Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Ahead In The Cloud

‘The Cloud’ is one of those tech-expressions that started out as largely a business exercise before hitting the mainstream. Now, you can’t move for clouds. So here’s a testing question – could you effectively run a computer without a hard drive and store everything remotely?

Let’s start easy. Photos are already often stored in the cloud, whether that be Facebook, Flickr or some other site. Increasingly, it's the same for videos. They don’t have to be shared with the world necessarily, but there they are, not on your hard drive.

Documents could easily take a similar route. Google Docs is probably the most famous online storage and editor, although Microsoft themselves provide a similar, though chargeable service. Tick.

Music could easily be a massive space hog on a hard drive. But services like Spotify circumvent that and have the advantage of making the vast majority of songs available without having to download them first. Three for three.

Games. Oo, tricky. Probably the biggest space-taker in this list and, until recently, non-negotiable. They had to be stored on your hard drive and that was the beginning and end of it. But OnLive is challenging that convention. Rather than buy a physical copy of a game, take it home, install it and then play, a process that could easily take a couple of hours, OnLive lets your start playing in about two minutes. The game is streamed to you, a bit like video sites, and your key presses are sent back. As long as your broadband service is up to it, and most are nowadays, it’s a seamless process.

As you can see, a lot is storable ‘out there’. There still remain some valid concerns however. Your data is out of your control. A major security breach, however unlikely, could see your personal data out for the world to see. A drop in internet, whether due to geographical location or local circumstances, cuts you off from, potentially, everything*. And some programs simply don’t have an offline option, so are destined for the hard drive. Nonetheless, there is a believable future in the cloud.

*I would contend that this is not a massive issue, as the same would apply if the electricity gets cut off, but we still use computers. I've lost power more often than I've lost internet in the past year.

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