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It’s Getting Cloudy out There

by Kerry Dawson

Clouds coming in

It seems there’s no lack of cloud based services these days. In fact, there’s an explosion of cloud based services. There’s cloud this and cloud that and box something or other and the cloud services with rather unique names like Imgur. Why all the cloud services and what are we to make of all these services. Do they all compete with each other identically or differently offering different capabilities.

The answer to the above question is yes and no. There is really no cloud service that can do it all for you currently. Some are getting close but there is no one stop shop for a cloud service. Additionally, they all offer an entry level package with a generous amount of storage. Put together enough cloud services and you could end up with more storage, for free, than you know what to do with. However, if you have too many cloud services they will start getting hard to manage.

Additionally, there are services that really aren’t cloud based but rather more file exchange offerings and their capacity is capacity only limited by your own computer. These kind of services can allow you to exchange files, view files without the cloud and in some cases allow you to take access of a remote computer to run something. Logmein is a good example of one such service and it is from a well know company however, there are other technologies and techniques that are effective without the cloud.

However, for the purposes of this article I’m going to concentrate solely on the plethora of cloud services that are invading our space. This isn’t a bad thing. In the article I wrote a while back titled “Sync is Where it’s At: The Cloud as Enabler” I outlined one critical role of the many the cloud is enabling for us. In the case of this article, the cloud ensures our devices, be them handhelds, tablets or computer’s data all remains in sync. In the case of this scenario though we don’t have many decisions to make. It is generally defined by the software vendor. You generally will sync via icloud, Dropbox or the vendor’s own service. Only in some cases do you need to decide whether you should use Dropbox or iCloud. My preference is to go iCloud if there is a choice simply for speed.

Not all Cloud Decisions are so Simple

If only all our decisions around cloud services was so simple. In this article, I’m going to address simply the plethora of cloud based services that we are being bombarded with followed by an article I will title “Reaching for the Clouds” wherein I’ll describe what you might want to do when choosing a cloud service.

Grey clouds forming

With this in mind suffice it to say “It’s Getting Cloudy Out There.” Like a cloudy day, one could find billowy white clouds mixed with blue which is rather pretty. That’s definitely what we had. However, just like a cloudy day the clouds could be growing in size and abundance building towards a grey day at best if not a storm at worst. I would say for most of us at the moment when looking at cloud services, the options, the variety and the kinds it is definitely a grey day developing towards a storm. Like any storm though it passes and so too will this storm. However, it’s important to know what to do.

A Grey Day it Is

I can easily say that we don’t have that pleasant day of billowy white clouds but rather a grey day. We have so many cloud services to choose from now offering x-variety of capabilities it’s almost impossible to know what to make of them all. Unlike the simple choices we have in choosing our sync service via the cloud, cloud services beyond sync provide a variety of functions.

To weather the storm, we have to know really what it is we need. Knowing this, then you can choose one cloud service or different cloud services based on those needs.

Three Primary Functions of Cloud Services

In a sense, I’m going to simplify the functionality of cloud services into three primary functions with the caveat that there’s slightly more to this than just these three functions. But to make this manageable, it’s best to look at the three primary functions cloud services provide.

  1. Storage and share

    • In addition backup
  2. Sync services

    • device

    • computer to computer

  3. Direct Link

    • used for image share

      • forums

      • social networking

So there we have it. Our three primary functions of cloud services. However, as you’ll note there are subfunctions and if I were to go farther, which I won’t, as it starts to get a bit harry, all these primary and subfunctions are in the end incredibly beneficial. They are enablers of an information age that is both a little overwhelming at first and amazing once we sort of traverse the clouds.

How Cloudy is It

Looking at these three primary functions one would think well I’ll just choose x of x, y, and z services as it’s the most cost effective and provides the most storage. It’s possible that this could be the case and if so you’re one of the lucky ones. Likely though one cloud service is not what you’ll end up with. Although it would be nice if we had a one stop shop to provide all the functions we want it’s not possible. Not yet at least.

Let’s just briefly list off a variety of the cloud services available, some of which you might immediately recognize and some of which you may not. This list is not an all inclusive list either but intended just to indicate just how cloudy it has gotten:

Box net


  • iCloud
  • Dropbox
  • GoogleDrive
  • SugarSync
  • Box.net
  • Cubby
  • Copy
  • iMgur
  • ShareBox
  • Droplr
  • Cloudapp
  • Cloudup
  • Crashplan
  • iDrive
  • Skydrive



and well on the list goes. Looking at this list, although these are all cloud based, user oriented services they don’t all accomplish the same thing although there is certainly lots of overlap of functionality.

It’s Definitely Very Cloudy out There

As we peruse the list and think about our needs there at first blush seems like there’s lots of choice. However, at second glance, it will soon seem a bit overwhelming. If you have a range of needs, no one cloud service will meet those needs. Rather, you’ll need a mix of services. Indeed, it is a grey day. And as with a grey day, our mood can be a little down. Don’t let this be the case. Although it might not appear to be so the above is all manageable as long as we know our needs.

To Find a Clear Day

Clear Day

Knowing that understanding our needs will allow us to manage and make sense of all these cloud services and those that are likely to come, my next article will address first the benefit of cloud services generally, where we’re headed with all this and how we can get there as it stands now and hopefully as things evolve. In the article to follow “Reaching for the Clouds” I will try to tackle the above so that we end up with a clear day. Challenging yes! Impossible? By no means. So let’s get through all this so that a clear day dawns.

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