The Cloud Will Impact us All

Posted on June 4, 2011


cloud computing, brad IT engineer in Atlanta virtual computingAs a Manager/Network Engineer, I have been talking about the Cloud for almost a decade, but we are now seeing it come to fruition very quickly. For instance, Microsoft offers their Windows Live services for free. Windows Live offers you 5 GB of free email, 25 GB of free personal storage and free access to browser versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote as well as other applications. It will even synchronize your files to any or all of your computing devices. Google has a similar equivalent called Google Apps. One can simply purchase an inexpensive Netbook computer and simply access all personal files and office applications through the web. I recently went on a weekend excursion to Pittsburgh to see the Falcon’s season opener and took lots of pictures. I uploaded these to a photo album on my Windows Live account and sent my friends and relatives the link to view them. Other people upload their photos to Facebook. Just in case my files become lost on my Windows Live Account, I also use another cloud service called Dropbox. For those of you who have thousands of MP3 files stored on your computer or music player, Apple is believed to be unveiling an on demand streaming service through I-tunes which will allow you to stream any song you want without having to store it on a local drive. Businesses are looking at the Cloud as a way to save money on IT infrastructure, contracting with Cloud Service Providers to host the company’s email and other network services in the cloud. We could be approaching the point at which consumers and small businesses will simply depend on the Internet for all of their computing and file storage needs.

Ten years ago I read a book by Jeremy Rifkin called, The Age of Access. While George Bush was promoting the era of ownership, particularly in housing, Rifkin saw the demise of the ownership era. He explained that due to the ever changing dynamics of technology and the global economy, ownership would become a detriment, not a benefit. Instead, he foresaw the Age of Access, a new era in which people simply valued the access to something rather than the ownership of it. The Cloud represents the technological representation of this idea, but it is much more than that. Through services such as Facebook and Twitter, one can access his or her personal relationships from anywhere in the world and share experiences with all of them simultaneously.

A year ago I was asked to speak to a classroom of 5th graders. I asked them if they would want a PC for their birthday. They all laughed, telling me that the idea of being tied down to a desk to access the Internet wasn’t an option. They value mobility, which is why the I-phone and other portable devices are becoming the primary means at which to access the Cloud for young people. Other devices such as the Kindle are also trying to cash in on the Cloud. Why clutter up your home with bookshelves to store all the books you own? With the Kindle and the Internet, all of your books are available in a hand held device wherever you are. The proliferation of these hand held devices are creating what some technology pundits refer to as the Outernet, a concept in which the entire world is a hyperlink, a world in which information and networks will be ubiquitous. The Cloud will have no geographic constraints through the Outernet. Many of the things that are of value to you will be available wherever you are. Rifkin believes that just as those 5th graders laugh at the idea of being constrained to a desktop computer, that they will laugh at the idea of being constrained to a cul-de-sac in the suburbs as adults. The future will be one of unconstrained mobility.

To some, the Cloud represents total freedom, to others it is a scary concept in which there seems to be no foundation or grounding to life. However you see the Cloud, it is here and you must decide whether to embrace it.