Hailed, somewhat naively, as the future of computing, Cloud Computing has taken off apace. However with Amazon’s EC2 Cloud suffering a 36 hour outage recently, it has once again begged the question, is Cloud Computing the future, or the past?
Sorry! The Cloud Isn’t Working Today
Some big name websites such as Foursquare, Reddit and Quora were taken offline this week by a major outage, not the first to hit Cloud Computing, and certainly not the last.
Scores of well-known websites have been unavailable for large parts of Thursday because of problems with Amazon’s web hosting service.
As a website hosting company, we know the damage that can be done by a major outage, both to customer websites and reputations, and to our own. Amazon will surely be smarting from this, as demonstrated by their reticence about it, and confidence in the Cloud will be knocked again. Some companies were complaining that this is just the latest in a string of problems at Amazon’s East Coast Cloud Facility.
With companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon pushing us all to store everything we possibly can in the Cloud, perhaps it is time to take a step back and look at what Cloud Computing really is, and whether or not we should trust ‘it’ with all our information, and also our business
The Cloud, is just someone else’s computer (or server) so when you are storing your photos, documents etc in the Cloud, you are literally just storing your files on Amazon’s, Google’s or Microsoft’s computer, instead of your own.
It is kind of like entrusting a neighbour with your important files and information, if your house floods or burns down, you know that your files are safe with your neighbour. Of course if it is his house that burns down or floods, you lose them all. You’re also banking on the fact that your neighbour will always be in when you need those files, if not, you just have to wait or go without. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you are placing a lot of trust in your neighbour – do you trust him with all your files and secrets? Do you trust anyone that much? For those thinking this is Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple, large and trustworthy companies, see our next article on customer phone tracking by Google and Apple.
Not only is using the Cloud placing a lot of trust in a company to safe guard your files, but you are also relying on them to always grant you access to them. Should they ever suspend or remove your account, for whatever reason, your files are gone.
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Is this any different to website hosting? In many ways, no. However there are huge differences between trusting a company (web host or otherwise) with your website files, and trusting them with your business/personal files and documents.
The best option is to be careful what information you hand over, and always store a local copy too, so that when the internet or the Cloud is down, you still have access to your stuff. But predictably that isn’t what the Cloud Computing vendors want.
Cloud Computing is big business, worth £40 billion last year alone, and rising. For that reason many of these companies want an all or nothing approach, where the customer stores everything in the Cloud and has little or no reliance on local storage. Google’s Chrome OS exemplifies this; Google’s forthcoming operating system will not have local storage, Any files ‘saved’ on Chrome OS will actually be saved on to Google Cloud Servers.