09

The personal cloud and cloud device

We’ve seen how popular the term ‘cloud computing’ has become owing to the splendid job done by the marketers of the various remote server data hosting companies. Added to the ambiguity brought about by this term, there are also several deployment models used to differentiate between the kinds of cloud computing – namely, the Private cloud, the Community cloud, the Public cloud, the Hybrid cloud, and the Personal cloud. When the cloud services are rendered over a network solely for a single organization, it is called a Private cloud. When it is used for a group of organizations or a community, it is called a Community cloud. A Public cloud offers cloud services that are open for public use, and a Hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds that remain unique entities but are bound to each other. And just as we start to thank Lord Almighty because these terms seem to be slightly definitive, we come across the Personal cloud.

THE PERSONAL CLOUD AND COLUD DEVICE

With the personal cloud, the power of cloud computing comes into the hands of the individual. Read on to find out exactly how.

We’ve seen how popular the term ‘cloud computing’ has become owing to the splendid job done by the marketers of the various remote server data hosting companies. Added to the ambiguity brought about by this term, there are also several deployment models used to differentiate between the kinds of cloud computing – namely, the Private cloud, the Community cloud, the Public cloud, the Hybrid cloud, and the Personal cloud. When the cloud services are rendered over a network solely for a single organization, it is called a Private cloud. When it is used for a group of organizations or a community, it is called a Community cloud.

A Public cloud offers cloud services that are open for public use, and a Hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds that remain unique entities but are bound to each other. And just as we start to thank Lord Almighty because these terms seem to be slightly definitive, we come across the Personal cloud. Now while the Personal cloud could be generalised as an application of cloud computing specifically for individuals, it still has pretty diverse implications.

A personal cloud could mean clouds that exist at home or in a business, and are managed by an individual, in the form of storage devices that are controlled by the individual themselves. The term is also alternatively used to define any server space that you have control over as an individual and get to choose file access and restrictions, even if it means that the hardware is 3rd party owned; this would cover applications like Dropbox, Google Drive etc.

which we’ve already covered in our previous topic “Cloud Storage and Syncing”. So when WE talk of the Personal cloud, we prefer the former definition – that of a storage appliance that by itself or through another device, can be accessed wirelessly over the internet, thus providing data transfer across various devices over the “cloud”.

So how exactly can we setup our very own Personal cloud? It’s pretty easy actually. There are different ways to go about it. For one, there are softwares/open source services out there that offer similar functionality as services like Dropbox or Google Drive do. But instead of storing the data on third party servers, these softwares let you install them on any computer you control, thus enabling you to host your own cloud server.

These open source softwares such as Own Cloud run on pretty much every environment there is allowing you to install it on platforms like Ubuntu server giving you the flexibility that you want. This means you could just get an old computer with all the data you need stored on it (or get an external, and connect it to the comp), install the software and use it as your very own personal cloud server. The best part about services such as Own Cloud or Tonido, is that you can seamlessly integrate it with the other aforementioned storage services, and manage them all together. So basically, it allows you file syncing and sharing capability across various cloud storage services – a very handy feature in itself.

 Apart from this, there are several NAS devices on the market now that enable you to have a personal cloud of your own. Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are computers attached to a network whose sole purpose is to act as a server for other devices that are connected to the network. They are more or less like DAS (Direct Attached Storage) devices such as external hard disks, but with miniaturized components incorporated, turning them into limited purpose computers.

A wide array of options is available on the market with leading companies like WD and Buffalo rolling out their versions of the NAS devices. And the latest consumer oriented NAS devices are pretty easy to setup – all you need to do is plug the drive into your router, turn on the power and run the software to enable external access. The data is then accessible from various mobile devices – all you need is a web browser, or the corresponding app if your device supports it. So just upload your data, and then you’ll be able to access it from your PC, your Mac, your notebook on-the-road, your smart phone, your tablet and even your PS3 game console.

There are also a new generation of routers being rolled out called cloud routers. These devices will let you access the router settings and records from a mobile device that need not be on the router network. And it also lets you access files on a hard drive connected to the USB port of the router, both locally and remotely.

There are also various other small devices coming up that allow you to set up your own personal cloud – Plug is one of them. It’s a network connected device that allows you to convert a portable hard drive into your own personal cloud shared between your various devices. All you need to do is connect the small device to the home router using an Ethernet cord, and then connecting a storage device to the other side via USB. 

So, there are several ways you can create your very own personal cloud as we have seen here. However one thing you’ll have to keep in mind is to make sure that the device you’re buying supports the different Operating Systems across your various devices. And also try and keep an eye out for the various apps and software that the device supports – the more the capability of the device, the more number of ways you can access the data. 

While you can use Youtube, or the popular social networking sites such as Facebook, or Flickr to share your photos, videos and music online, cloud storage devices seem the most viable option to store and share your data on the internet as per your requirement, and it’s a no brainer as to why most of the consumers would want to shift to the cloud. It would enable us to store files online, thus releasing a lot of space on our PCs, smartphones, tablets etc.

We would be able to access the files from any device, and any location as long as we have an internet connection. An added reason to go with services such as Dropbox, Sugarsync, Google Drive is that the consumer gives up the responsibility of regularly maintaining the hardware or of backing up the data. But then there are a lot of disadvantages that come with online storage, as we have seen in previous articles, and that is where the Personal cloud comes in. The Personal cloud scores in a lot of areas where online cloud storage seems shaky as an option:

•    Firstly, it is much cheaper compared to online storage services. With these services, the more data you need to store – the more you’ll need to pay up, with unlimited storage reaching up to around 800$ a year. Whereas with your own personal cloud, it’s just the first time investment that you’ll need to bother about, and further usage is completely free. Expansion of data also would probably require you to just buy another hard disk, which turns out to be much cheaper comparatively. 

•    Then there’s the whole dependency factor – the fact that it becomes extremely cumbersome to try and switch between providers once you’ve already stored huge amounts of data with a particular provider, making it very important to choose the right vendor in the first go. But, with your own personal cloud, since the data is in your control, switching between softwares or devices shouldn’t be that much of an issue. 

•    With 3rd party clouds, what the provider offers is what you get. These might be limitations in terms of number of users or other limitations set by the provider regarding the data, or even the speed it takes for you to sync your data with their servers. A personal cloud gives you true flexibility in the sense that your cloud can do whatever you want, at a much faster speed, and cater to as many users as you want depending on your needs.

•    Oh, and there’s also the slight risk that storing data in a remote, third party server means there might be technical difficulties and server downtimes when you really, really need to access it – remember, 99% uptime would mean around 90 hours of downtime a year. Whereas with your own personal cloud, you choose when it’s up or down depending on your usage and need. 

•    And probably the biggest concerns with storing data on 3rd party servers, are security and privacy. Nothing on the internet is safe and with attacks on the rise, the cloud – with huge chunks of key data – is the primary target. The cloud storage services, no matter how big, are not fool-proof, and history bears testimony to this fact. A personal cloud however ensures so much more in terms of security, for your data is completely under your control, and who you divulge information to is entirely your responsibility. 

Agreed, that despite all of this, data stored on your personal cloud isn’t impregnable. There’s always the risk of accident caused due to physical hardware damage caused by carelessness or natural events (flood, fire etc.), and also by not taking enough measures to protect your data against security attacks. But as consumers we tend to deem errors committed by vendors much more severe compared to our own, and therefore it seems a better option to take complete responsibility of your hardware and data rather than trust it with a 3rd party – and personal cloud software & devices give you exactly that. 

So with the Personal cloud, you get to choose which data you store, delete or modify; which apps you use with this data; the set of devices that are hooked up to the PC; the different services that are accessed over your network. You define the terms of service for anybody interacting with the data, and you can do all of this using one or more trusted data interchange networks designed for it. Now wait just a second! The above definition might as well define precisely what the idea for a Personal Computer was way back in the 1970s, if only for a single device. We all know how that particular idea turned out, so odds are that the Personal Cloud might just be the next huge revolution in the tech industry.

The Personal cloud is in its initial stages right now, but the future looks promising. Analysts predict that in the recent future more emphasis is going to be placed on integrating mobile technology and the cloud by increasing the number of mobile applications that access the cloud for its back-end applications.  Also considering that the market amount spent on the cloud is less than 1% of the entire IT industry currently, there is almost unbounded room for growth of the cloud. So by offering to centralize people’s digital lives, Personal clouds are well on their way to becoming the new PCs.