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No files in the cloud?

Idealog is following some of the members of the eSprint programme at Massey University's ecentre as they develop and validate their business concepts. Today, Brad McEvoy contemplates the future of digital file sharing.

Recently I was sent this link - There Will Be No Files In The Cloud, talking about how we all might change the way we use digital information in the age of the ubiquitous net. Here's an excerpt:

I've spent a bunch of time talking to entrepreneurs who are building companies in and around the cloud storage space. It's not a space I like very much because I don't think we'll be using files in the cloud. Now Dropbox is a brilliant company and an amazing service and they are doing very well, but will we need a service like Dropbox when everything is in the cloud? I don't think so.

This is important to me, seeing as I'm working away to produce a better way to manage files. And I'd agree with a lot of what Fred has to say. When there's a file sitting on your desktop it's effectively dead in the water. But take the same file and put it in the cloud and wonderful things happen. If it's a song, it can go into your playlist, or a friend's playlist. People can link other songs to it so you can find new music. If it's a movie, people can review it, if it's a photo it can be placed on a map with other people's photos – all sorts of fantastic things.

And in fact, for years most of my work has consisted of moving data out from people's desktops and into more useful places.

For example, we just quoted to a company the other day who wanted a cloud based intranet/extranet site where they can access all of their company forms (ie the word documents they use as templates for various things) such as client signoffs, project briefs, etc. I suggested we offer them an enhancement where the forms are actually online, web-based forms which they can generate PDFs from if needed, since we can do that very easily. That would be another case of structured cloud-based data replacing file-based data.

But, in the business world at least, there is massive inertia to overcome. Taking Word and Excel files away from the average office worker and replacing them with some sort of online representation would be like taking guns away from Charlton Heston's "cold dead hands".

And for the average home consumer, their most important (and most voluminous) data are photos, videos and music. These are inherently files, and always will be. Having them online in some form is great, but they're still files and we don't want to depend on some website in California and 15,000 kilometres of optic fibre to access them.

But what I think can, and will, change with consumer files is what is considered the master location, or the main location, and how readily accessible we expect them to be.

In the past, it was the desktop buzzing away in the study or the corner of the living room that was the "master" copy of our computer files. Some people might make a copy in Dropbox, Mosy or some other cloud storage provider, but that was secondary.

But now we've all got iPhones, iPads, laptops, Android phones and all the rest – it doesn't make sense to have all our files sitting on a box in the lounge room. We want to access them everywhere and anywhere, meaning that the "master" copy becomes whats in cloud. Anything we happen to have on any particular device becomes just a snapshot.

For example, I might grab some music onto my Android phone so i can listen to it on the bus. Or I might grab my family pics on my work PC so I can have a nice screen saver. Or I might watch my family videos on my Samsung Smart TV by streaming them straight from the cloud – but none of those is the single master copy of all my files - that's what Shmego, which I'm helping to build a beta of, is.

Brad McEvoy is participating in the ecentreSprint programme, a 12-week course held by Massey University's business incubator that helps entrepreneurs develop their business idea and model.