Monday, April 26, 2010

View from the Clouds

Efficiency, productivity, collaboration - all used to describe Cloud Computing - But how about Effectiveness? I'm in the Effectiveness business. I ask myself daily "How effective are these systems?", and search for the answers. So when it comes to Cloud Computing, I figure by the time Microsoft is on to something these days, it's a big thing.

In the old days, we used to have Resident Applications on our PC's that used our hard drives to store data. Fast and secure - as long as the Hard Drive remained safe, secure and in working order. Now we're all jumping to the clouds. I have. I keep nearly nothing ENTIRELY on my Hard disk. However, it's not the Applications that are the problem -- it's the information storage.

Google, Zoho have made strides in providing large functionality to their cloud-based systems. Maybe you're OK with the 90% functionality they provide... but for all my efforts, I haven't been able to break away from the tried-and-true MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint-type Resident Applications. Resident Applications are just too smooth and powerful by comparison to pared-down, browser-based interfaces.

I'm not woe-be-gone to the idea of Cloud computing. In fact I really like it, and base as much as I can out there, independent of fragile laptops and slippery memory sticks. I just can't get too excited about the status of it all depending on my browser and subsequent internet connection. Do I need all 600 MS fonts - all of the thousands of features 90% of Office users never touch? No, of course not. But I do need some of them, and so do you.

Cloud computing, in the truest sense, is based on the idea that there are server systems in the Cloud that are more effective than our local machine. However, with the advancement of civilian computing technology, that's not entirely true. I can perform loads more detailed operations here on my local machine than Google, with all its amazing servers in California can provide.

So what is the Cloud good for? Today it's good for storage. I hope one day there will be resident applications that seamlessly access and interface with their cloud counterparts allowing for the fluid collaboration of a white board with the security of networked backup. Think about heavily net-dependent resident applications like Google Earth. Our ever-strengthening local machines will probably always have the Effectiveness edge on remote machines due to the sheer personal customize-ability, and perhaps Processing Power as well.

I could be displaying an unusual lack of insight for the potential of the Cloud, but as of today, I still refuse to give up the functionality of resident software - and choose simply to store the fruits of its work safely, reliably, scalably, in the Cloud.

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