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Where is the cloud now?

By Jean-Claude Elias - Feb 19,2015 - Last updated at Feb 19,2015

So we all use the cloud now, albeit at degrees and levels that greatly vary from one person to another, from one business to another. The variation is not only quantitative but also mainly qualitative.

The cloud is one of the innovations which exact date of first inception is hard to pinpoint. It took place slowly, gradually, evolving from the Internet which itself sprung out of the original Arpanet. Therefore, from the purely technical point of view the cloud is as old as e-mail, for in the end it is nothing else than information that the user stores and manipulates in the web, by simple definition.

Practically speaking it makes more sense to consider that the cloud fashion as we widely understand it now took off for good circa 2010. Where is it now? What market penetration has been achieved in five years? 

Many of the online hosting services such as Network Solutions, HostGator or GoDaddy are pushing the cloud in a rather aggressive manner. For instance they won’t give you anymore the old product that consists of just e-mail hosting for a reasonable price. Instead they prefer to promote a package that includes e-mail along with Microsoft’s Office 365 online that consists of making you give up the traditional Office Suite installed on your computer and instead to go for the one based in the cloud. Naturally the subscription rates for such a package are higher than just e-mail. Microsoft has to make a living after all!

Many are opting for this cloud solution, therefore storing all their work and working on it directly in the cloud. Microsoft will not release official figures that would compare the cloud-versus-local numbers of Office users. To have a reasonable estimate one can only take a smart guess and compare the various blogs written by experts on the subject.

Such approach would put the current ratio at around 15 to 20 per cent of cloud-based Office, with a forecast of 40 per cent reached in the “next few years” (Tony Redmond’s blog). So even in the near future the number of cloud Office users is expected to be still less than those keeping the traditional local Office.

Of course Microsoft Office 365 is but one of the countless cloud-based applications. Everyone is coming up with their own app and product, from Google to WordPress.

The reason why some go for the cloud and others don’t depends essentially on the type of business or personal activity. Lawyers for instance aren’t ready to take chances with their clients’ highly confidential files and won’t put them in the cloud easily. Since absolute files protection doesn’t exist even on local computers because of the obvious hacking risks, it is therefore understood that these risks will automatically be higher with data stored in the cloud — it’s plain to realise.

On the other hand if yours is a small business with nothing overly confidential, going cloud full speed ahead makes perfect sense. Take for example a restaurant, a school or a design house, and all these non-profit organisations. Every bit of information there should be transparent, be it to the market, to the competition and of course to the tax department. Why then not keep everything in the cloud and work on apps from there?

Perhaps the magic word here is balance. Indeed balancing what to put in the cloud and what to keep local is the smart approach. We don’t necessarily have to do exactly what the Internet giants want us to do; we can consider things wisely, weigh the pros and the cons and then decide.

Most of the small- to medium-size businesses I know in Jordan are going cloud at about 50 per cent, meaning they use the cloud for about half of their information and computer applications, keeping the rest locally. That’s reasonable.

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