Cloud computing is on the rise. It is increasingly-capable, and provides an endless river of possibilities. These may include storage, processing, and the back-up of data. In addition, cloud computing allows users to interact with businesses and enables on-line shopping for both digital and physical goods. Cloud services are a modern miracle of the information age, and we aren’t consciously aware of this at first.
Even so, there are problems, and we are all consumers, so we are all part of the problem.
With cloud computing comes the usual concerns which plague the Internet – privacy and security can never be guaranteed, but they are constantly being improved. To use cloud services, there must be an exchange between you and the service provider. This exchange, be it free or paid, typically involves your particulars and your service provider’s “promise” to look after those particulars.
The problem still lies with consumer behaviour and perceptions. It is easy to recognise the convenience of being able to use a service anywhere, but it is almost taboo to imagine someone else doing the same thing, with your details. We expect our service providers to do what they can to ensure the safety and integrity of our personal information and data, but the first line of defence is our own responsibility. In a dream world, consumers would use strong passwords that aren’t duplicated elsewhere, but until then, consumers create and maintain the common problems surrounding security.
Specifically, personal cloud storage. When I think back to when I left high school – this was new, very new. There were only two obvious choices back then: Dropbox and Box (formerly Box.net). For the purposes of non-fixed storage, my 2GB flash drive was very sufficient at the time. Any lack of this storage was easily resolved with a digital versatile disc, an external hard drive, or another flash drive – and I would use multiple flash drives to categorise personal files, work files, software, etc.
So what was the problem? Money. For years, consumers failed to see the value in paying the subscription options for early cloud services, not only storage. The innovation of cloud storage is the real-world scenario of M̶o̶o̶r̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶L̶a̶w̶ Kryder’s Law. Consumers are still largely traditional when it comes to storage. Only after a misplaced flash drive, a terribly-scratched disc, a dead hard drive, or some other unforeseen event do consumers seriously consider cloud storage, in both a personal and business capacity.
This is no longer a grey area. Most software is and was never really owned by the consumer, regardless of whether they paid for it or not. Instead – the fee covered a license to use the software, and even the use had its limitations. All of this would likely be presented in an End-User License Agreement – also known as… the essay no one reads before clicking “Next”, “Accept”, “I Agree”, or whichever term was printed inside the button.
Subscriptions are slowly becoming the new norm. Microsoft launched their Office 365 subscription in 2011 – a great product that still serves me well even as I type this in OneNote. Adobe famously launched their own Creative Cloud subscription service that encompasses virtually their entire product portfolio. However, there is a 50/50 split amongst consumers, with some (including myself) being in favour of subscriptions, and others arguing against this paradigm due to practical and financial reasons.
But consumers aren’t the problem
I suppose in the end, cloud computing has its drawbacks. Service providers model their offerings in a matter that suits their bottom-line, and in the end – consumers aren’t truly given flexible choices to “not” pay for what they deem to be surplus to requirements. But in retrospect, cloud computing is responsible for much of what we consume and where we consume it from, including: iTunes, Steam, Dropbox, Amazon, and Youtube.
In the meantime, I consider myself lucky to have witnessed cloud computing in its modern context rise from inception to daily use.