About a year ago, I wrote a column about how I thought the cloud was great until my computer crashed and I had to download everything through a tiny pipe back to my computer. It turns out there’s a better way to use the cloud. Let’s take another look at it, but with another year of clouding under our belts.
The new order of things seems to be this: Select a cloud and store all of your output there (not software itself, but every file ever created in the course of working). Then create shortcuts to the cloud from the desktop or server. In this way, the user works locally on their desktop, but the changes (AKA every time a document is saved) push to the cloud in real time. Using this system, documents are always archived and current, and they can be accessed as long as an Internet connection is available.
The key is to stop downloading and uploading the entire files all the time. This is what takes a long time and makes people dislike the cloud. As long as documents just stay there all the time, the cloud works seamlessly as an archive system and extra storage.
When a cloud is set up correctly, it takes almost all the storage infrastructure burden off of the company’s computer network and individual desktop units. This translates into big cost savings on new equipment purchases.
For example, I rent a cloud from DropBox for $150/year or so. That’s not very expensive — the cost savings came in last week when one of my laptops blew up. Not only did I not lose one byte of data, I was able to replace my $3,400 laptop with a $450 laptop and I was back up and running in one hour.
The promise of the cloud is zero data loss because there it offers virtually unlimited storage capacity. And working from the cloud guarantees real-time backup for every document, every file, every bit of data. It’s what we’ve needed all along — instead of trying to store all documents ourselves, let’s let the pros do it. We aren’t network engineers, we’re content generators. When ordinary business folk try to create a redundant data security environment, well, most of the time data gets lost in surprising ways. Imagine never losing any data ever again — no more emails deleted due to storage issues, no more lost flash drives with critical documents stored on them, no more external hard drives … The cloud handles it all for us.
Assuming things keep moving in the current cloud-centric direction, we’ll be purchasing shell computers sooner than later. Desktop machines will only need to be powerful enough to store and run the software used to create working files. The cloud stores the software output from any kind of software. Some clouds even allow version control so multiple users can manipulate a file simultaneously.
The cloud is a step toward the ideal of perfect data storage solution — 100 percent file access with no more data loss blunders. It also means fewer headaches and sleepless nights — like the kind you get when your computer starts fritzing out.
So if you haven’t tried the cloud yet, give it a shot and enjoy a good night’s sleep (finally). Your data will always be there in the morning.
Marci De Vries is president of MDV Interactive, a web consulting firm in Baltimore. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.