While some people are singing the praises of “the cloud”, and any business executive can sound cool if he says, “Yeah, we’re moving to the cloud”, the truth is: “the cloud” may not be as wonderful as people would have you think.
Where is this cloud anyway? Do you even know what “the cloud” is? The cloud is just what someone who was a little high decided to call hosted applications or services on the web. Even entire platforms and operating systems can run on the web, and people use them every day. If you use Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or (God forbid) Hotmail, you are using cloud applications on a regular basis.
Terms like Software-as-a-Service are all essentially referring to as cloud software. In this model, the data or information is stored in the cloud as well. That means you use Gmail to check your email and also store your email on their servers. If Gmail dies, so too do your emails.
Because of this, some security-minded individuals and free software advocates have derided cloud computing as being a step in the wrong direction, that we are moving toward a more closed system rather than an open one.
One possible compromise is to host the software online but use local data storage. In that sense, you still hold your own data and can access it offline at anytime. When you are connected to the cloud application, it syncs, giving you the ability to access it from any device.
That still leaves a problem. If the data is stored in a proprietary format, it will not do you any good if your cloud provider dies or decides it no longer likes you. To that end, the data format should be free and open source, allowing you to access it with a free and open source application.
There are some efforts to create “open clouds”, and we should support those efforts in any way we can. Our data will be safer, easier to access, and sustainable.
Image credit: lafontdelgat.