I Hate Cloud Computing, and You Should Too!
The Hype of the Cloud Makes Me Sick
Cloud computing is a popular topic in the news. Apple, Netflix, Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, and all sorts of other technology companies are trying to move the consumer out of the personal computer and into the "cloud" where data can be accessed anywhere, on any device. In this system the iPad or iPad2 can be the hub of a home-based business, and a place to stream movies from distant servers onto my special, access-ready devices anywhere I am, over WiFi and 3G or 4G. The hype tells me this will be a beautiful future, where I can buy software with the flick of a finger, and play any of my video games anywhere I want. The hype tells me that I don't need to pay a few thousand dollars, American, for a decent computer to run the software I need, because the processing power could easily be off on some server farm in Bakersfield, and all I need is a little remote device to access that server farm. The hype tells me it will be magical, to be able to access anything, anywhere.
Here's where the hype loses me: It comes with a price, aggressive digital rights-management, and a massive, exploitable system ripe for the nimble fingers of hackers anonymous and otherwise.
How Much Does it Cost?!
I have a smart phone. With this phone, i pay close to a hundred dollars a month to access the internet, my e-mail, and an app-store, that gives me the privilege of shelling out a few more dollars for software for my little device. I do not get to access that software on my home PC. I only get to use it on the little smart phone.
My home internet costs me about forty bucks a month, and it gets me access to the internet, my e-mail, and all sorts of nifty software tools.
On my smart phone, I can pay to download a song, but I had better back up that purchase because the moment I drop my phone in a puddle, it's dead and all the data I bought must be bought again. iTunes... I hate iTunes. I can't share a song with my mates like a normal human being with a mix tape unless I break the DRM. As I am a law-abiding citizen, I'm prone to just cruising for a YouTube video to show them, not the video, but the song attached to it. This might not work, though, because the simple act of sharing music is heavily regulated on the internet, and often the YouTube videos are pulled or silenced over copyright violations. How come, if I purchase something in a store, for money, I cannot share it with my mates?
In the Cloud, you will not get to share things with your mates, because you will not own anything. Much like with your iTunes, you will only be leasing some rights from a huge conglomerate that likes to tell you what you can and cannot do with music, as if creative expression is bound up in a ledger somewhere. It makes me sick.
And, in the Cloud, everything is leased to you, nothing is owned. You don't own the server space where your data happens to be. If something happens to it, you are still out of luck, but you have no recourse because you are a tenant, not an owner. Every bit of data that's funneled to you comes over wires and wifi that must be bought at a monthly fee per device, and it must be accessed on appropriately licensed machinery that you are only allowed to use in ways the designers intended. Could you imagine cracking open your fancy iPad2 to fiddle with the chips and bits and see if you can soup it up or open it up to your own, personal usage? If you do it, Apple will come down on you with a legal hammer.
The cloud is a future of being a tenant. We will own nothing. We will owe everything. The haves and have nots will divide into two camps. Poor people won't get to buy books anymore. Poor people won't get to access the latest information about jobs and technology. They will not be able to afford the cloud's hefty monthly fees.
Even Netflix and Hulu are nightmares. You have to buy access to their library. Think about it: What they have in their servers is basically a video library, and unlike a real public library, you have to pay money or sit through advertisements just to access the most trivial bits of film available. Even when the content is free, it is monetized. There is no place to escape that, in the cloud.
The cloud will track your movements through the cloud, both in virtual space and in literal space, to maximize ad content. The cloud will read over your shoulder to see if there's any other way a company could monetize your activity. And, when the hackers arrive on the scene, the cloud will be a goldmine for identity thieves and data miners, looking to be the pickpockets and bank robbers of the new millennium.
How much does it cost per month, even now, to access this cloud? Between my internet (about 40 bucks), my smart phone(about 100), my iPad 4G (100 a month, thereabouts), my cable TV(about 20), my XBox Live Account(about 60 dollars for one year, so five bucks a month), adding on Netflix (15 bucks), Hulu(10 bucks)... That runs me in the neighborhood of 200 dollars with just current level technology. Add in DropBox Pro, a website, a professional e-mail service, various business-related data and access points, and we're talking between 400 and 500 dollars a month just to lease access to the same information and data and services that can be had through a single internet connection at home. Especially when I consider that now each device I purchase comes with a data plan, I curse the Cloud, and I curse all it stands for. This is not some idyllic future. This is a monthly fleecing for convenience.
Imagine your budget if you had a ground line phone service (10 bucks a month), and plain internet access alone (about forty bucks a month). Running all your data storage through various hard drives and jump drives in your home means you don't have to pay someone else every month to store that data. You own it. It's yours.
Honestly, if I could afford to put a server in my house, I would. I could create my own little web access portal, and I wouldn't have to pay someone else to get onto the same internet. I'd pay an upfront cost, and be done with it for life.
The Cloud is a boon for businesses, but it is a blight on the consumer.
What to Do About the Hype
First, for the general businessman, like myself, there's not much to be done. Companies we work for are crossing over. I have an iPad because we develop for the iPad. When a competing tablet device hits the market, I'll need one of those, too. In the business world, the kool-aid has been drunk, and no IT Director worth his necktie will be suggesting that the company avoid cloud computing like the plague. From a company's perspective, maintaining all the data on networked servers protects the company's data from individual employees accidental or intentional damages.
The general consumer, however, may appear to be a luddite when people notice the lack of a cellphone, a simple ground phoneline, and a series of data storage options done in the home office and garage. Still, it is possible to create a cloud-within-a-cloud, where you can make a home network for your data and media that is stored inside your home, with all the ease of access that you would get in a cloud. Here's an excellent article that lists out a how-to for your own, home-based cloud.
Why lease when you can own?