Are we ready to live in the “Cloud”

“Cloud” computing or living the “cloud” is the latest and a growing buzz in mobile technology. Looking at this purely from an end-user point of view I personally don’t think we are ready for it just yet. While the idea of living in the cloud sounds nice, I do have a few concerns that need to be addressed before I think we can move to a model such as this. Due to the recent Google snafu I realize more than ever just how fragile our internet infrastructure really is.

My first concern is quite simple… up time. While the cellular and the subscriber services we use connect to the internet don’t go down often they still have. In 2008 for example RIM’s BES experienced roughly 3 service outages that I’m aware of, due to server operating system upgrades. AT&T has experienced increasingly inconsistent 3G (HSPA) and 2G (EDGE) service in this first quarter of 2009 alone. These types of service interruptions render mobile devices useless for short but rather annoying periods of time. There are times when even the increased number of cellular traffic also makes it practically impossible to even make a call. This is something that really needs  to be resolved before anything else should be done to move forward. In some cases more servers are likely required, in others it’s towers but in all some type of infrastructure improvements and upgrades need to be performed for more reliable service to be counted on as more and more people continue to ditch traditional land line phones for the cellular variety. To supplement repairs and upgrades a short SMS should also be sent to all customers informing them of what is going on. This alone would stop the majority of complaint calls further tie up precious air waves space.

Another concern is with local power authorities. Even when it’s not due to the service provider itself they all run on and rely on electricity to power their networks which as also gone down too many times in the past 10 years for my taste. Power plant outages is another issue but it can directly affect cellular and internet services.  When power plants go down the resulting  power outage can cover entire states and sometimes even move across an entire country as it has done in the past. Until there is a way to provide uninterrupted power even  during the most demanding times and weather living in the cloud won’t always be as nice as we’d like it to be.

Connectivity itself is another concern of mine because it is not ubiquitous. There still remains a good portion of people in the world who can not receive internet or cellular service and in some cases both due to their geographical location. Companies need to make money and as long as there are areas they deem as not profitable; gaps in service will remain. Then there are those who just can not afford any of these services which keep them out of touch from the rest if society. Simply put, we need ubiquitous service that reaches everyone, no matter where they may be located or how much money they make. The only solution I can see here is for the government to step in and have companies provide at least free basic internet service to everyone with some sort of incentive to the service providers. I also believe that competition is a bit stifled due to the fact that internet service providers for instance don’t compete in the same geographical area. This leaves many stuck with high priced services that continues to rise almost yearly.

Security is a really big concern for me. Time and time again companies customer databases have been broken into resulting in thousands of peoples personal information being stolen. Current security strategies need to be rethought, retooled, and better implemented. I read all to often about IT staff being laid off or companies running 10 year old OSes and outdated software that require consistent monitoring due to the amount of added security software needed to keep information out of prying eyes. We are in 2009 and between Apple’s latest OS X and Microsoft’s Windows Vista not to mention the upcoming Windows 7; there is practically no reason for any business to be running a decade old OS that is no longer supported or even updated by the developer. Part of internet security is keeping software updated and implementing the best protective solutions. The approval process for software in many companies is just way behind the curve. It’s time to step up and be proactive instead of reactive. You don’t wait for the house to get robbed before you realize you need to lock the door.

I live in NYC so I’m in the subway quite often. Down there cellular signals are virtually non-existent. Which brings probably my biggest concern to light with living in the cloud. My smartphone, laptop, or whatever device would be totally useless if all my documents, information and software was stored in the cloud and I’m in the subway. A better solution may be for devices to just sync wirelessly with each other while keeping all information stored locally like with Exchange and Mobile Me solutions.

These are just my brief thoughts on living in the cloud and what we are facing moving on in mobile tech.


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