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Can Cloud Computing Change Everything?

Question: What role do you see cloud computing playing in the future of computing?

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Jason Fried: So, cloud computing means a bunch of different things, but basically it means that the software you use isn’t on your own personal computer. It’s somewhere else, it could be anywhere. But you pretty much use it through a web browser or a mobile phone, or something. So, it’s all sort of – your data is stored somewhere else, the software that runs the service that you use is stored somewhere else. That’s pretty much what cloud computing is. And anyone who uses Gmail, or yahoo mail, an online bank. Like you’re using Stuff in the Cloud. You’re online bank isn’t on your own computer, you’re email stuff isn’t probably on your own computer. It’s in the clouds, that’s kind of what that means.

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So, it’s a technical terms for something that’s not really a huge deal, but it’s kind of a big shift and I think that more and more companies and more and more consumers and people, or whatever – I don’t like the word consumers, people. Companies and people even though it’s all people really will be using more cloud based things because it makes sense. Who wants to have to deal with software? Installing it, troubleshooting it, if you get a new computer – I remember eight years ago, or something, I’d get a new computer and I’d have to take a day off from work to move all my software over, reinstall everything. Now, literally, I got a new IMac recently and I was up and running in like 20 minutes because almost everything I use is somewhere else. I don’t have software on my computer very much anymore. I have like Photoshop and maybe a couple of things and a tech center, and that’s pretty much it. I use Base Camp, I use Gmail, and I use all these other things that are just out there. And so that’s a great thing because it removes the technology from things. People don’t have to worry about being a tech person or an IT person. And that’s great, especially for small companies who don’t have an IT staff and don’t want to have an IT staff. They just want to have someone else do the technical stuff and you can just use the service. So, I think it’s great.

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But not everything makes sense on the cloud either. Like, would Photoshop – I know there’s a web based version of Photoshop, but I don’t know why, I don’t know what the real advantage is. But things that are collaborative in nature, where you want to have one version of something. And maybe Photoshop this would make sense if you were working on something collaboratively, but like project management, your contacts all that stuff makes sense to have it in one place so you can get to it from any device at any time. That makes sense.

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Question: How do you evaluate the security risks associated with cloud computing?

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Jason Fried: So, I think there’s a bit of misperception about security. I think security is this perception thing more so than a reality thing. That’s not to say that security is not important or anything like that, it is important, but the idea that if you have something locally, it’s safer than if you have something out in the cloud. Like, I don’t buy that for a second and most people don’t back their computers up. Most people don’t do software patches on their operating system every day. Most people don’t have like –

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a lot of people still don’t have password protected WiFi. There’s so many things that people don’t have at home that would make it really easy for someone who is motivated to get into their own home network, or own home computer and take stuff right off their computer. But because they have it locally, they think it’s safer, it’s just not safer. You’re data is much safer probably on Google servers, or on our servers, or on any one of many companies servers who are reputable, who take security very seriously, who have servers behind biometrically locks and have like the latest patches on everything, have intense hardcore firewalls to keep malicious people out, who encrypts stuff. I mean, people at home don’t do this and a lot of small businesses don’t do this. They’re server is under the desk, and the cleaning guy comes in and he could probable take the computer home with him if they wanted. That’s not secure, but they think it is because it’s under their desk and they can kick it and feel it, but that’s not secure.

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So, I think that the cloud based computing with the reputable companies is significantly more secure than traditional desktop based computing. But it’s going to take people time to get over this and get used to it. Like, people are afraid of buying things online at one point, people were afraid of using online banks. People are afraid of a lot of things. But I’ll tell you what, you give your credit card to a waiter in a restaurant and they go into a back room with it. Like, they could be running copies, but if you buy something at Amazon, it’s pretty damned safe. Way safer than giving your credit card to somebody who you don’t know and then them going away with it. I mean, think about what that’s all about. But we’re comfortable with that because we’re used to it, but it’s not safer than buying something online.

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So, it’s just a matter of being realistic about these fears. I think it’s a cultural shift that’s just going to take time

The founder of 37signals defines cloud computing, its role in the future of computing, and the overblown anxiety around its security.

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