It’s In the Cloud…

So while Internet and computer companies are busy chasing this next big revolution in computing storage and access, I will continue to keep my data close to me.

But can you get to it? Suppose you are part of a group working on a joint business plan that is stored in the cloud and you need to update the section you have been assigned to prepare. Now suppose you are at the airport waiting to board a plane and you need to retrieve your presentation to review it and make changes. Since it is stored in the cloud, you open your device that has a little storage and perhaps your applications and try to connect to your data in the cloud. But you are at the gate for your airplane and scores of others are downloading videos or other information they want to use on the flight. You make the connection to your cloud-based files, but the network is so slow or you keep being disconnected so you cannot download the entire presentation before your flight.

Impossible you say? Don’t bet on it. The cloud is the rage right now and companies are spending heavily to entice you to store your data and in some cases your applications in the cloud. This enables you to carry a smaller and lighter device devoid of a hard disk or much storage because the assumption is that you will be able to access the cloud every time you need to from anywhere you are. This is a dangerous assumption.

Do you consider your access to information mission-critical to you? Public Safety communications are obviously mission-critical but in many cases, so are corporate communications. We have come a long way in only a decade. Ten years ago, poor wireless networks with slow-speed data limited our access to information and access to the wired Internet was cumbersome and slow. However, today we have high-speed wireless access using wide-area networks and Wi-Fi, and our connections to the wired Internet are over DSL, cable, or fiber so they are fast.

However, the Internet itself is neither a mission-critical network NOR a managed network. There is no Network Operations Center (NOC) to monitor and control the flow of information, there is no Quality of Service, and there is no way to limit the amount of data consumed by a single customer (user). These elements are important since today the Internet runs at an average of 80% capacity in the United States most of the time. Streaming video will drive usage up in the coming months and I sometimes refer to Netflix not as the killer application for the Internet, but as the application that will kill the Internet.

Many who count on the Internet for day-to-day communications will think I am crying wolf, that the Internet could not possibly slow down or become so congested it will be useless. I hope they are right and I am wrong, but my tests of the Internet conducted every day, twice a day, using’s speed test that measures both upload and download speeds across the Internet indicate that when I connect to Speakeasy’s server in Los Angeles I experience a higher throughput than when I connect to its server in New York City.

There are some positive steps being taken in an attempt to obtain more bandwidth. For example, Netflix has made a number of deals with larger ISPs to store its movies at the edge of the Internet and then deliver them only over the ISP’s pipe and not always across the Internet. However, streaming video is still an issue for Internet traffic. When you move this traffic to wireless broadband, it is even more of an issue. The total bandwidth available on a 3G or 4G system is based on a cell sector. Typical cell sites are divided into three 120-degree sectors. In each of these sectors, the total bandwidth is then shared among all users within that sector. In a sector that covers two miles out from the center of the cell for 120 degrees, all of the customers within that sector will share the total capacity of that sector. If the sector is capable of supporting 15 Mbps of data and there is a single user in that sector, that user will have all of the bandwidth. However, if there are twenty users in the sector, they will all share the 15 Mbps. This is not much of a problem if everyone is processing email or other light data inquires. However, if a number of these users are streaming video, the bandwidth left over for the rest of the users within that sector will be smaller. Another factor is that the further you are from the center of the cell, the slower your data speed will be even if you are the only one in the sector. If you are at the edge of the cell, perhaps you will experience data speeds of only 500-700 Kbps down and 256 Kbps up.

If your life is stored in the cloud and you don’t always have access to it, this can impact your productivity and sometimes have an adverse effect on being able to access information you want and need when you want and need it. So I see a number issues with relying on the cloud for our data and/or applications:

  1. Will you always have access to the Internet?
  2. How much capacity and speed are available for the on ramp to the Internet?
  3. How busy is the Internet?

And I have not yet discussed security. If your company’s data is stored in the cloud along with many other companies’ data (on the same server), that server is a bigger target for hackers than if your data is stored on your own machine. If it is on your own machine and you are hacked, only your data that is bad is compromised. However, if someone hacks into the cloud computers, a large amount of data from many different companies might be vulnerable.

For all of these reasons, I am not a fan of cloud computing as the primary repository for my data. I use the cloud to back up my data, and I CAN access it from any machine I happen to be using. However, in my office, at home, and when I travel with my laptop, the data resides on my local machine and as long as I can turn it on and use it, I can get to my data. Synchronizing data that is stored in multiple locations is easy today, there are many good software programs available that do a great job of keeping all of my files up-to-date on all three of my computers and across my office network. And no matter where I am, if I have one of my machines with me, I have access to all of my data, even if I cannot access the Internet.

So while Internet and computer companies are busy chasing this next big revolution in computing storage and access, I will continue to keep my data close to me and not have to worry about boarding a plane without the one file I really need or worrying about whether someone has hacked into my information.

Andrew M. Seybold

4 Comments on “It’s In the Cloud…”

  1. harri says:

    You are absolutely right. In addition to having varying data rates, wireless connectivity is far from ubiquitous. As Internet access is increasingly wireless, one of the great challenges is adapting to the statistical nature of wireless.

  2. Thanks Harri and welcome as a new subscriber to our publications, it will certainly be a challenge going forward.


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