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The cloud or not the cloud…

June 1, 2016

A question that many have pondered.  Should I put my stuff in the cloud or not?  Once upon a time, there was no cloud, except for a corporate network, that is not really the cloud, it lives in your house.  I used to use 3.5 inch floppy disks to store my work.  Then came the zip drives, 100 mb, wow.  Shortly after that the CD, write your stuff to a disk, its 600 mb, wow, wow.  Then came along flash drives and bigger external hard drives, well actually smaller with more storage.  Over a gig!  sometimes 4 GB (remember 1 GB is 1024 MB).  Then, thumb or flash drives that were over 16 GB.  And now, to the cloud.  Its becoming more normal to think “save it to the cloud”.  “Let the cloud handle that.”  “Trust in the cloud.”  Think Google drive or Microsoft bla bla.  These are services that allow you to save your stuff somewhere else, you may not even care where.  Just save it somewhere and remember where and your credentials to access the “where”.

I am brain shifting now from stuff your create to software programs that allow you to create.  Where are they?  On a server in your corporate network?, maybe.  Or, somewhere in the cloud.

What is the cloud?  A bunch of servers with lots of storage capacity.  The cloud is a nebulous concept, invisible really.  Its not on your flash drive or on a server in your office, down the hall or across the road.  Its the great server in the sky.  The cloud is a destination.  A trust worthy place where you can put your things and not worry about them.  A place to put things that matter to your job or business, where you do not have to worry about them or update them, software or servers anyway.

Lots of big companies, like IBM, Google, Apple, Microsoft – they all offer cloud services.  Hosting.  How about apple and their music cloud.  No need to keep all that stuff on one device.  Put in up here in the cloud and your can have it on all your devices.  That does make some sense – the syncing of devices to the apple cloud is fraught with peril.  I have seen it spin people around numerous time.

I like keeping things in the cloud, I always know where stuff is.  For anything to be available at any time from any where – it must be accessible.  How could something be available from anywhere at any time?  First, it must exist and be saved to a cloud server.  Then, to access it, there must be a device and internet connection.

If there is no internet connection or the internet has a bad day or the software that is allowing you to access your part of the cloud has a bad day…..then you do not get your stuff.  If you had your stuff on a flash drive or saved to the local hard drive of a computer or device, then yes, you could access your stuff.

Companies, when selling cloud services brag about up time or access time or lack of downtime.  This is what the 99.9 % up time propaganda is talking about.

Im going to bring it in a little.  I support software systems, where i am dealing with these types of cloud or no cloud decisions.  I just recently enabled Google Drive on one of the Moodle instances I support.  This is an example of allowing one system to access another.  GD is the cloud.  More people in education are relying on cloud storage.  When it comes to word processing programs, use of GD.  If the person has a google email, and make use of the GD service, then they are storing things to the cloud, the Google cloud, one of them anyway.

I have another Moodle system I support where we offer credit courses to New York State students.  We purchase course material from about 5 different vendors.  Some of the vendors load the course content to our Moodle server, while others load it to the cloud and reference it from our Moodle.  Both solutions have advantages, similar to cloud -vs- local advantages.  When course content is loaded locally, we have complete access to it and can change it more easily.  When content is referenced from the cloud, I don’t have to worry about if I have the latest content.  Sometimes, when content is loaded locally, it gets outdated when updates are made to a master and not pushed down to our local server.

I received an email from one of the course vendors this am, it says “updates were made to many courses and may need to be updated in client master shells”..  Translated means, they push course content to the local server and may need to update those previously deployed.  This has happened a few times over the years, where updated content did not make its way to a deployed course in our Moodle.  If the course content is consumed from the cloud and referenced from a local shell, the content would have been *automatically updated.

Its all a little complex, there is not silver bullet or best option that covers all situations.  Rather, there are options.  The better you understand the options the better service you can provide your customers.

The cloud is the future.  Cloud services are the future.  Probably dominated by a few giant cloud providers.

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