Posted by: Craig Mathias
cloud computing, Google Apps
When I first got started in computing (the late 60s/early 70s), timesharing was all the rage. Computers, even minicomputers (my first was an HP 1000A used for programming in BASIC), were expensive, 110 bps modems allowed access over telephone lines, and teletypes shattered everyone’s ears – but we ultimately had access to computing that we could afford.
OK, flash forward to today, the tail end of the PC/LAN era. Everyone gets a PC, PCs are connected via LANs (wireless or otherwise), but something odd has occurred. While computers have gotten cheap, owning and operating them has gotten pretty complex and expensive – especially for the SMB. And today it’s more important to be able to access and use the data that you need from any device, ranging from anyone’s computer to and handset, and not just “your” PC. Wouldn’t it make sense, then, to virtualize not just servers, but everything – put computers into the cloud (and thus once again buy computing rather than computers), and own (or rent or borrow or whatever) only the client device at the far end of this new network? I love this idea, and I think it’s clearly the future.
But it’s not the present, and for one simple reason – we still don’t have the security we need. I want to argue that any information you deem to be sensitive (and this is a lot of what you deal with from day to day) needs to be encrypted while in residence, whether on a PC, server, or client device, and while in transit, via a virtual private network (VPN). And yet those who seek to provide us with Web-based apps want our data out in the clear. Why? Because Google and the others pushing the concept make money by knowing more and more about us and what we do. The upside is that the cloud-centric approach to computing is cheap to free, but the security required is poor to nonexistent.
Cloud computing is absolutely going to catch on and become the norm. This is great for the SMB – we get to spend less, we get more flexibility, and the result contributes enormously to our location-impendent lifestyles and workstyles. But until I have complete control over the security of my data, well, cloud computing is still the future.