Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's Getting Awfully Cloudy

Yesterday I decided to take a quick trip to Best Buy to peruse the latest in electronics.  My walk through the store demonstrated the fundamental shift that is happening with today's technology.  This fundamental shift is that most "content" and "data" is moving to the "cloud".  The rows that used to be filled with software are growing smaller and are being replaced with little cards that are used to go the Internet and purchase a 365 day "pass" to access the software.  Aisles that were once filled with music and video CDs, DVD's and Blue-Ray discs are now being removed.  Instead of going to the store to buy a physical disc all content is now being access through services like Netflix, VUDU, HULU, iTunes, Pandora, etc.  

The concept of what is now called the "cloud" has been around for as long as the Internet has been running.  In it's simplest definition the "cloud" is data storage that is accessible from any place on the Internet.  Whether a person is located in the United States, Mongolia, Antarctica, Russia, or on the International Space Station - anywhere there is an Internet connection, the same data can be accessed. The "cloud" frees data from being dependent upon a specific computer, tablet, cell phone, etc.

Though the concept of the "cloud" has been around since the early days of the Internet there have been technological advances in recent years that have enabled this concept to become the backbone of commerce today.  Some of these changes have been; the ever increasing capacity of hard disc storage at lower costs, the ability to transfer greater volumes of data across transmission media and the increased efficiency of data compression algorithms.  All of these factors have created a situation in which it is as effective and cost efficient to store massive amounts of data in remote locations far away from where they will eventually be used.

For software companies and content owners the use of the cloud to manage data and content is a boon.  No longer will a company like Microsoft get a one-time payment for the purchase of the Office Suite of products, they will now get a yearly revenue stream from every person who uses their product.  Microsoft will no longer be at the whims of whether or not a person decides to upgrade to the next version, it will simply be forced to them through the yearly usage charge.  If you choose not to pay the yearly usage charge, then you won't be able to use their software at the end of the 365 days.  It's a great way to assure an ongoing revenue stream. 

All of this is great for the companies that produce the data and content but what about you the user?  To me it seems that as the trend towards the cloud gets greater, the user will lose more and more control of the things they own.  What is going to happen if you spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars building up a video library on VUDU and then for whatever reason VUDU goes bankrupt and ceases operation?  What happens to those movies that you have purchased?  An example of this has not yet happened as far as I am aware, but the best guess is that you will just be out of luck and your movies will be gone.

Another issue with all of this is the simple question, where is your data and who can access it?  Do the companies that host your data have adequate safe guards and audit procedures in place to tell if one of their employees is accessinf your data?  Here's a horrible example of what could happen.  A well meaning person takes pictures of their little kid and stores them a cloud website  - it could be any of them, Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google, etc.  An employee of that company who works in some far off country routine searches files stored by the company and grabs a copy of the kids photos and post them to some horrible website.  The parent may never even know it.  You place your files on one of those services and you are effectively giving up control of them.

Additionally with all the NSA and governmental snooping that is going on these days you can be darn sure some one or some program from big brother is looking at your data.  If you put some really attractive (nude or even non-nude) pictures of your girlfriend/wife out on one of those cloud website, you can probably bet some oily faced twenty-something "NSA Analyst" is probably looking at them. 

My personal preference is to avoid these cloud based services and data storage mechanisms as much as is possible.  There are certain ones I can't avoid, such as Fitbit where all my data is stored in their corporate cloud somewhere.  And sometimes I use cloud based data storage for ease of sharing data with friends and family, but I don't put anything important out there at all.  Unfortunately no matter what you and I do, more and more of our data and information will end up on the cloud and will be vulnerable to prying eyes or plain and simple destruction if the company hosting it goes belly up.

Those are my interesting thoughts for the day!  From a personal perspective, Zack is now one month into his freshman year of high school and so far so good.  There are some things that he needs to improve upon but in general he is doing well.  Tomorrow, Friday, September 20th is a day off of school for Zack so we are heading to the mountains tonight.  Instead of our normal I-70 route we will be taking Highway 285 into South Park and then taking a dirt road the over the continental divide at Boreas Pass and down into the town of Breckenridge.  It's a trip I have wanted to take for a long time and today is the day.  If we don't do it today, in all likelihood the route will be closed by snow the next time we head to the mountains.

It also looks as though my time of being an unemployed wanderer is coming to an end.  I'll find out for certain early next week, but the pull of making money is significant and so in early October I will go back to work as an independent consultant.  Once the deal is finalized I will write a bit more about what I will be doing.  It will be good work and it will take me back to my roots in the professional services industry for which I am very happy!

Sorry it's been so long between posts, but life has been busy and I have been focused on other areas of my life.  My next post shouldn't be so long in coming.

Until then - thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

1 comment:

sharon oler said...

I hope the flood is not in your area! I hope you and zack and your dog are all safe!