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What Is The "Cloud" and Is It For Me?

By Miroslav B. Bonchev
I am sure that you have heard about the "Cloud". People seem to talk about it as if it is the best thing since sliced bread, at least since the invention of the digital computer... and sliced bread, of course! In this article I will try to explain that this is not the case, and that you should stay away from the "Cloud" for as long as possible. If, for some reason, you must be under the so-called "Cloud", then you should always have an umbrella with you. That is, of course, unless if you want to get wet whenever the "Cloud" decides to rain on you.

Back in the forgotten past there were the BIG MACHINES. They really were big in terms of their physical dimensions, though people called them big because they were considered really powerful. These computers were known for their ferocious Administrators. Programmers, scientists, professors, and anyone else who wanted to get their program ran on the computer, had to worship the Administrator. One would write their program and bring it to the altar (the kiosk), together with their sacrifice. The administrator would accept the program if they found the sacrifice pleasing. The mortal programmer, scientist, or professor etc would come back later when the Administrator tells them to come and collect the results produced by the computer. Often the results would be an error message, in which case the mortal would have to go back, correct their program and come again to plead for the mercy of the Administrator and a little processing time.

But then in the 1970s came the mini machines. They were smaller, with magnetic memory, and terminal access. A fortunate user would be given an account with certain rights and restrictions, such as granted processing time, memory and storage restrictions, and a terminal access. A terminal is just a screen and a keyboard. There still were the dreaded Administrators, but now they could only see your data and spy on you, if they wanted. Of course they could also change the granted rights and restrictions as they found fit, but at least the user was not entirely dependent on the good will of the Administrator.

Then came the invention of the personal computer. What a liberation these little miracles were. People now had their very own completely independent and autonomous computers. This not only made the users’ data really their own, so that only they could see it and use it at any time and in all circumstances, but also they could run whatever software they wanted, for as long as they wanted. There was no more processor time sharing, storage sharing, storage quota, software limitations, etc, NO - the Personal Computer gave the Administrators' power and privileges into the hands of the owner of the computer. Wonderful! Of course, as always, freedom comes with responsibility; but hey… children shy from responsibility, not well-educated adults.

Now we have the "Cloud". The "Cloud" means that your computer is not really a personal computer, but an extended fancy terminal which connects to the actual machine over the internet, as opposed to directly using wires. If you get under the "Cloud" your data is no longer yours. It is on some computer somewhere, where people can typically read it and reproduce it if they want, with or without your consent. Some say that one benefit from the "Cloud" is that you can access your data from anywhere, but if I need to carry my terminal to do that, I can just carry my personal laptop, no? Besides, the more complex a system is the easier it is to break down, so with my data on my laptop I am much safer than when having it somewhere on the matrix. Besides, with my data on my personal computer I can use it with or without internet access, and nothing stops me from making backups using Act On File or other capable software which I can also store somewhere on the internet. For example the Act On File Backup and Restore functionality is capable to automatically compress and encrypt any important data and then upload it to any number of FTP servers on the internet, all of this automatically. Should my machine break down, I can get my data and restore it from the FTP servers where it is backed up. There are also plenty of free FTP storage websites which comes with their free web hosting offers. So what benefit would getting on the so-called "Cloud" bring me?

To summarize, there is no such new miraculous thing as the "Cloud". It is merely a slightly modified and differently marketed old terminal service on a global level, so that big companies can take the role of the Administrator and subjugate the user. You can look at it this way: to have a PC is like to own a house, being on the "Cloud" is the same as renting a room, except that when you rent a room you have a week notice by law. On the "Cloud", you have only the right to get wet when it rains.

I should also mention that many companies advertise "Cloud" services but in effect this is a plain lie. I would never ever get a computer which is not entirely and completely autonomous, but I would not mind hosting my websites on the "Cloud", understanding that the host is merely redundant one. Realistically one should not expect that a company would go to all the trouble to make a distributed service for a small website in a hosted environment, and synchronize databases, access queries, etc, though some host providers advertise as giving "Cloud" hosting. Recently I bought a "Cloud" hosting package from a very well-known hosting provider. I got a really bad service where the website was down multiple times and for considerable periods. This is something which should never happen, right?! I called them and the support person gave me an explanation which had no meaning at all, trying to intimidate me. I asked for exact explanation for the "Martian" terms that he used and he had to acknowledge that the server where the website in question was hosted has been frequently simply down. Then I simply cancelled my contract and found a much smaller but better hosting company which described its offering truthfully. Because this happened within the money back guarantee period I didn't get totally wet, but the "Cloud" did rain on me. Thus for the mere user, the best they can get from the "Cloud" is redundant storage, but typically, all that they will get is losing their rights, freedoms, and property in the long term.
Miroslav B. Bonchev
19-th September 2012
London, England
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