My friend Zarpaden contacted me recently to ask about a cloud storage service his Mac was prompting him to use. Zarp had plenty of storage space on his system and was rightly concerned about his pictures and letters and other personal stuff on who-knows-which Web server for anyone and his Uncle Pacheco to view at their pleasure and Zarp's pain.
It seems everybody's confused about cloud services these days. Business Insider's Tony Danova explains the current state of the consumer cloud-storage landscape. Danova explains that no single company has come to dominate the industry: iCloud has a slight lead due to its early start with iPhone and iPad users, but Google, Microsoft, and Dropbox are neck-and-neck for the second spot. Analysts agree that the trend is toward more storage (and other computer activities) in the cloud.
In recent years I've done a 180 on storing my files in the cloud -- except for iTunes and iCloud, which let me listen to my music on up to five computers or devices no matter which machine the songs reside on. The downside of iCloud for accessing and backing up your media files is that Apple owns you. There's no simple way to export your media library to other players. (Demand Media's Kirk Bennett explains how to export your iTunes library to Windows Media Player.)
At one time or another I've used Google Docs, Dropbox, Microsoft's OneDrive, and other cloud storage services to sync the files I save on my local machines to the online accounts automatically. I no longer auto-sync my files with any cloud service, simply because I no longer need to access the files remotely. I back up my Document and Picture folders manually once or twice a week. My most important files I attach to emails I send to myself to ensure I have a right-now backup.
Of course, the big money for cloud services is in enterprises, which is where companies such as Cisco Systems and Amazon come into the picture. InfoWorld's David Linthicum explains the effect of the cloud-services trend on corporate IT departments. While many folks in IT freak out at the prospect of business units turning to the cloud for their system needs, Linthicum points out that IT staff actually become more important to users in their organizations because they can "bring order to chaos, while still providing the benefits of flexibility and immediacy that got users to go to the cloud in the first place."
As with previous transformative technologies, cloud computing will integrate with and enhance home-grown, local systems rather than replace them altogether. Count on technology keeping you on your toes!