The Cloud. The Sky Darkens.

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day concerning my previous post, The Cloud. Virtual Computing Or Pie In The Sky. From their point of view, the cloud was a great idea. It gave them the opportunity to access their information from anywhere, plus, they could store huge amounts of data without having to go and buy expensive storage devices.

Point taken, you can’t argue with that. However, it’s important to understand just why the “cloud” was developed in the first place. In the good-old-days, IT companies used to manufacture hardware and this was the mainstay of their business. They weren’t too bothered about operating systems and software as this was someone else’s concern. Plus, all of the big “meaty” computers, such as mainframe and Unix based servers had their own operating environments. However, as PC’s that were once deemed as being for home use only, became faster and more reliable, companies started to turn to these instead.

As a result, computer server manufacturers started to see a squeeze on their margins. What were once their cash-cows, were now turning into money losers. As a result, the manufacturers turned to other avenues in order to generate revenue. They started to work closely with software integrators as well as develop their own in-house software. Maintenance and service plans were pushed with gusto. They soon started to realise that getting their customers to subscribe to products and services was the way forward.

The hardware became the loss-leader. The device to get a stranglehold on their customers in order to get them to sign up to an endless stream of products that were vital to the running of their everyday business. Software licenses, maintenance plans, disaster recovery services, asset management programs, etc., etc. The list goes on. If only they didn’t have to manufacture hardware at all! Genius!!

And so the cloud was born. One manufacturer in particular built huge data centres capable of housing and storing massive amounts of data. The investment was huge; millions and millions of dollars, but it didn’t matter. They were manufacturing the hardware anyway. The difference was, they would only have to do it the once. They could then sell “virtual computing” to their customers. All a company would need would be terminals on desks and a decent internet connection. You were then good to go.

What’s the problem then, I hear you ask. It’s the commercial world that are paying for these data-centres and we get to reap the benefits. Not quite. What happens when the data centres fill up, or it starts costing too much money to maintain them. Someone will have to pay. Imagine, all of your music, your films, your treasured photographs, not to mention your important data, all held remotely. Someone has the power to pull the plug on all your “stuff”, and guess what. It’s not you! If you get asked to pay, you’re not going to have too much of a choice.

If you think this won’t happen, then you’re wrong. It already is. There are a number of photo hosting sites that have scrapped their free option, or are at least looking at massively restricting how many photos you can store before you have to pay. You know how it works. Once one company gets away with it, they’ll all be doing it.

So, if your happy to keep your head in the clouds, then fine. Me, I keep everything backed up on hard drives, flash drives and USB sticks. I even have a ton of photos saved on DVD’s. Remember them!

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