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« Doing the Impossible | Main | Email In The Cloud - Not Just For Startups »

May 10, 2009


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Guy Gur-Ari

I can't help the feeling this is just the old mainframe <-> workstation pendulum making another swing, wrapped (as always) in hip 2.0 jargon.

Do you think there is really something new here? Or will we find ourselves in 5-10 years' time again 'realizing' how important and convenient it is to keep our data nearby and under our control, etc.?


Cloud computing for the average joe is all about keeping your data (or "stuff") and software applications somewhere else on the Internet, rather than on your computer. Take Flickr for example. If you put all your photos on Flickr, you can access them from anywhere, even if you aren't at your own computer. By storing your stuff somewhere else "out there in the clouds" at places like Flickr, you can let someone else worry about maintaining the applications (photo sharing, word processing, etc.), and you can just use the software and access your data from anywhere with Internet access.

Those are the pros. The cons include the fact that you are depending upon someone else to keep your stuff safe. What happens if they go out of business? Do you lose your stuff? Letting someone else control your data relieves you of the burden and may be cost effective as well, but it also means you may not have control if and when you need it most.

It's very likely, however, that the data is just as safe, if not safer, in the cloud, because most responsible companies will ensure the data gets backed up regularly. Many average joes don't take that step, so they often lose the data simply because they had control over it.

Perhaps the ideal solution is a combo-method of cloud computing with data backup to one's own external backup device, such as the relatively cheap external hard drives that are USB plug and play, and portable to boot.

Guy Rosen

@guygr -- it is indeed the same old "utility computing" rising again. My father likes to point out the similarities to the timeshare systems he used to program in the 1960's.

I wonder though which of the following is more correct:

1. It's the pendulum swinging again. Anyone who thinks "this time this is it" is as delusional as those who said two years ago that economical cycles are gone and the booming economy is going to last forever. Boy were they wrong!

2. The pendulum hasn't really swung round enough times for us to conclude there IS a cycle at all. If you look at it, we only did one cycle - from the centralized early computing years to the PC age of the 80s/90s - and since then we've been going back. Perhaps, a hundred years from now, that decentralized period will be nothing more than a blip in an otherwise centralized system.

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