The concept is deceptively expansive. At its most basic it can be described as storing data or running programmes off-site, on a server farm somewhere rather than on a hard drive in the house. But it is commonly held up as a revolution in computing, and is associated with everything from the future creation of a conglomerate of linked PCs with shared Skynet-like computational abilities, to the extinction of PCs as we know them.
There’s no shortage of grandiose posturing within the trade as to its supposedly world changing implications – but when it comes to delivering this message to consumers, the tone seems different.
If the average person has heard of the term at all, it’s possibly through a TV advert from Microsoft. In one such recent ad, a woman in need of creating the perfect family photo declares ‘to the cloud’, before sitting at her computer and editing a photo. Could this loosely qualifying as cloud computing? Possibly, if it was supposed to be a web-based programme. Do photo manipulation programmes fully represent the cloud concept? Possibly not.
This is not to single out Microsoft here. People are possibly more likely to have heard the phrase used by security firms offering cloud backup. These companies sell their products by highlighting the life-shattering dangers of the internet. If you’re really unlucky, you could pick up a hard drive destroying Trojan and lose everything on your computer – even if you are protected. But we can keep your data safe for you. Where? On the internet, of course.
I’m playing devil’s advocate – but it’s surely not unrealistic to think many consumers could be confused by this dichotomy.
Perhaps this goes someway to explaining how the reaction to the Sony consumer data hacking fiasco and breaches at Amazon have adversely affected some retailers’ ability to promote cloud products. There will be many consumers in the world that still view buying a tub of butter online with suspicious eyes, and these sorts of high-profile online security breaches – while not directly related – don’t look like they’re going to do any favours to those trying to push the cloud concept to the masses.