It’s No Longer a Crazy Idea to Move to the Cloud

Jeff Jarvis (media critic, journalism professor, co-host of This Week in Google, and warrior in the battle against Verizon’s LTE device activation policies) has abandoned local storage in the form of owning a traditional Mac/PC, and moved entirely to the cloud.

Ding, dong, my personal computer is dead. I bought my first machine, an Osborne 1, in 1981. I turned off my last one 33 years later. … I asked whether for lots of people, we’ve moved past the idea of needing to own a computer that stores data and runs applications locally.

To me this would be terrifying. I do an enormous amount of work through the cloud, and I use it for all manner of redundant backups of everything (with Backblaze) and apart from that it holds separate redundancies of photos (particularly with Flickr), music (my library is duplicated on iTunes Match, Amazon MP3, and Google Play), and literally every file I use for work (Dropbox and Google Drive). Most of it is cheap, and a surprising amount of it is free. But it’s all premised on the fact that I have the central hub on my Mac’s SSD (with some offload onto an external hard drive in my home). I know the tagline for this blog is “the truth is in the cloud,” but really, for me, the truth is still in my office.

But Jarvis is not crazy. In fact, what’s crazy is how easy, and really uneventful, such a move really is. Based on his post, it seems like his usual computing activities are affected not at all, save for a hiccup with Skype on Chrome OS. And it’s not as though he some clueless old guy who barely uses technology anyway, he’s an expert, a power user, a leading thinker on the very subject. So, feasible for others? Jarvis writes:

Of course, this move still depends on what you need to do with a computer. I write — in fact, I’ve just written a 55,000-word tome about the future of journalism (betcha can’t wait for that!) using my Chomebook and Google Docs and Drive. I use the web — Chrome, of course. I communicate — everything I could need except Skype. I share. I do basic photo editing. I don’t do rigorous photo or video editing; for that, I’d still need local storage and computing.

Right. I couldn’t attempt this. Although perhaps 80 to 90 percent of what I do could be more or less seamlessly moved to the cloud in totality, I’d lose the ability to edit video for those few occasions I need to, I wouldn’t be able to play Civilization V (I have about one game every four or five years that I ever play, and for the past 10 years it’s been a Civ game), and I wouldn’t be able to produce audio the way I’d want to, for multi-track music recording or podcasting (stay tuned?).

And there’s what’s for me the big elephant in the room: Loss of access. If all your shit’s on someone else’s servers, who-knows-where, you don’t really control your access to it. Now, as I said, I have a lot of redundancy in my cloud storage. If I was forever blocked from iTunes, there are two other services holding “copies” (really, “licenses”) to all of those same files. If Condoleezza Rice were to revoke my access to Dropbox, my files are duplicated on my Mac’s local storage, which is in turn backed up to Backblaze and my external office drive. But if everything were cloud, you’d have to have trust in a lot of corporations for whom your interests do not take precedent over your own.

That, and what if you just couldn’t get online? I know that Internet access is becoming ever-more ubiquitous, but we’re not at fill saturation yet, folks. Yeah, if the cable Internet goes down I can make do, briefly, with tethering to my LTE phone, but that gets expensive. And what if you’re in an area with no reception? What then? Read a dead tree book? The horror.

But I do really like the idea that having super-powered processors and mammoth data storage on our persons won’t be so necessary anymore other than for niche cases, and that even those niche cases will dwindle. Instead, our “computers” will be in a server farm somewhere, and we’ll simply have “devices” that act as access points to the data crunching going on far away.

We’ll probably keep needing more RAM, though. No one wants to have to keep reloading browser tabs in The Future.

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