A friend and I were talking over lunch the other day when the subject of cloud computing came up. A self-professed Luddite, my friend asked what exactly cloud computing was.
In the most general of terms, I told her it was a model of computing whereby applications and even files and documents reside not on a computer's hard drive, but in an offsite data center, and a user accesses them via the Internet.
'But what if you can't get an Internet connection?' she asked. 'How do you get any work done?'
She, who uses her computer pretty much only to post on Facebook and fill out job applications, hit the target on the fundamental problem with cloud computing: no connection means no data. And while that might seem like a rarity in the enterprise or even SMB space, for consumers or a distributed work force, having no network connection is often more a reality than a threat.
Take, for instance, my 40-minute occasional trip into New York City via the Metro North commuter train. That's 40 minutes when I could be incredibly productive, but because there is no Wi-Fi available on the train, it's basically nothing more than a 40-minute enforced relaxation period. Ditto for the ride home.
You could argue that I could invest in a broadband network card for my computer and have access pretty much everywhere, but for the amount of money I spend each month getting data on my smartphone, it seems criminal to me to have to pay again for the same privilege on my computer. (And have you ever tried to get any real work done on a smartphone? It's nearly impossible.)
Yes, if you're willing to pay for it, you could have that (nearly) always-connected experience. How many times have you been on a business trip and shelled out the extra $15 a day for Internet access in your hotel room to get your work done? Does it seem fair that some places will charge for Internet access and other places, such as Starbucks or even McDonald's, offer it for free?
If the cloud computing revolution is indeed truly upon us, then we may be putting the cart before the horse. We first should be dealing with our infrastructure issues and ensuring connectivity is available-not to mention affordable-before we move into the clouds. I'm not a big fan of enforced relaxation, unless it's on a beach with a Mai Tai. And last I checked, the bar car on Metro North didn't serve blender drinks with little umbrellas.