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The Company Store in the Cloud

Sorry, the cloud deserves another rant. It’s bigger now, and turning dark.

I understand that the ability to upload an infinite number of vacation shots to Flickr is a godsend. Think of all that attic space you now have for more worthy items such as the abandoned ex-o-flex and 1990s-era flatbed scanner with ADB connection. But cloud computing goes so much further than that. And it’s insidious in its very utility.

Remember back in the good old days when you worked in the mine and bought all your necessities at the company store? And because your wages were so low you never paid off the debt to the company store so basically they ended up owning you. Oh, I know it wasn’t quite that simple. This is America. All you ever have to do is re-educate yourself into a new and more profitable career. There’s no slavery here. We have choices, we are free. Did you not see Coalminer’s Daughter where the options plainly stated were: moonshine, coal mine, or move on down the line? There are always options.

Be that as it may, smart entrepreneurs know that the subscription model, the company store model, is key for a never ending stream of income, so they use it whenever they can. That’s why we’re all on subscriptions now: for pills (the prescription subscription), for benefits (the conscription prescription), for news (the subscription subscription), for tech service (the suspicion subscription), and all kinds of things entailing contractual obligations that make our little lives run smoothly. Cloud computing is no different: you move your operations up to the cloud and pay a monthly fee for the privilege.

I realize this is not exactly like a company store. No one’s forcing you to upload pictures to Flickr or use Facebook to organize your friendships and they’re free anyway. But those entities are small potatoes in the world of cloud computing. Does anybody really care if there is no more Facebook? The real problem is when companies simplify and downsize by moving into the cloud, saving on space and personnel. If the relationship between the company and the entity that owns the software or servers sours, or the server is deficient in service, a business can be devastated. Especially if the software is truly proprietary and can’t be hacked in time for the next business day. The buyer will pay whatever it takes to keep the relationship, no matter how bitter, going and the doors open.

The company store model makes a lot of money for those with the keys to the kingdom. And this is good for the economy’s sake. Certainly I like to keep the currency current. But giving over all your assets for manipulation and safekeeping by someone else? Not so sure that isn’t a recipe for enslavement. You give some entity your data, your assets, and they run the show. What can you do if they don’t come through with their obligation? It’s not just a matter of firing an uppity janitor and changing the locks. Their locks are proprietary and the local locksmiths may very well be in collusion. I envision a nightmare.

Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but giving over control of your life to someone else feels like entering a contract with a mining company. And look what happens when you mess around with those types.

Sue Lange

P.S. I wrote this post last weekend, but I’ve lost access to the cloud since Tuesday so I wasn’t able to post until today.  Now I have two days of cloudwork to make up before tomorrow am. See what I mean?

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