Cloud computing, a term originating from an old network designers’ icon, is really just the ability to access and use everything you normally work with and need on your PC–without your PC. In other words, it’s the ability to hop on the Internet, or hop in the ‘cloud’, and start working on your spreadsheets, updating your order-forms, and listening to your music without your PC, your flash drive, or your external hard drive. However, even the experts are having a hard time defining cloud computing’s scope, power, and use….
So what are the implications?
Everyone is trying to see this one coming. The New York Times suggests that cloud computing may lend itself to larger censorship. Business Week thinks more and more businesses will rely on it. Newsweek is guessing that the technology will help developing nations. And the Wall Street Journal is witnessing a trend every business is dying to get into.
The thing is…everyone is right. Cloud computing will be huge and it’ll be a boon for emerging economies, new businesses, and consumers. However, cloud computing also comes with its own set of problems: security and censorship key among them.
What does this mean for your office?
Cloud computing is neither swift nor capable enough to reliably support the files and data your business likely uses everyday…. First, cloud computing is in its early stages of development and is prone to hitches, crashes, and delays. You need only too observe Gmail’s touchy service or Google document’s neophtye-like performance to see what I mean.
Regardless of the cloud’s ability to compute, the pressing matter is still security. Businesses may not ever want to risk having their important documents in the cloud at all times–because that means, online or offline, the data can be accessed, stolen, tampered with, or changed (in the same way Amazon deleted Orwell’s 1984 off of users’ Kindles). Cloud computing will prove invaluable to small businesses who would rather save money on hardware rather than worry about the safety of their files.
And for you….
Google’s services, like those of Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, are showing promise for personal use. It won’t be hard to imagine the day when everyone will ditch their fancy computers and laptops for small, cheap, netbooks that can easily access the cloud–and therefore their documents, music, movies, and media.
Although cloud computing will make it easy for people to access their information, it will also leave it in the hands of companies who may or may not exercise some sort of censorship. Meaning, if Apple thinks your document is corrupted with a virus or Amazon thinks you stole that song–it can be deleted without your consent.
Conclusion: Cloud computing won’t be easy to control
The home personal computer will probably fizzle out and, slowly, the office PC might too. Businesses and governments won’t be able to trust all of their data completely to the cloud and they’ll have to content themselves with simply sitting on top of it. However, knowing what to put in the cloud and what not to will prove to be among the decisions future leaders will have to make. Sure, it might be easier and cheaper to work on your customer database on Google Wave with your colleague in Europe–but it won’t be completely safe from outside eyes. What do you do?