I had an epiphany, a realization, an “ah-ha” moment over the past few days. Recently, Google celebrated their 13th birthday. I came to realize that I have gone all in with Google properties and their ecosystem. It became glaringly obvious over the past Labor Day holiday. I sat from my rocking chair watching something on Netflix which was being powered by my Google TV. I was composing a tweet about what I was watching with my Nexus One running Google’s Android operating system. On the table to my left is a CR-48, a Chromebook powered by Google. I found myself surrounded!
Later in the evening, after turning everything off, I went to bed, reading the book “In The Plex” by Steven Levy on my Nook Color. My Nook of course being powered by Android and rooted running Cyanogenmod. I do want to highly recommend this book as well. It is a well written, deep look inside Google’s inner circle during it’s earlier days and the decision making processes made from founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
So my question became, is it possible to go overboard on this new cloud planet that Google has created? My primary email is GMail, I use Reader to keep up with my news sources, Docs to store some important items, Maps, Calender, Voice, and more. The question I had to ask myself is if I have gone over my head and do I need to plant my feet on firmer ground? Is there such a thing as too much? Would or should I consider alternatives?
For six days in late August, my house had no power, courtesy of Hurricane Irene. The food in my refrigerator went bad and my life became the equivalent of camping in my house. My cloud life also suffered. Despite Google’s best efforts to give us offline accessibility, there was only so much non working internet that this space could endure before it became utterly useless to me. Despite my love for these services, this storm reminded me that there needs to be a firmer footing with our digital lives and handle the sections of our life in the cloud with greater care. Just the same as we buy a generator to power up our home lives that can be affected by a power loss, so must we also think about those generators that help keep our cloud computing manageable. What are some best practices?
I want to refer to my refrigerator again. Upon returning home to our power outage, we instantly threw out meats and perishable items which were quickly decaying without constantly freezing temperatures. Those items have strict reliance on a working refrigerator and without it, they become inedible. Outside of the refrigerator, in my pantry were canned items, water, and other non perishable items which survived. When we went out for more supplies, we purchased more of those non perishable items because they did not have a strong reliance on the cold.
I see this with cloud computing as well. It all starts and ends with the desktop. Be it Windows 7, OSX, or a favorite Linux distribution, a grounded operating system is the basis of keeping our spot on the ground. From there, a desktop based word processor, media player, photo editor, etc that save files locally are still the best ways to keep and hold onto our digital possessions. I marvel now at myself for having to remind myself of these base technologies that are the foundation of using the web. Now, with so much in the cloud, it seems the tide had turned to use the desktop as my data redundancy and not the cloud. This has been a quiet, slow, but dramatic shift.
The web is essentially cloud based as its foundation. The only tangible assets of the browser are the devices that carry it. Inside the browser we have ownership over that Word Press blog that we’re hosting ourselves or the files that are stored within them. Everything else is in the air. Our social networks are hosted and kept in space, our services are all pulling from the cloud such as Amazon or eBay. Our documents are stored on our computers, but more and more we are finding and accessing those documents on cloud services as well as hard wired services that are trying to reach out to the cloud as well. The standard is quickly changing from using the cloud as the back up to using desktop computing as the fall back. I have found it is entirely possible, like Louis Gray posted recently, to live and thrive within the browser.
Google is putting their eggs in this basket as well, discontinuing local properties like Google Desktop and Google Pack. Apple has even jumped in with their soon coming iCloud service. There will be a point where accessing our favorite services will be almost exclusively cloud based. There will continue to be a shift, not only for ourselves but for enterprise where we base our habits in the cloud. The backup will come locally as I’m doing myself both at home, and on the job.
It’s in these company’s right to invest into the cloud space, but let’s watch ourselves and remember to keep one foot on the ground. With firm footing, the sky can be the limit as we envelop ourselves into the cloud. I really do think we can live in both worlds.
Am I overloaded? I admit that I’m all about the Google, but reality requires me embrace all things tangible and keep them close. I know that I cannot take my possessions with me in the end, but I leave little legacy if its all in the cloud. I know to always seek a balance between the two worlds. Besides, there’s no way I’m entrenching myself into Windows Essentials or Yahoo. I’ve found my home within Google.