Applications in the Cloud vs Thick Clients

In news that I came across yesterday, Google bought out Picnik which is a photo editor in your web browser. I’ve never heard of it before so I gave it a very quick test drive (which you can do for free and without registration) and was pleasantly surprised by its ease of use and the number of editing options available.

This got me thinking about how cloud-based applications could start to compete or supersede traditional software installed on local computers. By no means is Picnik the same as Adobe Photoshop but I would argue that the basics that most people would be after are there. It would also save people from junking up their computer with another piece of software that they may or may not use fairly often.

Other prime examples of cloud applications are Google Docs and Microsoft’s upcoming Office Web Applications. No need for local application software apart from a modern browser and an Internet connection and all of your documents are stored online. The other great benefit is that you can format your computer without having to reinstall anything or worry about whether or not you’ve backed up all of your information.

The downside is that without some sort of offline cache, your content is trapped up in the cloud if don’t have a connection to the Internet or the service you are using is unavailable, or worse, goes out of business. With sites such as Flickr being bought out and now at the commercial mercy of its new parent company (being Yahoo), can you be sure that your precious photos will still be there in years to come or when the next GFC arrives?

In my opinion, people need to be wary of the use of the cloud. Certainly, local applications and stored content are more easily controlled and guaranteed by ourselves (through regular maintenance and backups amongst other things) but it does forgo the convenience and minimalism that cloud computing offers.

At any rate, regardless of whether I have content up in the cloud of held locally, I make sure I have backups to cover myself in the event that I lose access to that information at one location. If your data is not backed up in at least three places (the original, an on site backup and an off site backup), it’s not backed up at all!

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