Cloud computing, it’s all the rage right now and a buzz word you can be sure of hearing in any conversation about Web 2.0.  This blog for example, that’s away in the clouds.  I’ve long been a fan of these kind of resources, Google Docs in particular, and have been exploring a few more like NetVibes and PageFlakes to test their applicability in an educational setting.  Even the latest CILIP Gazette gets in on the issue, in their Keeping Within the Law column they talk about the legal ramifications of relying on these sort of services. 

This week we had a Web 2.0 workshop for librarians where Cloud Computing resoruces came up.

“Ah,” said one sagacious voice, “But what happens when they go down?  Look at G-Mail, that’s from Google and even it broke a few weeks ago.”

“Yes, but it was back up in less than half a day; pretty damned fast for a free service.  On the other hand look at MIMAS – that’s a paid for service for the whole of UK HE and it’s been pretty much broken all week.”

Thus so far as I can see this week, MIMAS’ woes (which I hope they’ll be able to get over soon) vs Google’s and the speed at which the latter was resolved over the former scores a point squarely in the lap of the Clouds.

This shift to using resources and sites that exist beyond the realms of corporate control is one that terrifies many, having grown accustomed to resources they control and can hold accountable.  If my corporate blog WordPress site goes down, I’m not paying for it – so what can I do?  Whom can I shout at?  These are fair questions to ask. 

From a personal perspective I know the sites I use today, might not be the sites I use tomorrow.  Clouds by their very nature shift, evolve and eventually evaporate.  But in this time of credit crunching, who is to say that large institutional resources might not run afoul and collapse?  Change is no longer something we plan for, or work towards – change is constant, change is all.  We have to learn to rise above the clouds of change and embrace that Web 2.0 isn’t just a funky term; it isn’t just about social networking. 

It’s about pretty much totally redefining our relationship with information resources and how they shape our lives and work.


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