Jesse Whitehouse Developer | Analyst

Moving to the Cloud

For a long time I avoided web apps. I didn’t trust “the cloud”; and besides, they were buggy and feature-poor. I preferred using things the way they always had been: installed programs running on local hardware. But I’ve changed my mind on this one. And here’s why: Email

I use an email service called Fastmail. It’s the same as gmail, hotmail or yahoo except I pay for it. In exchange, Fastmail provides a zippy web interface, key shortcuts, and gigabytes of swiftly searchable storage. I can even drag and drop messages between folders. And when it’s time to archive my emails for later, Fastmail makes batch downloads painless.

A few months ago it occurred to me: no email client is this easy. I’ve used Outlook for work, Apple Mail at home and demoed numerous others. And they’re awful. I hate to admit it, but Apple Mail is probably the worst. It’s glitchy, slow, and has zero key shortcut support beyond basic file handling. Eight times out of ten it can’t even sync to my IMAP server.

Now I love Apple and have used their products for years. But this recent string of failures in my local software is swaying my opinion towards the cloud. There are two huge advantages to cloud software:

  • Continuous Development: it used to be that the best new features in software came during point releases. If you wanted the newest eye candy, search and backup — you went to the store and bought a DVD with the latest installation available. With web applications, the developers can push new features into the product seamlessly.
  • Portability: Web software is available wherever you have a browser. No need to run home or power on your laptop just to check your messages at the library. By running on any machine with a capable browser, web apps become a lot more flexible.

The biggest concern I have with web apps is security. If the data is stored in “the cloud”, I have no way to lock it down. I’m still uneasy about this - but simple logic justifies my position. Email is always stored on a third party server. Whether or not I use Apple Mail, Fastmail is still holding all of my messages. So there’s no security difference between the web app and otherwise.

So there you go. Suddenly I’m opening my eyes to the value in software as a service. I recently moved my budget into the cloud, I listen to Spotify more than my personal music collection, my emails already been there for a year now, and I’m depending more and more on dropbox.

I still have my concerns - and I hope that companies will not forsake local code entirely. But for the moment, I’m moving carefully into the cloud.