Networking 101: Life Without a Cloud

December 29, 2011, By George Lang

Over the past couple weeks we have been discussing various aspects of the relatively new networking phenomenon known as the Cloud. We would like to wrap that discussion up this week by posing the question: What would life be without the Cloud; i.e., for those individuals and businesses who choose to adopt it fully, as we have the Internet?

We human beings have been around quite some time; about fifty thousand years, give or take a few thousand, with full behavioral modernity according to most scientists. If we picture that amount on a timeline, we can put a few things into perspective. For instance, the part of that time humans have had ubiquitous access to electricity is probably not much more than about one hundred years or, about 0.2% as visualized by the barely visible thin purple line on the following pie chart.


In other words 99.8% of the time we have been human, we have lived without electricity! Since being blessed with it, we have not only become accustomed to having it, we have grown highly dependent on it. Look at the chaos when a city loses power for more than even a few hours, much less days on end. There are many other things that we can say we are now virtually dependent on for our normal survival, such as running water and, most recently, the Internet.

Things creep up on us in an evolutionary pattern until we begin to take them for granted without even knowing it. Access to the Internet is one of the more recent dependencies; and, more recently still, the Cloud. As we’ve learned over the past two weeks, the Cloud is part and partial to the Internet. It is dependent on the Internet for its existence. In other words, when there is no Internet, there is (by definition) no Cloud. Compounding the problem is the fact that when there is no electricity, there is (by definition) no Internet.

This brings us to the heart of the matter. Why should people be concerned about life without the Cloud? By placing all your dependencies in the single basket known as the Cloud, any loss of either electricity or the Internet, results in the loss of everything you’ve come to depend on in the Cloud.

In last week’s article we ended by posing the concern that, perhaps, the Internet, and hence the Cloud, may not be up to the challenge. Why is this so? In 2003, the nation’s northeast electrical grid succumbed to an unusually large outage caused by a surge and complicated by heat that day; some scientists believe the grid will sooner or later fall victim to intense solar activity; large, critical regions of the Internet can be lost due to natural disaster; the Cloud is even more subject to regional outages and security issues.

Are there solutions for these potential problems with Cloud dependency? A 100% fiber optic infrastructure would be less susceptible to electro-magnetic interference (EMI), but it still depends on electrical devices at either end to work; the Sun and Mother Nature do their thing whether we like it or not; and so far, no one has been able to eliminate Internet outages completely.

So, the answer currently lies with you. As an individual, do you take the risk and go with the convenience of the Cloud? As an IT decision maker for a large corporation, would you put everything your organization depends on in a place that might not exist for extended periods in the future? For now, we think the answer is obvious: no one should place their entire dependency in the Cloud. The risk of shutdown is just too high.

Working with parallel redundant systems is an option. For instance, running most of your corporate network in-house, while using the Cloud for things like remote data backup and team collaboration might just be the competitive difference an organization needs until the other issues can be satisfied, if ever. For me, I can tell you that I already depend on the Internet way too much. Without it, researching most of these articles would take me back on the road to the local library, and to brick and mortar (i.e., tree-pulp) publication; not an option I am entertaining lightly.

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