Cloud storage is getting evermore popular so I thought I'd outline some near future predictions.
- It will be cheap if not free. Companies like Google/Apple/Microsoft/Amazon, hereby referred to as 'the leviathans', will drive the price to effectually 0. It adds value to their platforms and is very cheap for them. (Cheap compared to the value it adds.)
- The smaller services will struggle to survive. While Dropbox may not seem small they are compared to the leviathans and they are desperately trying to add value to their storage plans. They do this with their photos app Carousel and by adding features other companies don't have.
- You will most likely store everything in the cloud. It will be much more comprehensive than simple folders though. Settings, app states, game states, everything will be saved.
- It will change how we work. The save button will be gone, everything will auto save regularly. Unlimited versioning will be commonplace.
- The device you use won't matter, as long as you stick in one ecosystem. Everything will be contained in your 'cloud profile'. Buy a new phone? It not only downloads the app but restores all data. (Like a back up does but cross device.)
- We may see a bunch of 3rd party barnacles attached to the leviathans storage services. 3rd party storage may not be feasible but they could add value to the leviathans services.
- Those with security concerns will use "personal clouds". You control the hard drive which is less convenient but more secure.
- For the general public it will be magic. You buy a shiny new device, sign in, and all your data pops up. Lose your phone? All your photos and data are in the cloud and nothing is lost.
- It's the next battle for device makers. Your phone has 8GBs of RAM? Who cares, how's your cloud services.
- The leviathans better get their acts together. Looking at you Apple, the cloud has to be fundamental to your ecosystem.
- There will be 3 types of services. The leviathans for general use, the niche 3rd parties, and personal clouds.
- The commercial cloud will be huge. It will be much easier and cheaper for companies to outsource storage to something like Amazon Web Solutions than store data locally. Security concerns will exist but will slowly fade away.
- Cloud computing will happen but I think will be hindered by your crappy ISP. It will happen but it won't be as prolific as it might be.
- The cloud might be very good for the environment. The leviathans love to tout there data farms powered by renewable energy.
Cloud Storage Race To The Bottom
Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and even Apple are racing to get cloud storage as cheap as possible to undersell competitors. They can do this because it adds value to their various platforms which makes up for the cost of server farms. Companies like Dropbox, Box or and of the other smaller companies don't have this luxury and it is forcing them to make hard decisions. I will predominantly use Dropbox as an example because I am most familiar with them. Dropbox just changed their monthly pricing, instead of $9.99 for 100GB to $9.99 for 1TB. On par with the leviathans and we will see if others follow suit. I have written about my love and then hate of Dropbox before. I hypothesize that the smaller companies will have to lower the price because it doesn't matter how much value they add to their services, for most price is king. I'm all for supporting (relatively) small businesses but the simple fact is the leviathans have a more significant advantage than price. They built your device and can create functionality 3rd party companies can't match. It’s a double edged sword, you may get more powerful features with the leviathans at the cost of putting the smaller competition out of business.
Real World Use
The addition of the cloud to everything you own will be simply amazing. I firmly believe the cloud is the most important addition to computing since the iPhone. The system I envision is one where everything is stored in your cloud profile. This acts as the backend for every device you own and even though things are stored locally everything is stored in the cloud. This isn't something that you even look at but everything you do on any of your devices are stored here. It's much more comprehensive than simple storage, it saves all your data and makes it available on all your devices, in any app you need it in. The backing up and storing of files will be cool but when users start working on a document on their iPad and switch over to their Mac and have the cursor blinking in the same place, the music you were playing switch from iPad to Mac, and data from secondary apps all show up as soon as you switch devices will be amazing. When you buy your first iPad after years of owning an iPhone not only will you be able to use the same apps but they will be populated with your data, exactly like they are on your iPhone. This includes settings, files, messages, game progress, and any other app data. You know that warning you get when you delete an app on iOS? 'Are you sure you want to delete this? It will delete all app data as well.' That will be a thing of the past. That app data will be in the cloud. We already see this with apps like Evernote but this will be done at an OS level.
The Cloud Landscape (Near Future)
The companies that make the hardware and software you use will have significant advantages and take the lion share of the market. Their success will rely on their cloud service prowess. No one will go out of business because their cloud sucks but it will become an ever increasing factor for customers.
Dropbox, Box, and any other cloud service provider will try to compete by adding features to their services. This will be a mostly fruitless endeavour and they will go after niches like business or security. Some general users will of course stay but it will be a real challenge.
For the price or security conscious a great option has been creating a personal cloud. Companies like Transporter allow you to use your own hard drives and control everything. This is a great option for the tech enthusiasts but I highly doubt it will catch on with the mainstream. It also has caveats like 3rd party support but Transporter is already working to fix this.
The downside is you have to have good upload speeds to download large files away from home.
A lot of people have cloud storage mixed over various free accounts. With the cost of many services going to 0 I can see these services becoming irrelevant but they may be able to hold on if certain services have features that others don't. For example it may be necessary for me to keep my documents in Dropbox even when I switch the majority of my files over to a new service because of the ubiquity with Dropbox equipped text editors on iOS.
Celebrity Photo Hacking Scare
The recent hack of celebrities “racy” pictures was without a doubt an serious invasion of privacy but many “news”casters and celebrities are voicing concerns with the cloud. I will cede that storing your photos on a server out of your control is less secure than storing everything locally. I will also cede that the people we trust our data to have to do better jobs protecting it. However some of the clips I have seen have been broadcasting misinformation. The cloud is nothing to fear, you do need to know the risks but don’t let fear taint what is a wonderful thing. (I wonder if watching the news when you know a lot about the subject is the same for other areas. Seriously what happened to researching your stories. “Who is 4chan?” Really?)
The cloud is simply too convenient not to use and companies know this. We are in the midst of a monumental shift and I can’t wait. Data ubiquity is important today but it will soon be mandatory.