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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Head in the iCloud ?

The iOS 5 update and access to iCloud could be leading us in a dangerous direction.
Apple's new iOS 5 seems to be living up to expectations but, is it a step in the right direction?
 
In the good old days (alright, maybe not good but, in the past, anyway), information was stored on large mainframe computers and people had access to that part of the information to which they were entitled via 'dumb' terminals. Then came the PC (Personal Computer) which put processing power in the hands of the individual, and since then there has been an inexorable diminution in size, increase in power and especially enhancement of versatility (as in iPhone, for example); we haven't looked back... or at least not until now.
 
The ability to write a note on your iPhone and have that same note immediately available on your iPad (or any other device connected to your iCloud) is great. It saves having to email yourself the note to later collect and copy and paste onto the other piece of kit. There is however also a small security risk as, unless you have immediate password protection, it also implies that the iPad on your desk will give access to the latest brilliant idea you had on the train (or wherever) and your idea is no longer just yours (as an example). Even more worrying is that if the note is deleted on one device then it is gone, as the note is deleted from your iCloud as well and when the other device(s) is updated to the iCloud the copies are also deleted.
 
The Apple community has been quietly sniggering at that other fruity piece of hardware, the BlackBerry. As you will no doubt be aware, Research In Motion (RIM) ‘the company behind the BlackBerry product line’ has been having problems with ‘massive service outages’ which has resulted in their customers having no access to their messages. The RIM messaging system is hosted and managed by them, rather than the distributed system employed by all other manufacturers. Or to put it another way, if their system is down, you don’t need to worry about the colour of your paddle; the wet feeling you’re experiencing is being caused by the lack of a canoe.
 
The point of this is that the Apple iCloud is blowing in the same direction. Although at the moment the data stored ‘centrally’ is limited both in content and size (5GB Free and up to a further 50GB for an annual fee), the model is moving, slowly but surely, towards central storage.
 
So we have almost come full circle, except that the world has changed a lot since the behemoth mainframe was king. Terrorist cyber attacks are not science fiction any more and we are putting ourselves at inordinate risk by going back to a system of central storage where one well targeted attack will bring down the data systems of millions of individuals.
 
I suspect that the agenda is far more loaded than it appears as the middle man in the ‘i’everything universe is the humble PC, and he seems to be being gently edged out of the equation.
 
Amazing, but true, having written this article, you will not be surprised to learn that the iCloud synchronisation of notes between two of my devices is not working at the moment. Blasted clouds, it never rains, it pours.

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