Monday, February 7, 2011

Why the Cloud?

I'm not a big fan of "the cloud". I make no apologies for it.

The problem for me is this:

Most of those services out there that make life easier and store all of your information for you aren't all that straight up about who owns that data.

For example, if I put up a picture on Facebook, can Facebook then go and sell that photo? How about something I've written? Or more interestingly - how about something that a group has written?

Can they on-sell that data? What if I want to use some other service and so want to take my data with me? Can I remove my data from that service? Do they offer some useful export options?

I personally would not look at using one of these sites for community data.

So the question is, what makes it alright for Manaiakalani to have all of their data in the cloud? Because - oddly enough, I think this is one of the few use cases where the cloud is suitable.

There are laws protecting the kid's data. If they demand that it be taken down then it MUST be taken down.

But the real reason I see the cloud as suitable in this scenario is that the benefit of such a program would be lost if teachers struggled to mark the work. If they were, for example, trying to find the work on the child's laptop. Or if they were relying on the kids to have filed something in the right place on a school server.

And then there's the problem of migration. A child does not stay at one school. They go from primary to intermediate to college. What happens to all of their work when the move on? Should it all be lost? What if that information could follow them around. They could modify a report on volcanoes rather than trying to remember what they had said about it in year 7. In this case, the report becomes a progressive work. It can grow with the child.

Then there's the issue of fires and air conditioning. If a school is set on fire, all of their servers go as well and chances are, all of their back ups are in the building (it surprises me how many people don't think to do off site backups). And if they're in a data centre? What are the chances of an air conditioning unit dying? Servers overheat. Hard drives fail at around 60 degrees, generally speaking. The cloud allows for this data to be more persistent.

I remain skeptical. I won't be using the cloud for everything any time soon. But sometimes these solutions just make sense.

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