Why Steve Wozniak Is Both Right And Wrong About The Cloud

Senior Contributor
08.06.12 2 Comments

Steve Wozniak is kind of the tech version of a prize-fighter who retired at precisely the right time. He hasn’t really been in the game for a while, but he’s still got the chops and deserves respect. Hell, the guy quit Apple and started working in his local school district.

That said, he is prone to making pronouncements that are taken a little too seriously. Like, for example, this one, about cloud storage.

“I really worry about everything going to the cloud. I think it’s going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years. With the cloud, you don’t own anything. You already signed it away [via the terms of service]. A lot of people feel, ‘Oh, everything is really on my computer,’ but I say the more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we’re going to have control over it.”

I happen to agree to a point, and also disagree.

First off, Woz is right. Some sort of cloud storage disaster isn’t just coming, it’s already happened. Dropbox, a popular cloud storage service, suffered a data breach and spam attack. The real nightmare is the accidental loss or malicious deleting of user data, or even the government seizing a cloud service and flushing that data down the toilet, something the US already tried to do with MegaUpload.

The flipside of that is… well… it’s pretty simple, in the end. Woz is acting like local storage is an endangered species when really all cloud storage is is yet another locker to back up our software stuff. It’s less a “dynamic storage solution” and more “the Internet’s junk drawer.”

For example, Amazon backs up my music purchases when I buy off their site, and Google Music also updates its servers with my music collection. Am I going to be annoyed if both sites somehow manage to flush my music collection? Sure. But I have the actual files stored locally. Almost everyone does.

It’s like this: everyone owns a laptop or desktop. It is true that we’re increasingly shifting over to a point where our phones will be our computers for most basic tasks like web surfing and word processing, but it’s also true that local storage is not going anywhere. Why would it? Hard drives are cheap as dirt and flash memory is rapidly getting there, and the bigger the number, the more impressed the tech buying public is. There is no human being who fills a terabyte drive with family photos and MP3s. That remains the province of video editors and that one guy with a truly scary porn collection.

Cloud storage is for convenience. Nobody uses Google Music or Amazon Cloud Player as their primary music storage and playback, as much as the two pray desperately for that to happen. It’s what you use to listen to your music at work or stream a song over your cell phone. It’s hard to see cloud storage ever taking primacy in the digital market simply because, as Woz himself said, people like to own things.

That said, Woz is right: Cloud storage is insecure at root. All systems suffer some sort of failure. So, if you haven’t backed your files up… do that, for God’s sake.

image courtesy GovWin on Flickr

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