My 3 years old MacBook Pro went suddenly dead this week. Annoying as it is, this event allowed me to experience cloud computing like never before.
This notebook has been my main computer for the past 3 years. I used it for everything and carried it around wherever I went.
One day this week I was using it with tons of apps open as usual (I am known to never close anything...why do we have 4GB RAM for anyway?). I closed the lid without powering off (as I always did) , put the notebook in my bag and went out of the office. A few minutes later, before even getting out of the building, I remembered I had forgotten to send an important email. I then came back to my desk and opened the lid again, but the screen remained dark. As it turns out it would remain dark forever - the logic board was gone.
In On Death and Dying Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes a model for how people deal with losses known as the five stages of grief:
(if this model sounds familiar you probably watched All That Jazz until the end. Respect!)
As I went through these stages and let people around me know what happened, the phrase I heard most often was: "Have you lost a lot of data?".
The surprising answer is: No.
Why is it surprising? It wouldn't be had I been a more disciplined person and got myself a Time Machine or another backup solution. But life being what it is I had no backup plan at all for this machine.
The last time something like that happened to me was years ago with a desktop computer. I cringed as I remembered all the hours lost to doing again things I had already crossed from my todo list. For me this is actually a lot more annoying than the financial loss itself.
As I reached stage 5 and began setting myself up in a (temporary) desktop machine, I started to realize that to my surprise I had not lost any data. All the source code I work on is stored in a version control repository somewhere. All important documents I had written had been emailed to people at some point, and since I never delete email from any of my accounts, and always keep email on the server, they would be safely stored in my sent items box. The few documents I had never emailed to anyone were being shared using Dropbox so they were also safe. All software that was installed is available for download easily. Some content I produced (like this blog) was never locally stored in the first place.
It dawned on me: the need to share and collaborate had driven my data out from my computer into a myriad machines scattered around the world. My notebook was no longer a storage center - it was just one more machine connected to this network, a portal that allowed me convenient access to data, a processing node. Losing it was annoying, but not catastrophic. A processing node can be easily replaced and life goes on almost as if nothing had happened.
This is The Cloud.From now on I will stop discussing if and when it will come - it is here.
The Network (really) is the Computer.