The idea of the cloud, of computer servers running 24/7 serving up documents, music, movies and more is a good one. It would allow our ever more powerful smart phones, tablets and computers to be more connected and available whenever and wherever we wanted. However there are some problems that could potential arise and there are some good reasons to not put everything into the "cloud". With the advent of services like Dropbox, iCloud and Google Docs it's a debate that's important to businesses and consumers alike.
There are many benefits to using cloud computing including:
- Accessing documents anywhere on the planet. This includes music, films and office files. Being able to log in to Google Docs on a computer in Africa is the same as logging into one in Europe or the USA.
- Having your documents backed up automatically. Many companies will automatically back your files up to many locations on different server farms rather than leaving it in one place.
- Being able to use lower powered devices with longer battery lives to do the same job as a more powerful conventional machine.
- Having access to very powerful computers without having to pay the large costs up front such as for video encoding or photo editing.
On the other hand there are many potential issues in using the cloud:
- Not having absolute control of your documents. If a file is not on a local machine then in theory police and other government agencies could access your documents (but many services are already working to prevent this).
- A reliance on an internet connection. Even with wi-fi and wireless internet in most places, they are not infallible and can fail. Rural areas may lack a reliable connection and often you can forget about wireless internet on your phone on the subway, trains and airplanes.
- Data heavy applications like video and photo editing are difficult to do on the cloud. However with faster Internet connections this problem may disappear.
A compromise between using the cloud and not using it is probably what we are contemplating for use at the moment. I wrote this article in Microsoft Word as I have an unreliable connection to Google Docs, but at the same time I am using Spotify for my music. I suppose that means I am yet to trust the cloud for important things like financial information or my work files. The benefits of the cloud could be summarized in one word as accessibility. The chief problem I would find is connectivity to the internet, i.e. being able to actually access the internet at every potential time. In time however it is my view that we will move to using cloud computing as standard with only specialist applications being used on local machines. If you have any comments please write them below.