Cloud computing is all the rage. The big debates are public vs. private, open source vs. proprietary, and SMB vs. enterprise. While these are emerging trends, an enormous shift that has occurred over the last few years is the start of what a few are calling the “personal cloud”. A personal cloud is your collection of online service providers that facilitates your digital information creation, sharing, commenting, collaborating, and connecting with others.
Today, our digital lives are increasingly shifting from the home PC to your work laptop and a host of online cloud service providers. Personal services includes productivity (email, calendaring, instant messaging, etc.), sharing (photos, documents, videos, etc.), and communities (social networks, gaming, travel planning, etc.). Business service examples are numerous too with LinkedIn, Yammer, Twitter, Facebook, etc. More innovative services are becoming available daily. The combination of cloud computing, Web 2.0 productivity, and mobile has exploded the possibilities.
Four challenges worry me most about the current state of my personal cloud:
- Our personal information and life data has been spread across each of these services. A higher level organizational construct (a personal meta-cloud) that can assemble the content from multiple providers is needed. This would not only assist viewing and tracking but also allow multi-channel syndication of new information out to our multiple services and networks.
- The tools to manage the split of information being shared and managed across the public, business, and personal arenas do not exist. One can only manage data in each silo independently – a huge time sink – leading many users to assume an “oversharing isn’t bad” mentality. We need more granular controls built into the services and ways to maintain visibility into what information different communities are consuming.
- My data longevity is not safe. Just as take advantage of new services, we are losing data residing in older services. Services go out of business without a way to extract the data and meta data (e.g., I left MySpace long ago leaving behind my profile and all the conversations). There needs to be a centralized personal cloud that holds my master data and syndicates it out to my online communities at a granular level, as well as automatically captures, organizes, and archives my content from those communities for long-term storage and potential reuse.
- There is no connection back to my physical world. As we continue to network the home with smart energy, digital security, and home entertainment, we are creating yet another silo of our digital personal information. A key impediment to bringing this online is connectivity speeds from any cloud-based provider through the last mile. Users will continue to expect near instantaneous response times with any controllers.
The conclusion is that there is a business opportunity for a vendor to become the aggregator that facilitates, controls, and maintains my personal cloud. Given # 4 above, there will likely be a home-based IT component for heavier applications like digital home video libraries until the bandwidth issues get resolved. In the meantime, I would like a personal cloud provider. Unfortunately I do not think Google is that provider due to their needing to mine data for advertising. I would be willing to pay for a stand-alone service.
Do you want better control over your personal cloud? What other issues need resolution and who might be a likely provider?