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July 27th, 2010

Cloud ComputingWhen the subject is as important as “cloud computing,” we want to break it down to basics for you. Defining cloud computing as “using the Internet’s storage and computing resources” is a reasonable start. And, yes, you can still call the Internet “the cloud.” We’ve talked about cloud terminology in previous blogs (specifically five technologies to watch),  but since these words are now being used by marketing managers even more than by engineers, we thought it wise to revisit them.

In the 1990s, Scott McNealy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, said, “The Web is the computer.” The ultimate dream of the cloud boosters is people accessing files stored “in the cloud” (“on a server somewhere”) with minimalist workstations called “thin clients” – a keyboard, a monitor and a network connection. Is this really how people would work, given the chance? Many of CRE’s creative clients doing high-end work on Mac Pro rentals would probably say, “No way,” at least for now.

Local = control

More and more people are becoming cloud-savvy, because that’s where their Web sites are located, of course. Many businesses also use online storage to archive materials. There is a good business rationale for this, as well as for storing many kinds of work-in-progress in the cloud, like projects that require collaboration for editing, design and/or distribution. However, the notion that all files are “virtual” – which means “unavailable” when the power goes out – scares the heck out of many designers, A/V pros and content producers. Is this really the Big Idea that McNealy and other cloud fans want to implement?

For this all-cloud-all-the-time scheme to work, we need far greater network speed and much more bandwidth. Even when these and other sticking points are unstuck, human nature is still blocking the road ahead, holding up a big sign that says, “I have trust issues.” If you just hired some extra artists and put them to work on  computer rentals to finish an urgent project, would you honestly trust the only copy to be out of your sight – rather, out of anyone’s sight? No local work copy? No way!

Step by step towards computing in the cloud

We haven’t space to cover all the security issues, but the phrase “heightened security threats” pops up a lot in cloud computing discussions. Local storage is safer than cloud storage for the simple reason that cyberspace is still a battlefield full of hackers, viruses and malware. “From the frying pan to the fire” seems an appropriate precautionary statement about moving prematurely to cloud computing – for now. So, consider Xserve RAID rentals – they are solid, tangible proof that you have your work at hand, safe and sound.

You can get acclimated to the cloud by getting a free online storage account (and actually using it). With each passing day, the Internet gets faster, safer and easier to use, but it’s still got a bit of the Wild West in it. Perhaps some people will be comfortable leaving their animation files on the cloud and using Apple’s imaginary Web app, Final Cut Virtual, to work on them (perhaps with their iPhones). Others may take a bit longer to feel safe doing that. Your mileage, as they say, may vary!

At CRE, one thing that never varies is the expertise and professionalism of our staff. Whether you need the fastest iMac rentals anywhere or a broad array of convention rentals, CRE is your one-stop shop. Call us, send an e-mail or fill out a Quick Rental Quote form and we’ll help you get where you need to go with the best hardware, software and services, bar none.

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