The 'Cloudy' Skies Corporations Want to Sell You
It's the nature of the shallow, consumer-driven, dream-drunken culture our society tries to impose on us that we popularly adopt terms without knowing what they mean and, more often than not, they don't mean much of anything.
Such is the case with "the Cloud".
Most people who use computers believe they know what it is except that everyone seems to have a different definition. From a satellite-based storage system to a virtually invisible network to a collection of hard drives all over the world to a new form of storage that doesn't require computers to...whatever new definition pops up this week. In any case, you have heard of the "cloud" and probably aren't sure what it really is.
This week, the Army announced it would be putting its Defense Cross-Domain Analytical Capability -- a database storing various kinds of "security-relevant" information -- on the Cloud. This surprising development indicates a level of maturity for Cloud computing that could be important for us all, in a contradictory way. We are closer than ever to being able to build a completely de-centralized and privacy-protected Internet network and that is a development we all should be actively supporting. Unsurprisingly, it's a development corporations are frantically seeking to prevent or control.
To understand all this, you have to first understand what "cloud storage" actually is and to do that you have to divert your eyes from the sky. That's not where you'll find it -- no satellites or "non-wired data transfer" or invisible storage devices. It's not the complete break with previous Internet technology some think it is. In fact, it's not even new.
A "cloud" is nothing more than a bunch of computers linked by a network. There's no consensus about how it got its name, although companies are more than happy to avoid correcting people's misinterpretations. But we know how it was developed. It's a simple "protocol" (a system of computer commands) that allows for the automatic and rapid sharing of information across a network based on the division of files into smaller packages. In short, while you think you claim a precise place for all your files (a kind of personal hard drive in space) when you rent a piece of the "cloud", you're giving your files to a provider so they can be chopped up and stored on several computers in the provider's network.