The Designer’s Notebook

Chained to the Cloud

Everyone loves the cloud. We love the cloud. The cloud is that imaginary place where all our business problems disappear, our IT costs vapourize and everything and everyone has the a rosy red glow of ecstasy on their faces. But have you ever actually thought about what the cloud is?

The cloud is really a series of high tech data centres all over the world. People own them. Shareholders, actually, own them. Shareholders don’t generally like free services. Your company financials are sitting in a data centre in Virginia, or Mumbai. Your proprietary technology is in Africa or China. Those cloud servers physically reside somewhere.

Now, Google is the king of everything free services. Almost all of our clients use Google services. Recently, Google delisted their free apps for business. Now, new users must pay $5/month per user. Let me put this into perspective: My email has 10,000 or 11,000 messages in it. Those messages reside in Google’s data centres. Should they decide my “free” cloud-based email is no longer free… what could I do? What I can do is pay to access “my” email.

Now in an attempt to not sound cynical, so many cloud/open source products are so cool: Drupal, CiviCrm, Salesforce (NOT free!). These products power so many things, and cost so much less compared to building from the ground up. Heck. They are so free and easy, we’ve kind of forgotten people build this stuff, and eventually need to get paid to do it.

Apple is rapidly expanding iCloud, and happily offering paid upgrades, dropbox => paid upgrades, Google => paid upgrades.

I suppose the morale of the Google Apps tale is two-fold:

  1. Get while the gettin’s good; and
  2. Strongly consider what is safe up there, in the cloud.
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