A modern wonder, the “Cloud” serves as the backbone of global technology. In fact, the very fact that you’re reading this article is thanks to the Cloud. As I write this, I’m sitting at a coffee house, taking in the charming aroma of fresh brewed coffee.
I get my best work done when I can step away from the traditional office, and I believe many of you would agree with that sentiment. A desire to work from public spaces is one of the most defining characteristics of the modern business world. The next time you’re in a coffee shop, look around. How many tables are occupied by people such as myself, working on some great venture from the comfort of their table?
There is a freedom in the Cloud that allows us to cut the digital umbilical cord.
But the Cloud remains such a mystery, doesn’t it? It’s an ethereal phantom, floating omni-present, servicing both our businesses and personal lives. Ask a marketer or technologist and it’s touted as the newest, greatest thing. Ask a business owner and it’s depicted as this glorious end goal of technology. Ask a technology firm and they’ll tell you simply: you need to be in the Cloud.
Ask ten different entrepreneurs about the Cloud and you’ll get ten different answers. Want to hear the simple, dirty secret of this technology? The Cloud is a lie… Sort of. Simply put:
The Cloud is just someone else’s computer.
That Just Sounds Like Networking With Extra Steps
Bingo! The Cloud is just a ton of computers all daisy-chained together so you and your kin can share embarrassing moments on social media (and some other things). Dropbox provides a network of computers that allow users to store data. Spotify provides a network of computers that allow users to share and stream music. Facebook provides a network of computers that allow users to participate in the aforementioned shame.
Clouds can get pretty “meta” as well. Google and Amazon provide a network of computers that allow other companies to configure their own virtual networks of computers.
The Cloud? It’s just networks all the way down.
Clouds can also get very small. They can also get very sketchy, with diminishing benefits and elevated security risks. I once heard a software development company brag that they were moving all their clients to the company’s “private cloud”. So instead of a reputable and transparent vendor like AWS, they were moving businesses to their own network of computers. Where are those computers housed? Who has access to them? Disaster mitigation plans? Did you know AWS protects its data centers with private security forces? I can’t imagine this “private cloud” being more secure than that.
Sometimes The Cloud Falls Short
It’s been a productive day. Your team has been heads-down to the keyboard. Completed work is flying out the window. Uh-oh. Internet connection dropped. Now your team can’t access that spiffy new Cloud platform. Guess it’s time for a rousing game of Candy Crush!
Another possibility: the provider for that new Cloud platform goes down. You can access the internet, but now you can’t access the platform you’ve built into your systems. Time for some Facebook!
I’ve worked in technology for over a decade, and I’ve spent a large part of my life engineering and deploying Cloud-based technology. I know how the Cloud works (in mind-numbing detail). I know its strengths, and I know its weaknesses.
Given my knowledge, I can safely say that I will never rely completely on the Cloud. The Cloud is a phenomenal tool for connecting the world, but I don’t want to be entirely reliant on it. My data is too valuable to blindly entrust it to a faceless company.
So, yes, use that cool Cloud platform, but prepare yourself for the worst. Sync your Cloud storage with your local computer. Backup your data somewhere safe (and offline).
Cloud technology is a modern marvel, but it has its risks. Exercise reasonable precautions.