WHAT IS CLOUD COMPUTING?
Cloud computing is one of those ubiquitous terms that gets thrown around a lot, but I don’t think I ever took the time to learn what it meant. In fact, when I saw the topic for this week, I thought we would talk about creating word clouds (has anyone played with wordle? It’s one of my favourite ways to procrastinate). So when I finally understood what the cloud was when I was doing the readings for this week, I realized that I use the cloud every day, but I never realized it before. I use the cloud to keep myself organized (Evernote), write papers and presentations with classmates (Google Docs and Prezi) and back-up my school-work (Dropbox). I guess because I can’t see the cloud, I’m not aware that I’m using it.
But the cloud has become necessary, especially for people with multiple devices who want a convenient way to access their material. And as Michael Stephens and Eric Schnell point out, that idea of conveniences leads to the most interesting aspects of cloud computing – personalization and localization. Users want to be able to access information that relates to them and their activities, quickly, and the cloud allows them this opportunity. Libraries could utilize this function to improve the access of information to our patrons.
LIBRARIES AND CLOUD COMPUTING
A major advantage, mentioned by Marshall Breeding and Michael Stephens is the amount of money saved in buying the hardware necessary to hold this amount of material in the library. This is especially true when using the cloud for library automation. It does however mean that the library would need to invest more in broadband and speeding up the network.
Also, it allows for greater use of open access software, like Google Docs and Prezi, so that the library doesn’t need to keep buying Microsoft products or updating their licensing agreements.
The primary disadvantage, and one which has been discussed several times during the course of this program is that of privacy. Allowing companies access to this type of information is not ideal for libraries or our patrons. This is a serious conversation that libraries should be having with patrons prior to investing in this software. Another major problem, is that these servers are located in the United States. To a Canadian library, this means that any information that is stored on these servers is accessible by the U.S. government. This is something libraries should consider and discuss when looking at partnering with an American company.
Although the discussion of clouds in libraries is very new, it will be interesting to see if libraries start implementing its use quickly. And more importantly, libraries need to start examining the consequences of storing their information on the cloud and whether there are significant risks to doing so.