Cloud 201

by Lynnette Nolan | Apr 01, 2011

In last week's post (Cloud 101) Chris shared his thoughts on what "the cloud" is today and why it’s been the subject of so much recent hype. I thought I’d continue the conversation with a few thoughts on where "the cloud" is headed and what that means to Carbonite.

When I first started using the Internet, it was basically a telephone network for data, providing point-to-point access to data and web pages on some remote server. I remember my very first web browsing session - I pulled up pictures of sculpture at an exhibition in New Zealand. It was very exciting to be connected to a computer all the way on the other side of the world.

Then came services like YouTube. Who knows (or cares) where all those YouTube videos are stored? They are just out there somewhere "in the cloud."

When we started Carbonite back in 2005, we had the idea of allowing our customers to back up their files to the cloud. It probably doesn’t matter much to you whether your files are in our Boston data center, our Somerville data center, or anywhere else for that matter.

Now that we’ve backed up close to 100 billion files to the cloud, we’re finding that there’s a lot more value there than just keeping your data safe. Our mobile apps that enable you to browse your photos, listen to your music, and read and share your documents are really taking off. Users tell us that they no longer need to bring their computers on the road because they can access all of their files on their Smartphones or iPads.

This phenomenon highlights how “the cloud” is ultimately going to change the value of services like Carbonite. Today most people think of their data living on their PCs and the backups living in the cloud. But in the future, as people get used to accessing their data directly from the cloud, the cloud version will become the one they care about. So instead of worrying about the data on your PC, you’ll focus on your “personal cloud” where the data from all your devices comes together in one place. If you lose your PC, or Smartphone, you’ll have to replace the device, but you won’t give the data that was on it a second thought. The “real” version of the data is the version that is in the cloud – the copy that Carbonite has.

You can already see this trend underway. Tablet computers, like the iPad, are really data access tools. And “access” is what most people are doing on the Internet. But until products like Carbonite came around, you could get to those photos from New Zealand more easily than you could get to your own files! Once your files are in the cloud, however, it’s a new ballgame.

Our growth over the past 5 years has been driven by users’ desire to keep their files safe. Over the next 5 years, our growth will increasingly be fueled by the desire of our customers to access and share their files anytime, anywhere, on any device. We are freeing them from being tethered to their PCs. So while the backup story has been about freedom from worrying about data loss, we’re now talking about a different kind of freedom – the freedom that comes from the always-connected world of mobile computing where everything you need is in the cloud.