Tasting the Bitter With the Sweet: – The Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

Cloud computing has its advantages: it provides unlimited access to all your services and programs, lets you access anything anywhere at any time, and saves you the time, hassle, and gas money it would take to get to a retail store.

It also lets you hire a global team of workers without being restricted to a set geographical location, not to mention the fact that you can access your documents and other information on any device — whether tablet, smartphone, laptop, or PC.

At the same time, however, there are disadvantages of cloud computing that reveal the need to continue physical retail stores and face-to-face interaction. While cloud computing is one technology that we have come to cherish, it must be used in conjunction with others to provide a full user experience.

One disadvantage of cloud computing is that the Internet requires a WiFi or cellular connection for access.

While it is true that you can work anywhere, whether on vacation or at home, you cannot do so without a wireless connection of some kind.

Laptops once came made with WiFi capabilities, but manufacturers have produced laptops today with both WiFi and LTE capabilities so that employees and businessmen can have access to their documents and sites even when they sit on a beach in Florida where no WiFi access exists.

In order to have Internet access on the beach, a consumer needs to have a smartphone data plan that they can access for their WiFi hotspot needs (if they do not have a cellular data plan for their laptop).

WiFi hotspots require a data plan and a subscription to a WiFi hotspot service with a phone carrier (such as US Cellular, AT&T, etc.).

Even if the laptop comes with LTE capability, it can only work if an individual has some sort of either prepaid 4G or contract 4G agreement that requires a monthly payment.

What this requires, thus, is an additional monthly payment. In my case, I pay an additional $50 for only 5GB of data a month.

Even if I get an unlimited data plan for $40 a month, the need for data will still require more money to access my documents on the go. A data plan is necessary due to the fact that I may enter a zone where there is no WiFi access, or the WiFi provided may stand in need of serious repair. There are very few offline reading options available if the worst should happen.

And what should happen if the Internet connection dies and cannot be repaired for a day or two?

This, along with the need for a WiFi or cellular connection, is another disadvantage of cloud computing.

The Internet has become a “one-stop shop” for all consumer needs: clothes, movies, books, shoes, jewelry, video games, video game consoles, smartphones, tablets, PDAs, etc. What happens if the Internet goes down, if even one site goes down for maintenance or repair?

In that moment, we are left dependent upon a retail store for help. If the movie theatre website goes down for the day, you are forced to report to the local movie theater and wait in line to purchase tickets to that new movie you’ve been wanting to see.

If you cannot order your tickets early, you may be standing in line waiting to see that movie — and dealing with the agony of a large crowd (if you like the movie, chances are there are several others who want to see the movie, too).

You could use a telephone to make a call to the movie theater, but you may be on hold for some time (at least 15-20 minutes) before the ticket cashier answers your request.

You will not have access to movies, music, digital books, and other content that you have purchased. How will you survive the waiting time? The outlook suddenly turns boring, doesn’t it?

What about on-the-road directions to a conference or seminar? You’ve been wanting to go to a business conference some three hours away, and the time has come.

If the Internet dies down, you can no longer look to Siri for directions — so your iPhone 4S will be of little help. Remember Siri’s little message to you about “Connect to the Internet”? Siri only says this when she is not connected to the Internet.

This means that, without an Internet connection, you no longer have turn-by-turn navigation, social network posting, or ticket reservation privileges. Offline Siri is a future feature of Apple’s smartphones that does not exist at this point in time.

If the Internet dies down, it is likely that a retail stores card system will die out, too — leaving you to rely on physical cash for survival, yet another disadvantage of cloud computing.

If you wanted to use your check card for purchases, but the Internet goes down on your banking site, you will likely have to drive to your local bank, withdraw cash, and pay for items with cash instead of your check card. Your mobile wallet application, a feature that you have used numerous times by which to cover your restaurant and retail store transactions, will die as well if the Internet dies out for a day.

Imagine having to pay for everything with cash, none of the conveniences of cloud computing available.

If the Internet dies, or certain webpages go down for a day, your opportunities turn limited once more. However, this pales in comparison to what could happen if the Internet remains in operation.

Another disadvantage of cloud computing that could turn unlimited access and privileges into a nightmare involves the vulnerability of the Internet to computer hackers. It’s true — hackers can, by illegitimate means, gain access to your computer files.

Recently, I had a good friend experience computer hacking. Someone, presumed to have been at an Internet cafe, hacked into her account and started sending virus links to those on her contact list, me being one of the unfortunate recipients.

I did not open the links but deleted them immediately and cleared them from my “trash” section right away.

Nicole, my friend, was forced to change her password, but was happy that no more damage was done to her account. Yahoo has had other hacks as late as last Fall, but the email site is not alone in its hacking vulnerabilities.

Other sites that have experienced hacks in the last few months are the professional social site LinkedIn and, as of this past week, Facebook.

These individuals stole nearly 1 million LinkedIn account usernames and passwords and published them online for others to see what they believed was “marvelous” work.

While it is unfortunate that hackers can make their way into anyone’s personal cloud accounts (websites, usernames, and passwords are not 100% hacker-proof, including Google’s two-step verification process), it is even more tragic when you discover that these same hackers have locked you out of your own accounts.

This was the case for one tech writer, Matt Honan, who (as it was told in a Forbes article) valued Apple’s multi-device syncing feature where all your information is copied from one device to another — that is, until hackers made their way into his Twitter account, then Gmail and Google +, and eventually iTunes. The hackers locked him out of all of his accounts, changed the passwords, and denied him access to them.

Apple was so distraught over Honan’s hacking experience that the company decided to prevent any further password changes until it found the explanation for Honan’s experience with iTunes.

Within minutes, Honan says that he was lost of all his accounts. It doesn’t take long for hackers to do the same thing with anyone’s accounts.

This is bad enough, but Apple has had other vulnerabilities in its iOS software that have come to light within the last few months. One such vulnerability was discovered this week: hackers can press a certain digit combination and dodge an iPhone user’s passcode block.

Passcodes have been set as a security measure to prevent someone from gaining access to your iPhone immediately, but hackers can now dodge your passcode block and make their way through your iPhone without the benefit of anti-theft detection.

Hackers and hacking experiences are results of the disadvantages of cloud computing. While these services can be used for good, they can also be used for evil.

For every action, there are both good and bad consequences. It is no different with cloud computing: there are advantages, but also disadvantages of cloud computing.

As society continues to become more paperless and cashless than ever before, it must maintain its attention on new website creation and new Internet services (such as mobile wallet payments) while taking closer scrutiny with regard to anti-theft detection and Internet security. There is no such thing as being “too safe.”