Cloud philosophies – Syncing vs Hard Drive Cloud Models

Recently it seems every digital company has been rolling a “cloud” service.  The ability to have what you need, when you need it is something people have been chasing as long as we’ve had tech connected devices.  But there’s always been limits. Those limits have influenced how we see, and want to see from, “the cloud”.  These limitation have created two mentalities in how these companies have designed their cloud offers.  But first the limitations.  There seems to be three big parts.

The first is the size and quantity of the files everyone is trying to access.  We used to have files that could fit on a floppy… That would be either 140KB, 720KB or 1.2 MB depending on how far back you want to go in the 1900s (or even smaller if you want to go further).  The fact that the files we are accessing keep getting bigger and bigger, and the quantity of files also keeps increasing, means what we have had yesterday isn’t enough.   So we need a way to transfer a lot of larger files quickly.

The second limitation is bandwidth.  The amount of speed and access we have today is massively better than that of even a decade ago.  We can even access items when not at home tethered to a cable modem. But with that access comes smaller bandwidth. And of course it’s those mobile devices we want our content on. Add to that bandwidth caps, and you start to have problems with all those files you want.

Which brings us to the last that is the space on the device we are using itself.  Having infinite space means being able to bring everything with us.  We’d still need access to anything that’s changed, but we could just bring the files with us.

So how do we work with these issues?  Well this is where these two different mentalities come into play.  A company can either go with cloud syncing or a cloud hard drive.

Cloud hard drive services is what everyone has always thought they wanted from the cloud. You don’t keep your content on your device, you keep it instead on the cloud. Advantage here is you have everything you want, whenever you want it, on whatever device you happen to be on.  No worrying is this the latest version.  No wondering if forgot if you left something on a different device.

But there are a few downsizes to this.  In an area with no reception?  No files.  No music, No anything for you to use.  Have a netbook that all the apps reside in the cloud?  No apps to use either.  Used to streaming your TB of music?  Yup that’s gone too.  Or take a situation not as extreme, take all that and add a little bit of internet (bad cell area, slow internet connection, etc).  Now you have all your files, just at slow and possibly buffer inducing speeds.  The cloud ideal is great if you have fast reliable internet.  And that’s where the problem lies.  You aren’t always in an area where you have a strong fast internet connection (if any at all).  Streaming movies and audio will quickly eat into your limits on your bandwidth per month.  Your files can be huge and numerous so getting what you want timely can be difficult.

Cloud syncing services is what we have become accustom to. It’s just up till this point been much more of a hassle, with programs to install, and some files transferring while others don’t.  Within these constraints it has handled the above limitations fairly well.  The files you need can sync when you have the required bandwidth to transfer all your files.  You can pick and choose what you want to sync so you can match what size hard drive is in your device.

But with the introduction of the cloud, faster speeds, and the necessity of having all your contacts, calendars, and other files synced across a multitude of devices and an operating system taking advantage of it… this changes the picture somewhat.  No longer do you need a program to rely on to make sure it’s files are updated.  The OS will handle that for you.  It can update all your files on the fly in the background.  You can choose what you want and don’t want on your devices to sync so your video of your niece’s birthday party isn’t taking up all your precious phone space. Now you need those big files right now?  You can download it just might take some time. Made a change on a file on your phone?  Now the file on your computer is updated to match.  If it works as advertised you get a lot of the advantages of the cloud without the limitations.

Will we reach a time where these limitations go away?  Probably not. Syncing will most likely have a place in the cloud.  With files always getting bigger and more people wanting to use the available bandwidth, we probably won’t reach that ideal.

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