Cloud Computing Is About Convenience

I’m thinking about cloud computing versus the quaint old way we all used to just keep files in folders on our local drive. Do we really need to sync gigs of data in the cloud between devices? Is there a necessary utility to cloud computing, or is it merely about convenience?

I think in most cases, it’s the latter. In the past, our music, files, or photos lived on a desktop computer hard drive; we’d sync certain files (over a cable) to our PDAs, iPods, or phones as needed for being on the go. Or we’d copy the files we wanted onto a disk or thumb drive to use on another computer. Nowadays, cloud sync services basically do the same thing without the cable or the portable medium.

Three inconvenient cloud storage things

I like the convenience of the cloud, but there are things about it I don’t like. I’ll mention three.

One is the misconception that if my data is in the cloud, then it’s backed up. But that’s often not the case. Typically, files are stored “in the cloud” on a data server somewhere — and that’s it. My data is not on my local storage. Instead, I just see a reference (placeholder icon) to it. So all my data has one copy — the original — and no backup copies anywhere. Not good. If anything happens to that one copy, too bad.

Another complaint about relying solely on cloud storage is not having direct access to my data. It’s on someone else’s hard drive somewhere else. Unless I toggle an option to also keep a copy of my data on my local drive too, it’s beyond my reach without a persistent internet connection. So I must ensure that toggle is on because I can’t always guarantee the internet will be on. And unfortunately, many people don’t realize this.

The last problem is the tendency of companies to offer paltry amounts of base storage inside devices, forcing people to rely on cloud storage services — with subscription fees — in order to keep all files and photos somewhere. Why do many laptops today ship with a meager 256GB of internal storage? By now, the minimum base storage configuration on any laptop should be 1TB.

Local storage is underrated

I’m not advocating for everyone to quit using cloud storage; I still use it a lot. But I’m trying to be more mindful of how much I rely on “the cloud.” For-profit companies love for people to totally depend on cloud storage for everything. It’s like renting a remote hard drive and entrusting your entire digital life to a corporation’s server farm in an undisclosed location. Putting all your data-eggs in one basket seems unwise. It also incurs a pesky monthly subscription fee. Bleh.

Back in the day, you paid up-front one time for a physical hard drive (or computer) and simply put all your digital files on it. And if you were ever bit by data loss — drive failure — like me, then you also bought a backup drive “just in case.” So no monthly fees, and all your data was in at least two baskets, not one.

While computing companies may want to prioritize cloud storage, I think the best overall use case today is to make sure you primarily rely on local storage. Keep your data on your own device/drive. That’s the surest way to “own your content.” Then, as needed, sync a copy of your stuff via cable or to a cloud solution for easy access on your mobile device. Local storage should be the default while cloud storage is one option among others.

Your data should not live in the nebulous cloud behind a subscription payment and an internet connection. It should live on your own computer. And living in both places at the same time might be a good option too.

What do you think?

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