If you are like me, some where out there on the internet you have heard about cloud computing. From Wikipedia,
Cloud computing refers to the provision of computational resources on demand via a computer network, such as applications, databases, file services, email, etc. In the traditional model of computing, both data and software are fully contained on the user’s computer; in cloud computing, the user’s computer may contain almost no software or data (perhaps a minimal operating system and web browser only), serving as little more than a display terminal for processes occurring on a network of computers far away. A common shorthand for a provided cloud computing service (or even an aggregation of all existing cloud services) is “The Cloud”.
What this means is that you can store your movies, T.V shows, music, and documents online and have access to them regardless if you are on your phone, notebook, or another digital device in a different country or at work without having to carry the actual data around with you! Of course you will need access to an internet connection or Wi-Fi network to do this. If you do a quick web search you will see many large companies are putting billions of dollars into this and will be hoping that when it is ready we will all convert to ‘The Cloud’. There are a few caveats that come with ‘cloud’ computing that should be noted however.
The first is data bandwidth limitations. You should be currently aware that almost all Canadian providers have a cap limit with the exception of some premium price plans and some smaller ISP’s that I may not be aware of but you have to be lucky to have them available in your area. Most American companies are following suit with bandwidth caps as well. My Rogers cap is at 60GB, although it does sound like a lot, you have to realize that simply watching a 2 hour HD quality video from Netflix can cost you up to 4GB! Even if you don’t subscribe to a movie service 60GB may seem like a lot but considering 1GB of bandwidth purportedly costs ISP’s approximately 1 to 3 cents, so realistically, capping bandwidth is an Internet Service Provider’s way of limiting our access to the net and maximizing profits. That’s especially bad if you happen to have everything on ‘The Cloud’.
The second is the cost. We could not have expected this for free… I am going out on a limb here and will assume that server space on a Cloud will be tiered by the amount of space you require. Due to the size required I am going to make one further assumption and assume those tiers will go from 0-500GB, 501GB-1TB, and so on. I don’t really think they would come in anything smaller then 250GB tiers and each tier will be priced around $120 per year to start. I’m making that up, but I can tell you that I don’t want to spend an additional $120 per year on something or even $1 on something I should be able to setup on my home PC and have access to anywhere else there is an Internet connection for free. Whether the two trends are directly related can’t be said for sure, but realistically, capping bandwidth and then charging for excess use along with the introduction of Cloud was no accident, I wouldn’t put it past ISP’s to suck us dry for every last dollar that could be had.
The third is copyrights. You didn’t think you could put something on the cloud and share it with your friends and family did you? I doubt that you would be able to use your Cloud server with your immediate family. Already Music conglomerates are figuring out ways to make money with this technology. (Or protecting artists as they call it) Imagine uploading your favourite song, now imagine your wife, son, daughter, and you all having access to it through the various gadgets that you happen to own. To be able to do that is literally music to our ears, to an artist or record label, that’s infringement. How can four people have access to the same file? After the war of lawyers and lawsuits and copyrights, trust me they won’t be able to. So like most things in life, the original concept behind Cloud will always be cutting edge and awesome, the end result will not.
I know I will get many people who will say that for them Cloud was amazing. They travel a lot and love to have access to information that is like just when they are at home. There are many programs that enable you to do that now all you have to do is look hard enough. I really can’t believe all these companies are pouring billions of dollars into this unless they really thought it was viable. Maybe ‘The Cloud’ will be a lead in to a new and better technology, because I honestly think they didn’t shoot high enough, instead of aiming for the clouds, they should have shot for the moon. It should have been free and they could have named it ‘The Moon’. Actually that’s not that bad… Or maybe it is.
Edit: Update as of June 18th:2011
I see that Apple has released their version of iCloud and they have done some very innovative things. They have given everyone everyone 5GB for free and created iMatch which costs 24.99. Basically it takes your legal or illegal music collection and gives you the best possible version of it available. iCloud does seem very tempting for non important documents, but keep in mind bandwidth usage and potential costs still apply, especially if you are with one of the large companies. Learn how to use your bandwidth tracker from your ISP and find out how much bandwidth you have on your home ISP and your mobile data plans if you plan to tether devices. I still don’t think ‘Cloud’ will be a success fiscally, but a lot more people will be using it then then I thought, maybe including me. (the free part and for small files only)