Is Fear of the Cloud the Beginning of Wisdom?

"I will never ever store my data in the Cloud", said a friend of mine. "It is very scary", she added. With so many leaked images and personal data floating around, she is probably wiser than me! But there is also some truth to the age old adage, "Never say never". Here is why: If you ever had an online email account, your data is in the Cloud; Ever applied for a loan or had a bank account? Your data is probably in the Cloud; Worked somewhere? Your employer probably got you in the Cloud; Or if you ever used a smartphone, you succumb to the might of the Cloud!

Is the Cloud the fancy name for the Internet?

Not really. If you think of it that way, you are making a molehill out of a mountain. That is like considering Internet as a fancy word for telegraph. Internet mainly connects computers and moves data, but what the Cloud does is totally different!

What makes the Cloud so different?

For traditional network, the storage and processing happens at servers or computers at end-points, not within the network. The Cloud has storage and processing all within, whether you want to do DNA sequencing, breaking computer code, running web servers or any of the numerous other computing intensive tasks.

Why do I need the Cloud when I have my own computer?

Here are some examples: You worked hard to finish your presentation before an 8:00am meeting. As you rush to the conference room, you suddenly realized that your beautiful presentation is on a thumb drive at home! You are at a sales meeting with your client and the demo just happened to be sitting in your office computer. You play a game on your smart phone and the game is slower than a snail but promptly puts your phone out of battery. In these sticky situations, the Cloud woos you with promises: You can store your data in the Cloud and can access it from anywhere; You can run your game in the Cloud. Your Phone can be just an access device to your game running in the Cloud.

And what can the Cloud do for businesses? Say, your website runs on a server that handles 10 customers an hour and all of a sudden 1324 customers show up. That means you have to shop for 132 servers and put them into service in an instant. Before you dismiss this an impossible task, you may decide to enjoy the fruits of your successful sales campaign by renting servers in the Cloud! Don't pay the hefty price tag for the servers -- just pay for what you use.

All these conveniences likely tie up your data with the Cloud even more.

The Darker Cloud

When the Cloud has your data, how do you know it is safe? Someone working for the Cloud provider just happens to be a crook and your data is at risk. Another co-tenant may be curious to see your private pictures. Some other tenant may go crazy with fund raising email campaign and slow you down or worse, all tenants get banned for spamming.

Your dear Cloud provider may lock up your data and jack up the price after getting you to the door by offering "free" services which gets you hooked.

Your employer may try to see what you are doing on the Cloud by planting a private eye as your harmless neighbor in the Cloud west. You fight the big brother off your private business by insisting on a warrant but your Cloud provider gladly turns over your data.

Where you live gambling is perfectly legal. Your Cloud provider just happened to run your gambling program in a state where gambling is illegal and you get into trouble. You express your free speech right by making a video, but you were awarded death penalty by a country that didn't seem to appreciate your work of art. Again, blame the Cloud. (May be that was an exaggeration. Or, may be not?)

And the list goes on and on...

The Silver Lining

Even when things are tough, there is some hope. Technology is getting better. People are also getting better at dealing with the Cloud. What will I do to protect my data on the Cloud? I will encrypt my data before storage in the Cloud or at least make sure my Cloud provider does encryption. I will use strong passwords. I will host only with reputable Cloud providers. I will find out where my provider stores data to avoid any surprises. I will read the service agreement carefully (even when it's boring). And, I will have my own backup data stored off the Cloud or with some other Cloud provider, just in case.

As always, call in an expert when in doubt.

And, on the advent of anything new - there is great fear and excitement! Not very different from when someone came up with the revolutionary discovery that we can walk on two feet. Or may be (s)he shouldn't have done that! There is an increased risk of fall. After all, I would have been very much happy solving complex problems living in a jungle.

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