The Cloud is (Mostly) Just AWS

There's an old saying, “The cloud is just someone else's computer “, which is technically accurate but misses the point. “Someone else's computer” evokes an image of custom-built hardware run by a company that is specifically offering cloud services. They built their machines to specifically provide the services you need.

But we all know that's not true. As far back as 2016 ZDNet reminded us all that “the cloud” isn't someone's server, it's just rented space in a data center.

These days we need to remember that the odds are high that data center belongs to Amazon. The numbers are murky because the companies involved don't really want you thinking about them too hard, but 31% of cloud market share is owned by Amazon. AWS nets Amazon over $10 Billion in profit annually, representing 64% of Amazon's profits. In other words, cloud services are Amazon's main product. That online delivery service you use? That's now their side business.

So when you sign up for a “cloud” based service, think about what you're actually doing. They don't tell you up front where they're hosting your data, and really, why should they? You already knew you were ceding control of where your data rests. But there's a 1:3 chance that it rests on AWS, and pays into maintaining Amazon as the largest player in the cloud services game.

Now, this isn't meant to be an attack on AWS. They have made online persistence affordable and provided a backbone for any number of aspiring companies who don't have the time, money, or staffing to maintain a secure and constantly connected data center on their own.

But as a customer and, ultimately, as a data source, it's up to you to consider why you need a cloud-based solution in the first place. What does the cloud offer you that a simple synchronization method doesn't? Resilio Sync offers Dropbox-style file synchronization and sharing with the added benefit that your information only rests on machines you own. OwnCloud offers products that help you re-define the cloud as “My other computer” instead of “someone else's computer”. Building a personal NAS is cheaper and easier than ever. A Synology-based NAS also provides Synology Drive, a proprietary file sync that, again, only lives on hardware you own, but with the added benefit of having purpose-built storage and server hardware.

“The Cloud” has provided great benefits and has lowered the barrier to entry for many great new services. But caveat emptor is still a real principle, and we, as consumers and providers of data, need to be sure we aren't giving up more than we're getting back.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100 Days To Offload.

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