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The Cloud Computing Movement is Gathering Steam
But is "The Cloud" really all it's cracked up to be?

Justin Flood's Blog

Whether you're in front of a PC, Mac, iPhone, or BlackBerry, cloud computing proponents feel you should be able to access all of your music, photos, documents, and applications no matter where you are. In theory, it’s a great idea, and some aspects of cloud computing are already in use in your day to day life.

Lately, wherever I go, I can’t seem to avoid the newest internet buzzword. Everybody and their mother is talking about “The Cloud”. I’ve been neglecting to write about it since it’s just been so damned annoying. But with the whole cloud computing movement finally starting to gather steam, I really should throw in my two cents.

Basically, “The Cloud” is just another euphemism for.. well… the Internet! I guess "Internet" got old and they had to think of something new and cool to replace it.

Of course it isn’t as simple as that, but it’s a good place to start.

The whole Cloud computing movement has the goal to make everything you do with a device completely platform agnostic. In other words, they want you to be able to access all of your applications and information from any device anywhere no matter what. Whether you're in front of a PC, Mac, iPhone, or BlackBerry, cloud computing proponents feel you should be able to access all of your music, photos, documents, and applications no matter where you are. In theory, it’s a great idea, and some aspects of cloud computing are already in use in your day to day life.

E-Mail was one of the first things that moved to the cloud, services like Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail, allow you to access and manage your e-mail from anywhere. This was fantastic as it made it easy for people to set up and use e-mail, and it eliminated the issues of having to run one’s own mail server.

Photos moved to the cloud shortly thereafter. Most people who own digital cameras store their images online somewhere. Whether it be Flickr, Smugmug, Photobucket, or any number of digital photo sites, people have given their photos in droves to the cloud, and for good reason! With the decline of photo printing, No one wants to lose all of their precious photos in a hard-drive crash. Giving them to photo services online ensures that they are safe and backed up. Chances are they aren’t going anywhere for a good long time.

There are plenty of other examples like calendars, notes, diaries, and other things that have found their way onto the cloud as well. All in all, putting our day to day content on the cloud has been phenomenally successful.

Moving Applications to the Cloud

So as we’ve moved our content into the cloud, companies have now begun to start moving our applications there as well. This is where I want off of the train. Seriously.

Most of these web-based cloud-apps are written in different flavors of JavaScript. It’s a pretty decent language to put together little AJAX-y bits on a website, but it’s kind of kludgy for writing whole full-on desktop-style apps. As computing speeds and RAM amounts continue to grow over the years, I suppose it will be less of a problem, but do we really want a web-based version of Photoshop with circa 1999 functionality that requires a 2.6ghz Core 2 Duo and 4 gigs of RAM to run without your browser crapping out?

I tested a few of the web-based office suites the other day, most of them were decent, but none of them made me even consider moving from a desktop suite. There was no reason. My desktop suite (Pages on my MacBook) is faster, more responsive and less resource intensive. Not to mention the fact that its text rendering is far superior, and its layout capabilities FAR more powerful. Other than the ability to collaborate with people, and save directly to the cloud, there is no reason why I would even want to use a web-based word processor. Add in the fact that many of these web-services will start to become subscription based, and you have a situation I don’t want to be anywhere near! Note to app-devs: I’m not paying $10 a month for my word processor. I can get a better one for free. Leave me alone.

Another area that is seeing a lot of work is the area of web-based photo editing. Give me a break. You want me to run Photoshop (or an incredible facsimile) in my web browser? Not likely. Now I agree, I’m a power user. I use Photoshop on a daily basis in my job. The speed and power it affords me makes it unlikely to ever be replaced. I realize that Photoshop for most people is like using a tank to kill a fly, but even still, packages like iPhoto and Picasa on the low end, and Lightroom and Aperture on the high end are far better packages than ANY online suite at the moment. This isn’t to say that the online photo suites aren’t any good. They’re great for a quick crop, resize, and sharpen, and they’re great for turning a picture black and white in a pinch. While this may be ok for some of the basic users out there, I require a hell of a lot more control than that, and even the controls offered by something as simple as iPhoto trump a lot of these suites in quality and speed.

And don’t even get me started on 3D modeling or Video editing apps. Though I will admit that distributed, cloud based rendering services for consumer desktop video and 3D apps would be fantastic.

My point is, not ALL apps should be migrated to the cloud, and the fact that people are trying to bring EVERYTHING over is something I find kind of funny. There’s a reason our biggest, most powerful apps are not written in JavaScript on our desktops. It’s simply not fast enough. Native software will always be better integrated and faster than anything a web-based alternative can muster. I’ll agree that moving things like photos, e-mail, contacts, calendars, journals, and even to some extent office suites and simple photo editors, to the cloud makes sense.

But, I beg of you, do not bring my pro level tools to the cloud. I swear, if Photoshop ever goes web-only, I’m hoarding my copy of CS3, and my MacBook, and I’m never giving it up. I don’t want my mission critical apps subject to your server crashes. I don’t want my app to be unavailable if I can’t find some wifi. I don’t want to pay you a monthly fee for something I could have previously bought and owned. And I sure as hell don’t want to upgrade my computer to run software that is slower and has less functionality.

I prefer to manage my own data and apps on my own computer and back it up myself to my own hard drives. I may be old school like that, but that’s just how it is. At least when I need to get something done, I know I can.

 

About Justin Flood
Justin Flood is a graphic artist born, raised, and living in suburban New York. He blogs at JustinFlood.com.

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