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Mailbag: Your Thoughts on Cloud Computing

Last week, after Microsoft announced plans to offer a stripped-down version of Office to run in the cloud, Doug asked readers what it would take for them to put their files on the Web. Here's what you said:

A frontal lobotomy and a bottle in front of me.

In your article, you ask what it would take for a reader to put their files in a cloud somewhere. My answer is: NOTHING. I wouldn't do it. I know we're breeding a whole new generation that believes having your apps and files in a cloud is supposed to be more appealing and secure than traditional methods, but for me, I don't want my files to be the responsibility of anyone but myself. If my Internet connection is down and I need to work, where are my files? If the Web site where they are stored gets taken down or fails, where are my files? If I have to access the Internet over dial-up, are my files really accessible? If someone hacks the site hosting my files, are they still there, and if so, are they all over the world, as well?

No thank you! I will keep my files safe, secure and backed up at my home office and continue to use offline files when I travel. It's worked for me for years, and with nine copies and regular tape backups (moved offsite every week), I'll continue to have my files to work with when I need them and without all the worries. For individuals who are comfortable with the possibility of having their files unavailable, maybe it's a good thing. For myself, I can't imagine giving my file storage and safety away. It's almost like asking your best friend to mind your checkbook for you and make sure all your bills are paid, too. I may trust them, but never that far.

I can't see myself using such capabilities in the near future. I have 100GB of information and backups that I manage securely between my three personal computers. Growth rate is 1 to 1.5GB per month. Remote access has not been an issue thus far as a flash drive and a laptop have proved sufficient for data I need to access away from home.

I think cloud computing and Internet banking have some similarities. Why do I manage my money over the Web? I have a written contract with the bank. I can see my bank balance and my transactions at any time. I have access to history. I know that I can withdraw my money whenever I need it. (The analogy breaks down a bit here.) And I'm working with a firm that I can trust.

I'd want all of these things before storing my data in the cloud. I'd also want to be able to 'back up' my files onto my personal computer whenever I choose.

And Floyd responds to another reader's thoughts about Azure -- specifically, that people with dial-up wouldn't be able to access the cloud OS:

Recently, Mike said that "dial-up...with today's large data transfer requirements, is quite useless." I think Mike misses an opportunity for dial up users in that Azure could be the perfect solution to these folks. Why? Well, just like with the remote terminals we use here, the only bandwidth that's needed is for updating those parts of the screen that change as the user moves the mouse, opens a window, closes a window and so on. Since the data is stored and worked on remotely, there would only be a couple of instances where a large download of data would be required -- say, when printing a document to a local printer or when saving a file to a local drive.

If Azure can provide me with cloud encryption for my files that I can control, I say, "Bring it on!"

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on November 06, 2008