How Much Do We Rely On ‘The Cloud’?

I was recently having a conversation with a work colleague about cloud storage, he uses Dropbox and I use Ubuntu One. We were discussing the differences between the two services and also the advantages/disadvantages of both (click here to find out more about Ubuntu One). The conversation then morphed into a discussion about all things ‘cloud’. We were discussion thing like, webmail vs email applications, ‘normal’ documents vs Google Docs and even physical vs hosted servers (we are uba-geeks after all).

It soon became apparent that my colleague relies quite heavily on The Cloud, using Webmail, Google Docs and Dropbox for music & pictures. I also used to have systems setup in a similar way – mainly because it makes all of your data easily accessible from pretty much anywhere. That was until around 6 months ago when my home broadband had a problem and was down for 10 days. Now this would only be a minor inconvenience for most people, but with all of my important documents that I was working on only existing online and my emails being in the GMail cloud (both personal and work), I couldn’t access any of them – not at home anyway. At that time, I used to work from home quite a lot so it meant that I fell behind quite a lot with my work. So, I switched to using LibreOffice and Ubuntu One for all my documents and Thunderbird for my emails.

I actually find using Thunderbird a lot easier as I have multiple email accounts (personal, work & RefuGeeks), so having all three easily accessible in one window is really useful. I use IMAP for my personal/RefuGeeks emails and an Exchange plugin for work. This means that I can still access all my emails, in real-time on any computer via webmail. When it comes to documents, worst case I can download them from Ubuntu One, edit them and the re-upload them from pretty much any computer as I have LibreOffice portable on a USB stick.

My colleagues counter argument was that he could use his tablet for internet tethering or the Google Docs app on his phone or tablet. This is all fine for use now and again, but mobile data isn’t cheap under regular use and using your phone or tablet for editing a large document is frustrating at best. For me it just isn’t a viable option.

So now if my broadband goes again, all I need to is make sure I only edit my documents on one machine – I use my laptop 90% of the time anyway so this isn’t a problem. Then, when my broadband comes back on, all the changes are synced to the Ubuntu One cloud and hey presto, I can work both offline and online seamlessly.

Needless to say, my colleague and I had to agree to disagree but it’s worrying to think how much some people (including myself to a certain degree) do rely on the cloud. There are new tools coming out all the time like Google Drive, but this still isn’t perfect as any Google Docs that are synced to Google Drive are only hyperlinks to the online documents – therefore useless without an internet connection. There are also other tools like CloudHQ, which syncs Google Docs with Dropbox and Googles offline document availability.

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface here, storage space, high availability, cost and privacy policies are all valid topics of debate when it comes to this subject. Feel free to discuss them below, it would be great to see. What about you guys, how reliant are you on the cloud?

How Much Do We Rely On ‘The Cloud’?
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