It’s in the clouds

15 09 2008

The ars technica blog has a story about the latest study coming out of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. This report focuses on the concept of cloud computing (the act of offloading data storage responsibilities to someone else’s server – in the “cloud” if you will). Many people are starting to store their documents and other important data in a location that is more convenient – and as a result they off-load some of that risk and responsibility to other providers. Gone are the worries about network incompatibilities, or hard drive crashes: give people a browser and an internet connection and they can get to their stuff.

At first this seems like a strange concept – who would want to store their important information simply out on the internet? But if you think about it, that’s what most of us do with personal email – we let the companies that provide us with the service (Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, etc.) handle all of that data on their servers. We wouldn’t even think about downloading each individual email to our local computer. We also do it with YouTube, Flickr and other media services. Companies are banking on the fact that we’ll eventually do it with all of our stuff.

There are some concerns however (aren’t there always?). And, as usual, it boils down to privacy. If you store stuff on Google’s servers, for example, they’ll know a lot more about you – and can therefore offer even more personalized advertising. Maybe the trade off is worth it, maybe it’s not, but either way the cloud is going to be a dominant metaphor for the foreseeable future.

Read their summary here or check out the full report.

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