Cloud computing is a pretty big topic. On one hand, I really like the idea of keeping most everything in a remote location. It would free up my computer’s limited resources, and I wouldn’t need to worry about losing install discs or other things like that. For a library, it is attractive – any public computers would have reduced stress put on their systems, which will make them last a lot longer.
On the other hand, there’s the dependence on external resources that makes me (and many others) nervous. If all of my important documents are in The Cloud, how can I be certain that other people can’t access them? Security is not a word that comes to mind when we think of clouds. And what if The Cloud is encountering problems? Could my files be deleted or otherwise rendered unrecoverable? What if I can’t access them at a critical moment? What if I am a careless library patron who leaves herself logged into The Cloud at a public computer? Even doing something as quick as grabbing a printout can be an opening for a malicious individual.
Granted, a lot of these problems came up with things like online banking and ordering systems, and many of them have been addressed. (Except for those with their heads in the clouds – pardon the pun – who can’t seem to log out of public computers, but that’s a problem we refer to as PEBKAC*, and it can sometimes be alleviated by forcing a clear session on browser close and/or automatically closing the browser after X amount of inactive time.) Part of the problem I see is that banks are well-established institutions that are known to be reliable, and we have legislation and agreements in place to ensure that we will not be seriously inconvenienced or set back by any failure of their systems. We are still working around the sticky issue of legislating the internet, which makes me leery. After all, we still haven’t figured out how to get Nigerian princes to stop emailing us about their millions of dollars, and most creators of viruses and other unpleasantries don’t seem to get caught or punished, even though they can cause massive damage and loss.
I’m not dead set against cloud computing like Richard Stallman is ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/sep/29/cloud.computing.richard.stallman ) but I do tend to be a late adopter of new technologies. I’m not going to put my faith in The Cloud until I know it’s safe.
*For those of you not familiar with tech support acronyms, that stands for Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair – occasionally also known as an ID-ten-T error.