Today it seems that everyone’s talking about computing in “The Cloud.”
The concept is simple: Rather than buy a load of hardware and/or software and have it all sitting in your offices waiting to go wrong, blow up or become obsolete, you work and store your files with an online service that handles all that icky technical stuff for you.
Our own Qarto translation management portal is an example of a cloud-based system – also known as Software As A Service which, of course, inevitably gets abbreviated to “SaaS.” Other examples are email systems such as Google Mail and Hotmail, online storage services such as Dropbox and MobileMe, or office applications such as SugarCRM or Zoho.
Even Microsoft have jumped on the cloud computing bandwagon, which isn’t such as surprise since cloud-based services generated over $68 billion last year and is forecast to hit around $150 billion by 2014.
However, just lately cloud-based services have been taking a bit of a beating. Sony’s PlayStation Network got hacked and was offline for the best part of six weeks. On April 21st Amazon’s EC2 cloud-based platform fell over which, since many tech sites use EC2, had the knock-on effect of taking down services such as Reddit, FourSquare and Quora.
Ever since, the press has been full of “I told you so” articles casting doubt over the usefulness of cloud computing, how it’s unsafe and unreliable and not ready to be trusted with our precious data. Which, to me, is a bit like saying that all automobiles are dangerous because your great-grandfather was once run over by a Model T Ford.
Yes, cloud computing-based systems are fallible – in the same way that any computing system is regardless of where it’s based. Cloud computing outages such as Amazon’s, or security snafus such as the Sony story, are the tales that we get to hear about. But what about the thousands of computing failures that occur on a daily basis in companies of all sizes?
In any given year, a lot more people die in car accidents than in aircraft crashes. But it’s the plane crash that makes the headlines. Of course it’s news when Amazon – the world’s biggest provider of web-based services – has one of their data centers go offline. But I’ll bet you that your own company’s systems have fallen down far more often.