With lower prices, increasing internet speeds and tremendous advantages over physical media, the cloud is becoming more and more attractive as the only storage solution you need, perhaps even making redundant the need for internal hard drives in the near future, as Google is betting on with Chromebooks but there are still major hiccups that need to be addressed before one could really start considering the cloud as a primary storage solution, rather than just a means of sharing files and backing up important documents.
Today, Microsoft announced a revamp of its pricing for OneDrive, with the free storage allocated to each account being increased to 15GB (not coincidentally, equal to the offering by its biggest competitor in the space, Google) but what was far more interesting was the news that all Office 365 subscribers would now get a free terabyte of storage, a massive increase from the (in hindsight) paltry 20 GB offered before. This, along with other cloudstorage vendors’ initiatives to bring prices down finally makes it worthwhile for people to actually start thinking about moving to all-cloud storage, making Google’s dream with Chromebooks, which are almost entirely reliant on the cloud, ever closer to reality. This is especially true since, at least as is the case with Microsoft, you’re probably already going to subscribe to Office 365 if you need to use Office (and, a lot of people do) so it’s essentially free…
So, the prices are affordable enough but there are still major kinks to work out before I wouldn’t be worried when buying the entry-level 64 GB Surface Pro 3 and consider the cloud as a solution, instead of a trusty, old hard drive. For one, while an all-cloud storage solution might be fantastic for those living in the West, with their 1 Tbps connections, guys (such as mysel) living in poorer countries, which don’t even give you an unlimited connection, despite paying through the nose, still have horrible speeds and it’s just too much of a bother for me to have to wait a day to download a file. That, however, is not something that Microsot or any of the other cloud companies can really solve, though Google is certainly trying with its balloons and its satellites.
Some features they could add, however, (and quite easily too because many companies already do a similar job, think ZbigZ and Zamzar), which would be killers are:
Direct downloads to the cloud.
Most of the data we now add to our computers comes in the form of downloads from the internet, whether it be videos, movies, music or whatever. If I am really going to consider the cloud as my only storage solution, then, why should I have to download something off the internet, only to upload it to the internet again? These cloud providers can easily add extensions to browsers that add a “Save to [cloud brand]” alongside the “Save link as”. God knows that they’d certainly download it faster to their servers, with their crazy speeds, than the time it would take me to only download it, let alone upload it to the cloud afterward. This would be especially useful with mobile devices, which have stringent data caps. Why should I finish my 1GB data cap when I don’t even want to use the file, when I can just send the link to OneDrive and have it download the file and safeguard it for me till eternity? Now, that would be when I would start believing in the true power of the cloud, that is empowerment and innovation that makes our lives easier and hassle-free, that is what technology stands for.
2. Streaming and the addition of other fundamental PC capabilities in the cloud…your second computer in the cloud, if you’d like.
Needless to say, once you start storing everything in the cloud, you still need to consider that internet speeds and even the infrastructure on the cloud servers is not really there in terms of real-time, no lag connectivity. You can have the fastest internet in the world but, when sharing a note on OneNote, any input you give will still take a second or two to manifest on another device and that, alone, is something that can do with a lot of improvement. Moving towards real-time sharing is when the cloud will truly become a platform that is suitable for all that it is advertised to be and become functional in situations like distance learning. I study this way and know I certainly prefer the current way I study, through Skype calls, sacrificing the teacher for the whiteboard because the board is often more important than the teacher’s hand gestures (though, that’s an arguable point) and would never agree to using OneNote meetings, which would allow me to see the teacher, yes, but would be slower than what I need and lead to audio/video synchronisation problems.
That’s just one point, though. If I have a video, for example, I want to be able to start it just as soon as I click on the file, and not have to wait for the whole file to download so streaming is a must, and streaming the way YouTube does it, with quality, and not with the glitches and bugs that pester almost all other sites and even YouTube, especially if you are, like me, on a slow internet connection.
And, then, of course, there’s the possibility for a whole ecosystem based on the cloud, though that’s probably not something that’s not coming before at least 5-10 years, where I do everything in the cloud, where Photoshop is installed, not on my computer, but in the cloud and any picture I click on opens it in Photoshop and allows me to edit it in real-time. That’s when the cloud dream really comes true but, until then, the above two points could really help in making the cloud a much more attractive solution for storage.