Getting Our Imaging Heads in the Cloud

Getting Our Imaging Heads in the Cloud

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While just about everyone has heard of “the cloud” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing) by now, the percentage of people who actually know what it is and understand how they can use it is still relatively small.
According to a recent report from market researcher Ipsos OTX (ipsos-na.com/), only 40% of Americans understand cloud services and fewer than 9% are actually using such services.
Despite such pedestrian numbers, Apple and Google continue to ramp up their visions of cloud-based media services with the hope that consumers will catch up with the technology (as they often do). Indeed, Forrester Research forecasts the U.S. market for personal cloud services will hit $12 billion and 196 million consumers by 2016, so Apple and Google certainly aren’t proceeding on a wing and a prayer.
So then, seeing as there appears to be a potentially explosive future in cloud-based storage services, here’s an interesting question: What is the cloud?
Truth be told, the term is just another in the seemingly endless line of buzzwords that come in and out of our digital lives these days. The concept is nothing new, as the cloud is actually as old as the Internet itself and is essentially about accessing content remotely from a variety of devices via the Internet.
Long Island, New York-based IT expert Mike Galke of Spectrum Computing Consulting used Web mail as the simplest explanation for everyday use of the cloud. “Web mail is a great example of a way consumers have already been using the cloud before the term emerged,” Galke explained. “Web mail services like Gmail or Hotmail are considered ‘in the cloud’ because people are accessing them from multiple devices through basic Internet access, whereas a POP mail account is accessed and downloaded to a single computer and can be erased from a server once you get it.”
He added that cloud computing is best described as any application or service that is hosted and run on servers connected to the Internet that we (consumers) do not have to maintain or support in any way.
Perhaps the example that will resonate best with the average consumer is simply looking at Facebook as a cloud company. All of those photos, videos and pithy comments you’ve been uploading to FB are hosted on the social network’s cloud—a huge data center that has no actual connection to your smartphone or PC.
Suddenly not so complicated, right?
What may remain complicated are the issues of privacy and security. The Ipsos report also said that nearly 40% of respondents don’t feel saving data to a cloud service is as reliable as saving their digital lives to a hard drive. Some of the news surrounding recent privacy breaches in the cloud have undoubtedly factored into this distrust.
Galke, however, was quick to point out there are far greater risks involved with saving data at home on a laptop, PC or external drive. “You’re extremely vulnerable to a crash or other natural damage possibilities, and the content could be lost forever,” he said. “And cloud storage allows you to access your content from anywhere at any time with just about any device.” The need to make multiple copies of your most precious data was his final word on the subject.
The bottom line here is the fact that as the amount of data being captured, created and stored continues to explode, your customers need alternative storage means, and the forecast for the cloud should only get clearer and clearer in the years ahead.
The stakes here are high, as the winners are hoping to provide us all with a solution we’ve been screaming about for years. The companies that ultimately get this right will be sitting atop the digital content mountain.

                                                                   Cloud Hopping
Here’s a brief look at what the major players in this game are currently offering. How they proceed with these services is certainly worth keeping an eye on if you’re in the imaging business.
Amazon’s Cloud Drive (amazon.com/clouddrive/learnmore) is intended to help store videos, photos, music and documents at Amazon.com. The online retail giant offers 5 gigabytes of free online storage. You can purchase up to 1,000GB of storage for $1,000 per year, and you can access your content from the service across multiple devices.
Google’s Cloud offering (google.com/apps/intl/en/business/cloud.html) includes 1GB of free online storage for Google Docs, 1GB free for Picasa, 7GB free for Gmail, streaming music, synchronized docs, contacts, e-mail and calendars, and the service is expandable to 16TB for up to $4,000 per year.
Apple’s iCloud (http://www.apple.com/icloud/), coming this fall, includes 5GB of free online storage and synchronization for photos, music, apps, documents, iBooks, contacts, e-mail and calendars. The service will update applications running on Macs, PCs, iPads, iPhones and iPod touch devices. An additional feature is iCloud’s Photo Stream, which will automatically upload to the cloud any photos taken on an Apple device and wirelessly push them to all of one’s devices and computers.
Windows Live (microsoft.com/windows/cloud) includes 25GB of free storage for files and synchronization for photos, and it provides the ability to create photo albums and movies for sharing.
Dropbox (dropbox.com), a free service that lets people bring their photos, videos and documents anywhere and share them, includes 2GB free storage. The service is upgradeable to 100GB for $200 per year, with synchronization for photos, videos, documents, etc.

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