The Future of the Cloud

There are cool things on the horizon for The Cloud.

The Cloud is the clearinghouse for all things you access on your enabled device that isn’t saved to that device, a memory stick or disk. It evolves as people and businesses rely more heavily on it, for everything from storage of summer camp photos to intricate predictive software for huge corporations.

The Cloud is just … out there. Even if you don’t know much about it, you’ve probably used it to:

  • Watch a movie
  • Stream music
  • Check your email

Seemingly boundless space and ease of access make Cloud storage appealing for the social-media maven and the big-business IT department alike. Your photos and sensitive data aren’t actually in the sky – Cloud services store data in expansive data farms grounded on the actual earth.

But storage in the sky sounds way cooler than storage on an expansive data farm, doesn’t it?

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Most of us won’t be monogamous with one enabled device. We’ll check email, stream music and update social media on our work PC, smartphone, and tablet, which gives the Cloud a spot of prominence on the Internet and data-storage landscape.

So, what’s in the forecast for the Cloud?

A continuation of improvements

Google has rolled out a trio of enhancements to the Cloud platform for developers. But for those of us more inclined to use the Cloud to house our collection of 70s soft rock or photos from a semester abroad, there are some awesome advancements, too.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe took to the sky in an effort to curb software piracy. Digital artists have access to Dreamweaver, Illustrator, and Photoshop, among others, for a monthly fee ($20-$50), rather than a hefty one-time price (around $700). Users get automatic software updates, 20GB Cloud storage, and workplace syncing between your devices. With Creative Cloud Learn, you also have access to more than 200 tutorials.

With Behance Prosite, you can publish your portfolio to your URL. This Adobe feature allows you to edit with drags and drops – not CSS and HTML – to put your best work forward on the Internet.

Microsoft SkyDrive

The days of USB cables and memory sticks felt like the cutting edge of file sharing back then. Now, with Microsoft SkyDrive and Google Drive, what’s saved to your desktop is available on your smartphone or tablet. No cables necessary. As with other Cloud storage, such as DropBox, files need only to be saved in the dedicated folder to ensure accessibility through all synced devices.

The basic storage quota (7GB) is less than half that of Google Drive (15GB), but for personal use, that’s plenty of room to grow on the Cloud.

Bitcasa Infinite Drive

Unlimited storage and comprehensive syncing sounds great, right? Bitcasa covers lots of territory, with syncing clients to cover any OS and all devices. Bitcasa’s Infinite Drive is designed for those who share photos and videos heavily on social media, and for those who stream movies and music to portable devices. An optional Chrome extension allows you to make Bitcasa your folder for downloads.

Unlimited storage isn’t free, but the 10GB basic plan is. Infinite storage is yours for $99 a month. You know, in case you want to keep multiple copies of all eight seasons of “Full House” on the Cloud. In English, French, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Swahili and Portuguese.

Growth into healthcare

A world that can sync photos of food for recipe blogs and videos from our kids’ basketball games ought to be able to use that same technology for healthcare, right? Concerns over accessibility, cost of storage and privacy in medical records direct the discussion to what the Cloud can do for healthcare.

Medical records – from clinical studies to physicians’ files on patients to billing documents – have been stored onsite, with software that continually needs updates to accommodate growth and more stringent guidelines for privacy and accessibility. The notion that these documents are best protected under lock and key – not in the Cloud, with network keys – loses momentum by the day.

Provisions part of HIPAA – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that Congress passed in 1996 – set forth guidelines for confidentially and security when medical records are transferred, stored or shared. Cloud storage seems like a perfect solution.

Companies such as ClearData and Dell take care of HIPAA compliance with their healthcare Cloud services, unlike other Cloud clients that aren’t set up for medical use. ClearData, Dell, and competitors who will rise out a need for such Cloud services, must provide security in data storage as well as accuracy and expediency in accessing that data.

So, what’s next?

Unlimited storage – no matter how much – means little if it’s lost. Or corrupted. Or even unavailable for any amount of time. Speed and reliability become paramount in any effort to refine the Cloud. As does security. Clients will demand 100 percent availability and security.

Within those parameters, Cloud storage as it stands today is a near-perfect model.

We take for granted the amount of encryption and file transfer that takes place when we compute with the cloud – whether it’s to post your blog from your smartphone or have your x-rays transferred to a new hospital. These functions are quick when conducted locally, but the future Cloud will also execute this speed when performing global transfers.

Expect the Cloud to play an expanded role in business in the next three years, with business IT operations, healthcare and education leading the way. With an estimated $78 billion in global demand for cloud-based hardware – high-speed links, servers and storage – by 2018, the forecast for Cloud storage looks downright sunny. Or, cloudy, depending on your perspective.

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