Thursday, October 20

I don't trust "the cloud." Maybe.

There.  I've said it.  I don't trust "the cloud."  I use the cloud.  A lot of my stuff is in that ethereal digital space.  But there seems to be something a little wonky about not really knowing where it is and trusting that those servers, wherever they may be, are safe from hackers, from "acts of God," from whatever else.

I'm one of those people who has lost important work and not been able to recover it so my redundancy plans have redundancy.  It's not that I have to be able to see the physical medium on which my data is stored, it's just the weirdness of knowing it's somewhere but having no idea where the "where" is or who is safeguarding it.  I understand how it works, but that doesn't make it any less unsettling as I think about the proliferation of cloud computing as a solution.

There were some articles a few years ago addressing this issue of cloud computing and trust.  Gray Williams wrote businesses should trust the cloud.  Writing in June 2010, Williams said "The majority of IT decision makers remain underwhelmed with the cloud's current security, control and service assurance levels. And achieving regional regulatory compliance within the cloud today is difficult, if not impossible."  He also said that "[u]ntil public cloud providers can offer the things necessary for achieving regulatory compliance--monitoring, log management, strong authentication, authorization, encryption, penetration testing, dedicated firewall policies and intrusion prevention--we can expect the private cloud trend to continue."  I didn't even know there was a difference between public and private clouds until I read that, but it makes sense given concerns about all the things Mr. Williams mentioned.

"Hey, you!  Get off of my cloud!"  Come on, it's a reasonable digression and it sort of fits.  How can I be sure people are busting in on my cloud?

Anyway, I'm not alone in my radical unhip thinking about the cloud and its wonders.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the same arguments could be made about the Internet and a whole host of other resources, tools, and more.  If I really wanted to get esoteric, I could say something about it being similar to doubts people have about God and heaven, but I don't want to clutter this with spiritual implications that do not exist.

As I poked around the invisible Internet, searching through all sorts of digital resources stored in various clouds or other such non-visible cyberlocations, I came across the MIT Tangible Media Group which is "explores the Tangible Bits vision to seamlessly couple the dual world of bits and atoms by giving physical form to digital information."  Cool!  Hold up.  What?  "At the border between the atoms and bits, we are facing the challenge of reconciling our dual citizenship in the physical and digital worlds. Our group is addressing this challenge by designing human interfaces that employ physical objects, surfaces, and spaces as tangible embodiments of digital information and processes."

This is a remarkable transitional time in which to live and to contemplate that duality between the physical and the digital.  I will finish writing this blog post that will be published in a digital space.  There is a physical representation of my words and my thoughts, but it is only a representation.

Christopher Borrelli wrote an article titled "The trouble with the cloud."  Interesting.  Insightful.  In it he speaks of the MIT Tangible Media Group, but also quotes Susan Sontag.  Borrelli writes
To borrow from Susan Sontag's 1977 book On Photography, and its prescient essay on collecting, we live in a world "on its way to becoming one vast quarry."  And yet what is the value of a quarry with no bottom, inexhaustible and plundered without much effort and available for mining every day, at all hours?
It's a good question.  One about which many will feel strongly and in likely different directions.  It's a question that will take some time to answer.

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