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My Next Gig in the Cloud: This Time It’s Personal…

The Latest in Cloud Computing

Every now and then, someone introduces me to an idea so novel that it seizes my attention and makes me want to become part of it. That recently happened to me with the concept of personal Cloud Computing, or more simply Personal Clouds. (If you are not familiar with Cloud Computing, it’s all the rage (and hype) in the industry…see Wikipedia’s first paragraph on it.)

The idea of having a Personal Cloud is pretty simple: all your data stays available to you over the Net–reliably, simply and securely. Forrester‘s Frank Gillett defines Personal Cloud as…

An Internet-based digital service for individuals that acts as a permanent and flexible resource to 1) organize and preserve personal information, documents, media, and communications; 2) deliver that information on demand to any device or service; and 3) orchestrate integration of personal information across all digital devices and services.
The Personal Cloud: How Individual Computing Will Shift From Being Device-Centric To Information-Centric,” Frank E. Gillett, Forrester Research.

Maybe that doesn’t strike you as that significant of a concept, but this will drastically affect our online experience and behavior. (I say “will” rather than “could” because this is one of those concepts that is so powerful as to become inevitable.) To understand how, let’s take a look at how we relate to our personal data today.

Ye Olde Data CanThe Personal Data Condundrum

Most people store their personal data on a specific device (a computer, mobile phone, etc.). I’m talking about your various office documents; all those photos and videos that you eventually intend to get organized, upload, and share; that huge collection of music that you synch to your MP3 player. You may be able to get your email or onto Facebook from anywhere, but unless you’re both technically savvy and much more organized than the average person, a lot of your stuff is still effectively tightly coupled with one of the various devices you own.

Meanwhile, you’re probably also partly living in the cloud, where your email, social network interactions, and various other data types are both web-stored and web-accessible. More and more, this access-from-anywhere capability is becoming an expectation, yet most of us still accept it as natural that much of our data is stored only on specific devices. That’s quite a schism in behaviors and expectations.

So there is a huge rift between how we work in the cloud-based, online world and our long-established storage media-centric behaviors. We accept it today, But that’s about to change.

The Cloud Gets Personal

Personal CloudEnter the concept of the Personal Cloud. The idea is essentially this: with the Internet now broadly accessible from various devices, cloud-hosted services have begun to shift our expectations about data availability. Specific activities, whether accessing email or participating in social networks, are available not only through a through the browser on a computer, but also offline and in that strange in-between place of intermittent connectivity. Soon, that expectation will apply to all of our personal data–including that stuff that is still stored only on specific devices. You will stop thinking in terms of “my stuff is on my machine”, and start thinking in the simpler terms of “my stuff” (from anywhere, online and off).

When enough people make that shift in thinking and behavior, nurtured by more and more services catering to your personal cloud, you won’t think at all in terms of “my Personal Cloud.” You’ll just think of it as “my stuff.” The very idea of your personal data being inaccessible to you will seem anachronistic, akin to writing a check at the supermarket or being required to submit a form by fax.

So how far away is this Personal Cloud future? I don’t know for sure, but an odd thing is that you may already have your data available in the cloud, just waiting to be unleashed. One of the more obvious pathways to this Personal Cloud future is through online backup services. Enter, Mozy, by Decho, my new employer…

Mozy, by Decho

Mozy offers online backup for your computer at $4.95/month–unlimited capacity (or up to 2 gigabytes for free). Currently, Mozy is the best known and most trusted online backup service available. Maybe you have seen one of their commercials:

If you’re at all like me, you probably don’t back up your data on a regular basis. (I said regular, as in more recently than June.) So the idea of set-and-forget backup service that allows me to recover any previously backed-up version of a file is pretty sweet.

But there’s more to it than that. Simple, online file recovery–by version–may represent one of the first things you would expect from the Personal Cloud concept.

Online backup gets your data into the cloud, and stores it securely as your own personal asset. Certainly, there are more ways to use your cloud-hosted data than file recovery. As Decho/Mozy’s first platform evangelist, that’s what I’m working on now–finding ways to evolve personal, online backup storage into a rich, secure Personal Cloud service. So, expect to hear more about this Personal Cloud thing.

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6 Responses

  1. Verrrry interesting, Ted- this sounds right up your alley (unlike the last gig, which sounded interesting but not quite you.) Next time we’re both in the valley (I am there permanently starting in December) we should grab a drink and chat. Mostly to catch up and shoot the shit but maybe a little about personal clouds as well ;)

  2. “Currently, Mozy is the best known and most trusted online backup service available.”

    Really? Because I’ve never heard of it and it sounds an awful lot like Dropbox, which has over four times the number of results on Google.

    • James:
      I’m a big fan of DropBox. I have been a DropBox user for a few years…pretty much since Jorge Castro first recommended it to me as “everything that Novell iFolder was supposed to be, but done right.” The DropBox UX, from the local client, to the web and even their new iPhone app, is nothing short of excellent. They have earned their popularity.
      DropBox started with an emphasis on synchronizing files between multiple machines: “Dropbox synchronizes files across your computers and your team’s computers.” Today, they are still the best available online service for sync. Although backup was part of their pre-beta positioning, it’s been only since 2009 that they have worked that back into their top-level messaging. That may be one reason why when you Google “online backup,” they show up 2nd…right after Mozy. Also, since DropBox does not do whole system backup, DropBox requires users to adapt their behavior by putting everything in their designated DropBox folder. So, while DropBox may have some functional overlap with Mozy, there are some key differences between the two offerings.
      Although you may not have not heard of Mozy, there are many people who have. With a primary emphasis on backup, Mozy has been around for several years. Mozy has been covered in various major news outlets. And Mozy was already a well-known and profitable startup in late 2007 (at the time that DropBox started its invite-only beta). There are many ways that you could have heard of Mozy before, so the reason you haven’t may be that your single experience doesn’t necessarily represent the masses. As evidenced by your blog, you’re far more technical than the average computer user, so I think that may be possible.
      As a last word, I reiterate my respect for the DropBox team and the service they have created. I use it, and I commend its creators. But I stand by my statement that Mozy is currently the best known and most trusted online backup service available, as measured by paying customers (trust), and because Mozy is best known among companies whose primary focus is online backup.

  3. [...] storage media-centric behaviors. We accept it today, But that’s about to change. –Me, October 6, 2009 Only a completely self-absorbed, arrogant bastard would quote himself as the opener to his own blog [...]

  4. [...] other aspects, all of which in my view comprise not a single service, but a data platform. This Personal Cloud concept really cannot be delivered on well by a single service provider–you don’t want [...]

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