The Cloud tradeoff:

Ownership vs. Leasing

(Increased Costs vs. Reduced Costs)

While it does seem to endorse complete non-ownership of software, storage and hardware, cloud computing gives us tremendous savings in return, along with some other perks

One of the most hyped (and often pointed out) topics among those who might be wary of cloud computing (or an outright detractor) is non-ownership. The argument goes something like this; cloud computing is pushing us away from owning our own software / hardware, and our data is controlled as well. While it would be foolish to assume that all future cloud providers will follow the rules perfectly and hold high ethical standards, it’s also a bit irrational to jump to conclusions with sweeping statements and theories. The truth is, most cloud providers are going to provide their clients with excellent service(s), security, and savings; but there will likely always be an exception to the rule.

Some people who are banking heavily in the conspiracy theorist camp have come right out and stated that they see cloud technology as something which removes user rights to tangible / physical items / data. It’s actually great that some people are throwing these concepts out right now (as cloud computing is really starting to come into its own), because this will help to shape future legal agreements and / or compliance documents. In other words, it’s good that some people are thinking ahead, their concerns can be used to help forge better regulations with regards to data sovereignty and consumer rights in the cloud.

However, the single biggest issue (among those who see the cloud as a step toward something more sinister) is that of ownership vs. non-ownership. The fear seems to be that we are moving toward a type of society where your average citizen becomes acclimated to the idea of not actually physically owning anything. While this is a valid concern, it is not particularly in line with history and could be considered “reaching”.

For example, just think about all the software that you have personally purchased over the years for a second. How much money have you spent on hardware / individual machines and devices in the last 5-10 years? For most people, it’s probably not out of line to assume that thousands of dollars have been sunk into software and hardware that is now hopelessly obsolete. Likewise, if any personal data has remained intact from one upgrade year to the next, it was likely transferred to an internet storage site (or external drive) before being re-downloaded onto the new hard drive(s), right? The question is, how is this technically any different from cloud computing?

In truth, by not having to purchase new hardware and software, you’re actually saving an enormous amount of capital which could likely be put to use in another area. Additionally, because it wasn’t exactly intuitive for the average person to transfer data and settings (in previous times) from one system to the next, you were actually paying more for less, in a way.

Then there’s the issue of usability; sure, you can own something, but if it only has a shelf life of around 6 months to a year, is it really a good investment? Because cloud computing providers often do global upgrades automatically (even offering their clientele a choice of new applications / components as they become available), the need for shelling out exorbitant sums for self-contained systems is not necessary. In fact, it’s actually a liability and sort of like “taking a chance” when large corporations actually purchase software these days, because they can get so much more out of the cloud at a cheaper price. For instance, if a large business were to purchase some type of software, they are probably planning on using it for an extended period of time. The costs associated with multiple licenses are likely to be well above that of the monthly service fees tied to a comparable type of SaaS.

 

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Then you have the argument that cloud computing is a step toward a society where authoritative entities have complete control over your data at all times, etc… Whether or not people realize it, there are no such things as completely secure computer systems. Regardless of whether you think the cloud is a step forward or backward, the system you’re using right now can be compromised just as easily. Perhaps it’s a bit paranoid to think that there’s always someone “trying to acquire your data” and that the cloud represents an end to freedom? If anything, the newer forms of security which are emerging thanks to cloud research are vastly superior to methods which are currently used to protect sensitive data.

Lastly, there’s the reality that significant amounts of money are often saved by organizations who move into cloud computing. At the same time, overall capability isn’t being compromised either; businesses tend to gain new capabilities and powers by adopting a cloud model. Moreover, it’s a great leap in logic to assume that self-contained systems and individual software purchases will fall by the wayside and become a thing of the past. It’s extremely likely that there will still be companies who will sell independent systems, components and software after cloud computing takes over. To put it another way, cloud computing will not completely eradicate the market for non-cloud machines and devices; you’re still going to be able to buy machines containing their own storage and hardware. Also, it’s very likely that individual pieces of software will still be available for purchase, assuming that you want to go that route. Cloud computing is helping to bring advanced functionality to a much larger portion of the world’s population at prices they will be able to afford.

 

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