Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Obama's got his Head in the Clouds

It’s a little startling, but I hardly know where any of my files are. I know how to get them, and I’m pretty confident they’re secure. But truly, I have no clue where much of my information is actually stored.

My company just moved offices. Before we did, I sat near the company’s servers where all our digital files were saved. Now our servers are “off-site” – wherever that is – and everything is available through a slightly clunky web-based system.

And it’s the same story with my personal life. I’m a heavy user of Google Docs, Gmail, etc. I have family photos, class papers, insurance documents, loan information saved … somewhere. Where? Not sure.

Without realizing it, I’ve fallen into cloud computing and it’s pretty great. I can get nearly any file mostly anywhere. Traveling, working from home, on my iPhone – virtually everything I need is accessible with little more than a password.

As with anything there are advocates and opponents from the cloud computing idea. The pro-cloud community hails it as the future of computing, increasing users’ online productivity, ability and agility. Opponents see it as, among other things, a vulnerable computing process ripe for data theft.

Perhaps both sides are right. It’s a great new tech advancement with certain vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. As a standard consumer with average computing needs, I’m OK with that.

Nevertheless, even while online privacy advocacy groups like the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) are pressing for an FTC investigation into the safety of cloud computing, the Federal government launched Apps.gov, a website where federal agencies can access “cloud-based” IT services.

While EPIC doesn’t necessarily oppose cloud computing, it claims that Apps.gov – and really cloud computing as a concept – doesn’t adequately address issues of privacy and security, leaving sensitive information about citizens and the government vulnerable.

It’s a debate that will go on for a while, but it’s nice to see the first president to have a Blackberry is jumping into Web 2.0 – although, hopefully, with the appropriate level of caution.

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