Apple co-founder's comments on the cloud are out of touch

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Steve Wozniak, legendary co-founder of Apple Computer, doesn't seem to be quite on board with the cloud. It's never an easy thing to disagree with a legend, but on this point, he's out of touch. Wozniak has fallen into the "fallacy of direct control" trap. That is, the perception that if you can touch it, you can control it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In a recent public event in Washington, Wozniak expressed his worries about the cloud, saying, "I think it's going to be horrendous." Then he comes out and says it—the surprisingly uninformed opinion that the cloud equals loss of control: "I want to feel that I own things. . . . The more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we're going to have control over it."

Here's the big problem with that point of view. First of all, it's flat out false. To frame the discussion, we have to look at what the alternative (direct control) is really like. Running a data center is an expensive proposition. Wozniak is forgetting the small business segment, which often has no other option. Putting in a data center may require dedicated real estate, a highly customized space, costly servers and software licenses, and 24x7 staff, with at least one of those staff members being dedicated to security. That's not exactly something your average five-person startup can afford. And let's not forget, break-ins don't just occur in the cloud, they occur in private networks as well.

And here's where Wozniak's logic falls short. Security is expensive, and most SMBs don't have, and can't afford strong network security. It's an afterthought. Cloud providers, on the other hand, are more likely to have dedicated IT security people, state-of-the-art firewalls and security software, 24x7 coverage, as well as physical security at the facility itself. There are two main reasons that security in the cloud tends to be better overall than security at a private facility: First of all, the cloud provider is able to distribute the cost among multiple customers, which allows the cloud provider to dedicate more resources to the most sophisticated security available. Second, it's just a matter of the marketplace. The cloud is a competitive marketplace, and most companies looking to move to the cloud will do at least some due diligence, looking for the providers with the best security and the most advantageous Service Level Agreements.

A company the size of Apple Computer of course, has the resources to respond to any security event in a timely manner, but most smaller organizations do not. The cloud gives those organizations access to a level of security, protection, oversight and guarantees that would otherwise be impossible.

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