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Tech Tease

Apple joining Google, Amazon in the Cloud

Last week Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs made news again, announcing the dawn of iCloud at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. By outsourcing storage to remote servers, cloud computing eliminates the need to save data on a hard drive or other storage device and allows users to more easily share files with others across the internet. Imagine managing all your music, photos, and work documents from a single location; no more emailing yourself documents or using a thumb drive to relocate files. With iCloud, music lovers could access their music from any device that logs in with an Apple ID.

To be clear, Apple is not a pioneer here, but is positioning itself to join other major players such as Google, Amazon, and Rackspace in the information-storage race. Yet iCloud and other cloud computing services will change the way we use personal computers. Some of us have already been using a hybrid of storage solutions to conduct our day-to-day business. From time to time we’ll use a thumb drive, external hard drive, or an email account to shuttle files between destinations.

Cloud hosting has been utilized by businesses worldwide for close to a decade, but individual use is relatively new. While it’s a dream for storage hogs, skeptics warn that the technology makes one vulnerable to security risks. Are we ready to trust an online abyss with our cherished information?

Cloud hosting makes us susceptible to crashes caused by outdated data or devices. And since that new software, hardware, and IT troubleshooting costs, it’s no wonder companies such as Rackspace and Apple would like to take over this role for you. It’s estimated that Apple’s iCloud will cost around $25 a year to provide you access to your remote mass of data vapor floating in the online sea.

Now the whole world, including all of us in San Antonio, will be farming out our IT needs (email servers, web servers, calendar servers) to the servers in cyberspace. No worries, right?

To make cloud-computing technology more reliable, companies multiply the content of a single server (your complete Justin Bieber collection, let’s say) across a variety of data centers worldwide. It’s kind of like using all the personal computers in the world to store information — your information. In a recent Washington Post article Chris Calabrese of the American Civil Liberties Union warns that cloud-computing privacy laws are out of date, comparing the security of the practice to “putting your data in a desk drawer.”

Think about this while your data floats freely across the ’net: Cloud-computing providers spend 10 percent or less of their IT resources on security, according to the Ponemon Institute, a research center dedicated to privacy, data protection, and information security policy. Why? Because 69 percent of the cloud providers surveyed believe security is your responsibility, not theirs.

Meanwhile, iCloud is expected to be released this fall.

San Antonio resident and media justice activist DeAnne Cuellar blogs throughout the week at blogs.sacurrent.com and writes this bi-weekly column. She welcomes your questions and feedback and can be reached directly at techtease@sacurrent.com. Follow Tech Tease on Twitter at @thetechtease.

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