Grade school science taught us that there are a few different types of clouds. There are cumulus clouds, stratus clouds, cirrus clouds and nimbus. Sometimes on a beautiful summer day you can see different shapes in the clouds and Angels have been known to live up in clouds. But this is not the type of clouds I am talking about. I am talking about Cloud Computing.
"To the Cloud!" What was Microsoft thinking?
We wouldn't figure out this was simply a marketing way to say "To the Internet" or "Software as a Service" or "Distributed Computing." This is what they really were thinking, we got you locked into our service and it will be nearly impossible for you to switch once we have your data. Now to be far, Microsoft is not the only one who offers this cloud computing solution, but they are the only one that is heavily (and sometime obnoxiously) advertising to consumers (average Joe that doesn't know what he is getting into).
Cloud computing has been around for sometime now in the business world, we just called it something else with a less sexy name. Mainframe computing was sort of a cloud. Back in the old days (I know some of you don't remember this) we use to access some central computer someplace behind a closed door in a big room. We didn't care were the files or programs were as long as we could access them.
Then the clever guys in Silicon Valley and in Redmond Washington decided they weren't making enough money this way so they came up with a better idea; to distribute the cloud (essentially creating more clouds). We called this Distributed Computing and we put all of these file servers around so people could access their files closer to their office. Yet still it was all magic, file servers hidden around companies in closets, under desks and occasionally in what was the old data center. Eventually that got out of hand as companies important files were spread across their enterprises without much control and minimal security in some cases.
After awhile (just enough time to extract a few more server licenses) technology decision makers in various companies (along with the guys out West and various technology consulting firms) convinced companies that they could take the distributed stuff and centralize it again. In other words take the clouds that they previously spread around the company and centralize it to a few clouds in key geographic locations. I am not sure there is a name for it but will call it Downsized Distributed Computing.
Now comes the tricky part. Downsizing and centralizing the servers was actually a good thing, for a company. It put computing back in control of the IT department, it resolved a bunch of security and risk management issues, it saved some money (less servers and less software licenses).....wait that's a problem. The folks out West are getting nervous. Presto chango... Cloud Computing.
Now don't get me wrong it's actually a pretty good idea. No more purchasing software and then having to update it (repurchase it) every time a new version comes out. No more worrying about my files being lost because my hard drive crashed and I never backed it up. Accessing my files from other computers connected to the Internet should be rather easy. But cloud computing doesn't sell software licenses, unless of course your Microsoft and you sell the Operating System and little pieces of code required to access and operate the cloud. Then you can double dip, license at the desktop and charge a fee to use the cloud. This is were I have an issue and won't be using the Microsoft Cloud.
I much prefer the Google model...free. Email free, calendar free, this blog free, photo storage free. You get the point. It's free people! Yes, Google does charge for extra storage if you use up the rather generous storage they provide and yes there is a different model for corporate access rather than personal access. But for personal use, one can't beat free. Personally, I think Microsoft has chosen to confuse consumers into thinking that going to the cloud is easy and will solve all of their computer issues. But they leave out the necessity for reliable high speed internet access and that you must be using Microsoft technology access for example your TV shows (see clip below).
So for now lets just say if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck and the Microsoft cloud isn't a cloud, it's just marketing.