information. So that is my paranoia with the ‘cloud’, but on the other hand, using SaaS (Software as a Service) is often something good. You do not have to install software (which makes you computer faster again) , and it can stay up to date always. So I am still in the middle.

In the end, I like to have my head in the clouds, but my feet on the ground… until I learn to fly.


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