This weekend I did a job I hate doing and probably never used to do often enough – backing up all the files on my computer at home. Only this time I have finally dispensed with my back-up hard drives and DVDs and put everything onto a cloud.
Cloud computing (internet-based on-demand computing whereby software, shared resources and information are stored on remote servers) has been around for quite a while. But it has now reached the stage where it is safe, fast and affordable enough for all of us to use. In fact, I now wonder why anyone would use a back-up hard drive other than to perhaps keep copies of original software settings and source files.
I have been experimenting with a few options for some months but Dropbox remains my favourite “cloud”. As well as providing a safe place to back-up my files without having to even think about it any more, it allows me to synchronise files across my Mac, Windows computers, my beloved iPad, and even my Blackberry.
I can share files and folders with anyone I need to collaborate with, and I was reassured to find that Dropbox uses military grade encryption methods to both transfer and store data. Above all, I love the interface because it is so clean and simple. The fact it is free unless you exceed 2GB of storage is of course very welcome too.
But so much for personal use. The greatest benefits of the advances in Cloud computing are bound to be for businesses, especially SME’s and small start-ups who can reduce their capital outlay by purchasing their software and hardware (servers) as a utility cost. Clouds are almost infinitely scalable and they can significantly reduce the cost of maintenance.
Indeed, I have become so convinced about cloud computing that I believe it can play a major part in Europe’s economic recovery and in achieving the goals and objectives of the EU2020 agenda. There is no reason why it shouldn’t become a key enabler of growth, innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe.
Of course, such changes are not going to be without some significant challenges. Not least is the issue that clouds do not fall under a single jurisdiction and are therefore subject to multiple privacy regimes and legal obligations.
The European Commission recognised the issue in an interesting communication it published last November “A comprehensive approach on personal data protection in the European Union.”
“Rapid technological developments and globalisation have profoundly changed the world around us, and brought new challenges for the protection of personal data,” says the European Commission.
“Today technology allows individuals to share information about their behaviour and preferences easily and make it publicly and globally available on an unprecedented scale. Social networking sites, with hundreds of millions of members spread across the globe, are perhaps the most obvious, but not the only, example of this phenomenon. ‘Cloud computing’ could also pose challenges to data protection, as it may involve the loss of individuals’ control over their potentially sensitive information when they store their data with programs hosted on someone else’s hardware.”
It goes on to say that this inevitably raises the question whether existing EU data protection legislation can still fully and effectively cope with these challenges.
The EU is now in the process of reviewing the legal framework for Europe’s data protection and proposals are expected later this year. I am sure there is going to be a lengthy debate, which I will be watching with great interest. But in the meantime I am very happy to have joined the cloud fraternity.
If you would like to try Dropbox please use this link: http://db.tt/hy0vA9y