Two terms have been widely used in cyberspace in the past few months. One of them is crowd. Crowdsurfing, crowdintelligence, crowdfunding. People go together, thus form a ‘crowd’ and whatever they do as a community or crowd is worth naming it crowd. Nothing new. If you meet your colleagues in the canteen to have lunch it might as well be called crowd-eating. When people come together, loosely organized, because they want to discuss something or demonstrate against something you might as well call it crowd-crowd. So not every new term online describes something new. The word I would like to write about today is something not entirely new but in the way it is used. It is: the cloud.
Putting your data into the cloud becomes more and more trendy. Cloud here only means a server that can be reached from wherever you are as long as you have access to the network of networks, the Internet. The cloud therefore can be a filehoster, a secure home server or a business network. As you can see, this is nothing new. Since the beginning of the Internet there were servers and these servers allowed you to store data on them and access them when you needed them. Because Internet back then was slow and storage expensive, data was stored on your local harddrive. This is, amongst other things such as DVDs, the opposite of the cloud.
What is new about the cloud and why do we use it now? One reason for using the cloud is because Internet access becomes more affordable and faster – for you as well as for the guys hosting your data and providing you with bandwidth to access your files on their servers. Another reason is that storage is cheaper and Internet widely accessible. A last reason is the boom of smartphones and tablet computers. In order to keep all your data synchronized and be able to access all that data from all of your devices, putting the data in the cloud from where all your devices can access it makes kind of sense. Additionally, not only files can be stored and used in the cloud there can be also services. You login from wherever you are with whatever device you have and you have access to all your company data and programs such as word and excel are also installed in the cloud so that you only send your commands to the cloud and the cloud sense you back a picture of how it looks like. The processing is done within the cloud. Sound good, mh?
For paranoids like me, there are so drawbacks in putting your stuff in the cloud. First of all, it is online 24/7, which means the servers where it is stored can be attacked 24/7. Static IP and round-the-clock opportunity does not make it harder for cybercriminals to target these information. Secondly, you don’t physically own the data. It is somewhere in the cloud. Good luck retrieving it, when the computer warehouse shuts down. Having it on your laptop and being able to make a physical backup (DVD) might be an advantage. We might also want to add the ability of the owner – of the cloud computer where you store your data on – to access your data. Until that point, convenience in the cloud outweighs paranoia. However, there is one more drawback: simplicity.
Because it is so easy to put everything in the cloud and access it through our mobile phone and tablet and laptop we overlook two things. First, what do we do if we don’t have Internet access where we are? If my emails and documents are on my computer I simply switch it on and access them. If they are in the cloud, I can only do it if I am online. Secondly, people will go for very insecure solutions. Because I can access my data from everywhere, why not use this computer in the Internet shop? The computer in the hotel lobby – great, let me check the accounting files. While your own laptop might be a castle, nicely protected by antivirus programs, firewall and malware sniffer other devices you might use are not. Many people tend to prefer the comfortable solution and therefore are happy that even with the crappy terminal computer in the airport they can access their data in the cloud. That they should not do it and invest 5 more minutes to open their own laptop and connect to the WiFi in the airport does not occur to them. Hence, insecurity grows bigger and bigger.
I don’t doubt that filehoster can protect the content (and encrypt it) but I am pretty sure people will screw it up because the cloud makes it so convenient to use it from literally everywhere. For me, no cloud. I live with the inconvenience of carrying around my laptop.