Is the Cloud a Good Thing


Candle at the Flying Scotsman, Mt Lawley, Perth

Cloud computing is all the buzz at the moment, another trendy topic, but it isn’t that new in relative terms, either is the SaaS models, having grown out of the ASP model of the last century.

But you know despite being immersed in all this web “stuff” from day to day,  I just have this nagging feeling about the information we put out in the cloud. Is it really that safe!

At the Edge of Web Conference colleague Stephen Collins in his Enterprise 2.0 – A New Age of Aquarius? talk touched on the social aspect of SaaS and that most of his software that he uses is in the cloud. Leaving very little in terms of desktop software.

Sure I get the advantages:

  • Low entry cost, no major software license costs
  • You can operate anywhere you can get a reasonable unrestricted connection.
  • You can get some degree of cross SaaS product integration.
  • The vendors have an interest to ensure that the respective application is good, otherwise you’re just going to leave.
  • There is a high level of security and infrastructure investment by vendor, or is there?

But still I have this niggle about it all, so what are the disadvantages:

  • It’s all about trust, trust of the vendor to hold your information and be a constant reliable source.
  • Not all your software is in the cloud, especially for specific industries.
  • If you don’t have a web connect, what then.

So What’s the Issue

It’s not that I haven’t tried it. I use the following on a constant basis:

Hosts my photos (well some).
Is my resume and professional contacts.
Google Docs –
For some of the basic business documentation and online calendar, handy but would like to be able to sync with iPhone with ease in one step.
Some social and professional networking interconnection.
Professional networking interconnection.
Manages my meager presentation set.
Manages my bookmarks, tagged so I can find them.

But there is a list of other things I’m just holding back on. You know they are great in concept but something is holding me back:

Good, but limited for events management by the lack of take up.
Great application, but we are talking finances, this is my bread and butter, without these any business can be a lot of trouble. I guess this comes down to trust. At present I like to keep my finances close, despite bad desktop applications.
Tried this early on, and despite all the hype, just could see the justification in using it.
Gmail –
Really needs to have more desktop based functionality, before I will move my email fully into the cloud.
Time Tracking –
You know I have yet to find a good time tracker that will do what I want, and not attempt to have me shoe horn my procedures into their mold.
This is an area I’m seriously looking into. Not tried it yet but I’m looking at zoho.
Online sharing space. Nothing critical gets stored here. Overall I’m very skeptical about the future viability of these free services, especially after a few recent failures in this area.

It’s all About Trust

Guess it really just comes down to the trust factor. Do you trust the company concerned. Are they going to be here in the future, despite you paying them. Will you wake tomorrow and find all your records gone, like the VCs of earlier this year.

You see large companies like Google and Yahoo, have gained our (my) trust, but the smaller ones still leave me very hesitant. Sure you can always export your data and back it up, but we all know how bad we are at backing things up. So expecting someone to weekly export data from 10-15 sites is just a little bit of a pipe dream. Mind you that would be a cool automated SaaS in it’s self, market there for an idea.

And then there is the applications for which I have no cloud version:

MS-Office –
Seriously the size on some of the spreadsheets used for IA analysis puts the humble desktop Excel under a good deal of strain. I doubt any online version would do any better. Office despite my love and hate relationship also offers the best formatting for my reports, proposals and the like. Mind you Microsoft are moving slowly into this direction.
Photoshop –
Heavy duty and rapid response is what I need, sure I don’t use it like this all the time, but at least once or twice a week Photoshop and the like graphics editors are put through their paces. The online versions just don’t cut it.
WireFraming –
Be it Omni Graffle or Axure, like Photoshop you need the responsiveness and immediate grunt from a desktop application.
Prototyping –
Again depending on how you generate these, there is bound to be component that is going to require some intensive graphical or interactive aspect, to which the desktop is more suited. Mind you Protoshare does look interesting.

But seriously these are all hard working applications really need to be on the desktop, so I’m not expecting anything in this area in the short term. Sure there are some dicky “toy” applications, but frankly that’s all they are toys. So it seems that SaaS only really works well when:

  • It’s not linked to the social network,
  • Is feeding data from a traditional “store/ retrieve / display” model and
  • Operates as a service for generic administration functions.

So am I doing it all little old school and am I set in my ways, or should I just put it all out there in the cloud and trust in always having that web connection?

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