Cloud computing skepticism

My latest Guardian column, "Not every cloud has a silver lining," is about the dirty secret of cloud computing: most of it is about making a buck off of you by supplying something you can do cheaply and easily for yourself.

Here's something you won't see mentioned, though: the main attraction of the cloud to investors and entrepreneurs is the idea of making money from you, on a recurring, perpetual basis, for something you currently get for a flat rate or for free without having to give up the money or privacy that cloud companies hope to leverage into fortunes…

Now, this makes sense for some limited applications. If you're supplying a service to the public, having a cloud's worth of on-demand storage and hosting is great news. Many companies, such as Twitter, have found that it's more cost-effective to buy barrel-loads of storage, bandwidth and computation from distant hosting companies than it would be to buy their own servers and racks at a data-centre. And if you're doing supercomputing applications, then tapping into the high-performance computing grid run by the world's physics centres is a good trick.

But for the average punter, cloud computing is – to say the least – oversold. Network access remains slower, more expensive, and less reliable than hard drives and CPUs. Your access to the net grows more and more fraught each day, as entertainment companies, spyware creeps, botnet crooks, snooping coppers and shameless bosses arrogate to themselves the right to spy on, tamper with or terminate your access to the net.

Not every cloud has a silver lining