Reading 07 – The Cloud

The cloud is essentially when a third party essentially either holds files for you, perfors computations in your behalf, or some combination of both. This may involve allowing you to use an app over the web, or even hosting a whole operating system for you. The meme that says “There is no cloud. It’s just someone else’s computer” has some truth to it, but it can be a bit misleading. It’s not that you’re connecting to some remote computer and everything is there. You’re connecting to a network, and at any time you may be connected to a server at a whole different location. Of course, cloud services try to make it so that you connect to what’s closest to you for performance purposes, but the fact remains that you never really know where you’re really connecting to in the cloud network.

I have never used a cloud directly for developing purposes, but I have used it to some extent. Particularly, at Notre Dame all CSE students have used AFS to host our files. We can then access our files through any computer connected to the AFS network. Not only that, but we can connect our laptops to AFS at any time. That allows us to have great flexibility when working on our programming assignments. We can work on our laptop on the go through SSH, or we can work on the machines at Cushing Hall to have better performance when running more resource intensive applications (maybe a small videogame you may be working on).

On a real working environment I can see this being carried further by adding even more flexibility for your job duties. You can work from anywhere on the world (especially useful if you travel a lot). Furthermore, all you need is a good internet connectivity and a device that can handle opening a browser, which isn’t asking for a lot. The applications and operations are run completely on the cloud.

As a consumer, I also get many the benefits from the cloud. I often use my Google Drive to share big files with other people. It also allows me to have a place to store my pictures and other files I would like to keep accessing in the future. It also facilitates the sharing of my files across my different devices. More indirectly, having the cloud has allowed many new companies to emerge. Netflix has become part of many people’s lives. Netflix makes use of a third-party cloud service to manage its operations.

Overall I believe the cloud is a great technological advancement. I can’t say the cloud is completely safe, but its much easier to believe that they will do a good job than making sure a local sys admin is doing a good job. I believe evidence supports this too. Amichai Shulman, chief technology officer of Imperva, shared with the BBC that “Most of the major data breaches that have taken place over the last five years, from Sony to Ashley Madison, TalkTalk to Target, have been from internal, not cloud-based, databases.”

Furthermore, some of those breaches that happened through the cloud where because of the mistakes of the consumer. Iam Massingham explains that for the cloud services providers “Customers can choose to control their own encryption keys if they wish…as well as set the rules for who can and can’t access the data or applications”. In other words, the cloud will be as safe as the consumer wishes it to be. That seemed to be the case with the NGS breach of files. The files were left on an open cloud with no password or encryption to protect it. There was no fault for the cloud host in this incident. It was the neglect of the Booz Allen contractor handling the files.

My conclusion is that while the cloud is not fault proof, it is a worth investment and one that will increase overall productivity and security.