Your own personal cloud

The personal or private cloud is growing in popularity and I’m starting to see it spring up in the popular tech press more and more. Interestingly I keep starting a blog post then not finishing it because theres not quite enough to talk about. Then I heard Bruce Sterling’s 2012 South by south west talk (recommended to me by Imran)

The bit which really got me was the 5 stacks part.

“[There’s] a new phenomena that I like to call the Stacks [vertically integrated social media]. And we’ve got five of them — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. The future of the stacks is basically to take over the internet and render it irrelevant. They’re not hostile to the internet — they’re just [looking after] their own situation. And they all think they’ll be the one Stack… and render the others irrelevant. And they’ll all be rendered irrelevant. That’s the future of the Stacks.

People like the Stacks, [because] the internet is scary now — so what’s the problem there? None of them offer any prosperity or security to their human participants, except for their shareholders. The internet has users. Stack people are livestock — ignorant of what’s going on, and moving from on stack to another. The Stacks really, really want to know you’re a dog.

They’re annihilating other media… The Lords of the Stacks. And they’re not bad guys — I’d be happy to buy them a beer. But really, a free people would not be so dependent on a Napoleonic mobile people. What if Mark Zuckerberg trips over a skateboard?

This structure won’t last very long… But you’re really core people for them and their interests. You are them. I’m them.

Bruce is right on the money. The 5 stacks have been trying to outdo each other for many years and see the whole thing as a zero-sum game, death to the end. This is not the way the internet or human society has to work or has to be. On the face of it, they are friendly but like a vicious dog (remember I’m not really a fan of them) they need a certain amount of caution.

Even myself are weary of how much data I hand over to Google. It may seem like I don’ t care but you would be very wrong. If I didn’t care I would sign up for Google Drive storage (I like the idea of being able to search across all my files, something which is tricky with Dropbox), would have moved from Evernote to Google Keep, etc, etc… I tend to keep my data across different stacks and deal with the migration and syncing myself. Its a bit of a pain and boy would it be easier to just dump it in Google’s cloud/stack. But I don’t want that.

I have been experimenting with my own cloud but not found anything yet which works the way I really want it to. The thing about clouds is they should merge and split or in other terms they should seamlessly blend. A personal cloud should consume and work with the other clouds. Now I understand the 5 stacks don’t really want to work with anyone else and will make there clouds/stacks difficult to inter-operate with but it can be done.

Some of you may say “Ian your dreaming…” but I point you at Trovebox which use to be Openphoto. The original idea was that you could store the photos in your own cloud and simply using an a bit of http linking and authentication, build your own decentralised flickr without handing over your actual photos. Another example is the absolute power of ifttt.com.

The lure of having a cloud which is as powerful and ubiquitous as other the other 5 clouds would be amazing. The advantages are all there but unlike the 5 clouds, you wouldn’t have to worry about it snooping on you and selling data to others. Increasingly more and more of us post Edward Snowdon.would like to something which we could exist and support our own ambitions not the shareholders.

Revelations that many governments of the world are able to collect personal data on-demand has called into question our desire and need to keep everything online. While we want to access and share our content, we want privacy and security as well. Whether it is photos on a social network or work documents in an online storage account, we want to know that we have absolute control of our data because it is ours, regardless of what services we use and regardless of how they choose to manage their Terms of Service.

Ok so were all down with Personal clouds? What are the projects I have been keeping an eye on? Cozy.io, Sparkleshare, Owncloud, Tonido and Amahi. Weirdly the last one isn’t really a Cloud but I’ve looked into turning it into a personal cloud platform.

The problem with the personal clouds is they are a long way off that ready state. They require a lot of hand cranking and can be a massive time and money hog. Which means only those knowledgeable and with enough money can afford the privacy…?

Its a shame but whats new?

Well nothing much but its fascinating what else you can do with your own cloud. I have seen a lot of activity around the idea. For example you have things like tent.io and you got to admire what Bit Torrent inc are doing in the labs, if only it was open source. Would love to use Bittorrent sync across the board but I just don’t trust it more than dropbox. In which case I might as well keep using dropbox? At least they have 2 factor authentication now and full support for Linux. Plus the amount of other cloud services which support dropbox is very high.

Ultimately if the personal cloud is going to really make a dent. It needs to be super flexible, work with others and support features which the others wouldn’t dare (bit torrent is one such feature)

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

3 thoughts on “Your own personal cloud”

  1. Really great web ahead podcast on last week talking about annotationjs and how the future of the web could be a decentralised internet where we all own our own data and store everything local. Would be fantastic to have all of our writing, research, comments, etc all in one place where we could search and archive easily. Also would allow people to be truly mobile with the services and programs they chose to use.

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