The Cloud, the future? You have to be kidding!
I have been reading a good bit lately about “the Cloud” and how it is the future.
It took me awhile to figure out what they mean by “the Cloud”, but in simple terms it means the “big” software companies (Google, Microsoft, etc.) want you to start storing your data (and applications) on their servers (computers) and then access it all via the Internet, as if somehow that makes you more productive. Now I can see where this technology may benefit those who need to collaborate together, such as scientists, software developers, etc.
But for the rest of us, “the common people” and “normal businesses” I have to just say, “you have to be kidding” !
Let’s look at the facts:
(1) The Internet is slow, even with high speed, so applications will run slower on the cloud, not faster!
I hate web based applications (working on one right now with WordPress and it is so slow and sluggish compared to a real word processor). They have to be kidding if they think Cloud applications are as fast as native applications on your PC! The computer industry has already slowed down our productivity, because computer operating systems and applications are bloated. An application written for Windows 95, running on Windows 95 if probably many times faster than that application running on Windows XP, Vista or 7. A Windows 7 application running on Windows 7, may be even worse, since for some reason software developers continue to overload computer hardware with bloated software and operating systems. I think the Cloud concept is the product is a similiar mentality.
(2) The internet providers likely don’t want to talk about this, but the internet bandwidth is already being overloaded right now.
When you pay for high speed internet, you likely rarely get the actual speed you pay for all the time. Simply compare download speeds in the morning to download speeds in the evening. Now if we all start using the Cloud, that will mean moving even more data across the web and the hardware will be overloaded even more. Do we really want to go down that road ?
Do you really trust someone else to store and proect your data ? I can store data on a PC and especially if I keep that PC off the internet, no one can access it. The Cloud means you have to trust someone else to protect your data. One bad accident at a service provider (for the Cloud) and thousands (maybe millions) of users could lose all their data forever.
(4) What happens if the internet goes down for any period of time ?
What if a tornado hits a service provider of the Cloud in one state and their internet is shut down for hours, maybe days. I could live across the country, where it is sunny and warm and I could lose access to my applications and data. Dependence upon the internet is not a good idea! I like the internet, but I don’t want to be forced to be dependent upon it. The internet is great when you want to share stuff, but when you don’t need to share your data (or applications), why use it ?
(5) The Cloud is for the rich!
Those who likely promote the Cloud, likely have access to the latest and best software and hardware. They likely have access to super high speed internet connections and are willing to pay a premium price for it. But for the rest of us, who struggle to make a living, the extra costs to fully benefit from the Cloud, just may not be possible.
So what is the solution ? If not the Cloud, then what ?
I don’t have all the answers, but maybe an experience of mine would be useful here. Back in the early 90′s I had to write a multi-user application for a local business. They had 7 computers, running Windows 3.1, which needed to access the database. The network speeds were slow and there was the concern about what would happen if the server went down. The solution was simple, but in its own way revolutionary (meaning I hadn’t heard of anyone else doing it this way). Rather than treat the network as a single server with all the rest simply workstations, the software treated the network as “peer to peer” and it could treat multiple computers as servers for the database (as many as I wanted). Each computer had the software loaded directly on its own harddrive, rather than run it from servers. The database was on multiple computers (started with 2). Now each installation of the software was provided an initialization file which told it where each server was located and which server that workstation was assigned to. Now when a workstation (or even the app running on one of the servers) saved data, it would write the data to every server that was assigned to store the database. I refered to these a “mirror” images of the database. Now when a workstation needed to read data, it would only read it from the server it was assigned to. This allows data sharing among multiple PC’s, provided security in that there were mirror images on multiple servers (and if one went down, the initialization files could be modified quickly to remove that server from the group) and the computers ran faster because rather than having one server serve them all, multiple servers shared the work.
The point is that in designing this software, I took into consideration things like overall speed (multiple servers sharing the load), security or data protection (data stored in mirror images on multiple servers), breakdowns (a server could be taken out of the group and the other servers with the mirror image database pick up the load). This software is still in use today (running on Windows 2000) over 15 years later.
The positive qualities of the Cloud, rather than be considered the answer to all problems, should be used simply as an alternative when it fits the need. I don’t think the Cloud solves data storage in general because, because most PC users have reliable harddrives with storage space far beyond their needs. I am computer programmer, who probably has more software installed on his computer than the average person, and my main computer only has a 40 gig harddrive. Most harddrives today are much larger than this too. Flash drives are cheap and can easily be plugged into a USB port to extend data storage, when one does need it for things like video or multimedia.
So the Cloud may be a good addition to computer users today, who may benefit from data sharing, but to consider it the “best way or only way to handle data and app storage” in the future, my only response is “they have to be kidding”!
Date: December 10, 2010