Cloud Computing: A Feature or a Frustration?

CloudMy recent interest in cloud computing has generated pages and pages of notes. As I spent days researching it, I looked for good examples of what the cloud does and will mean to me.

Cloud computing has actually been around in some shape or form since about 2006 (or longer), but it is now at the point where it has become part of our common vocabulary. I see advertisements for cloud companies all over the web.

When I got my new iPhone, I found the iCloud option right out of the box. The  iCloud stores my music, photos, documents, and more, and wirelessly pushes them to all my devices. Rather than storing this information on local servers and on specific devices, it is stored in a way that I can access it from anywhere.

For example, when I add the music I want to hear on the Pandora app, I can get the same music on my laptop, TV, and iPhone. I don’t have to keep redefining my preferences, because the app is on all three devices. All I have to do is log in.

Another example of a “server in the sky” is Siri, the new female virtual assistant on the iPhone. She operates from a huge database so that anyone, anywhere can access what she knows. Sometimes she’s down—just overloaded with requests–and actually tells me to check back later. Just like a crowded company database.

One of the main concerns with having all of this data out there on remote servers is, of course, security. Do I have a choice about how my information is stored and who gets to see it?

In this respect, I think our views on privacy have certainly changed over the years. Most of us don’t think twice about writing in our blogs to share thoughts and ideas. Some of my friends like to divulge all on Facebook. Their location and what they’re doing is becoming increasing public. It’s getting a little tough these days to figure out what is actually private.

To address these security concerns, there are “public” clouds and “private” clouds, and then there are “hybrid” clouds. Their names are sort of indicative of what types of data access they each allow. As probably most people do, I want at least all of my financial and medical information to be very secure. Even in a private cloud, do I have a choice of where and how that information shows up and who gets to view it?

As I suspected awhile ago, passwords will eventually become obsolete. I don’t know about you, but I tend to use the same password over and over, just for convenience and so as not to test my bad memory. One exception to my redundant password use is my medical information. These details are now cleverly accessible in a user-friendly format called “MyChart.” I can access my latest test results from anywhere. And, just in case someone other than my doctor can see them, I use a different user name, as well as a unique password. Same for all of my online banking. Who knows if anyone can hack into it or not. Eventually, we will use some sort of encrypted tokens to keep our information safe.

Is the cloud a feature or a frustration? I often have no idea whether or not I am using the cloud, but massive server facilities across the globe store all the data I’ll ever need. This could be a good thing, but as the notion of privacy keeps getting redefined, I’ll see how long it takes for all of my information to be up for grabs.

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