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Making Private Cloud Work

“It just works!” was the punchline coined by Steve Jobs when he first introduced iCloud in Apple WWDC in June 2011.

Since then, hundreds of millions of people have been uploading all kinds of digital data onto Apple servers, some unknowingly. It was not until very recently with the latest wave of celebrity leaks that the privacy concerns around their public cloud came under serious scrutiny.             Although Apple is not the only company that experienced a major backlash from the public in similar instances, it is the one that caused the biggest public reaction so far probably because most of us can relate to taking / sending dirty pics with an iOS device … much more so than the infamous Dropbox security breach that made all of its users’ files publicly accessible for four hours or the NSA’s constant spying on billions of people across the globe.

As worrisome and important as it is, the main reason I mentioned NSA privacy abuses was actually to use it as a segway to jump on to the topic of the private cloud. With a quick swap of letters, NSA turns into NAS – short for Network Attached Storage – which ironically is the go to solution for many home, SOHO or SMB users who do not want to store their data on the public cloud but still want to be able to have their own private cloud where they can access and sync them remotely across several devices.

A NAS box might look like a small innocent gadget with a few drives in it, but it actually is a beast that constitutes the biggest portion of the world’s USD9.2billion network storage market with 58.4% [1] of revenues. Bear in mind that network storage practically refers everything except the drives in your devices and external drives.

To be honest, NAS was a word I hadn’t heard of before I joined my new company and I’ve got a long way to go when it comes to knowing the technology and the industry. Last night was the first time I’ve attended a conference by a leading NAS vendor. Yet, this did not hold me back from drawing my inferences about the future of the NAS industry.

My main observation was that the product manager’s two hour presentation basically felt like a three year overdue version of the 2011 Apple WWDC. And he was trying so hard to convince us on how all the new features of their native apps – whose UI had a strange resemblance to iOS7 by the way – that you need to use to … say share and sync photos across devices “just worked”. And I simply gave up when he showed us their seamless movie streaming technology which required you to download the movie before streaming. Same goes for their brand new note taking app and a bunch of others.

So here’s what I think: why are they trying too hard to build their own app ecosystem when this simply is not their core competency and it’s not going to be adopted by masses? Haven’t all the smaller players who tried to convert the users of the bigger players to their closed ecosystems failed – with the only exception being Apple perhaps – ? Is this because there is practically no way the apps of the 21st century that are designed to work on massive data servers of the public cloud are going to work on my private cloud?

Then here’s my question: why isn’t Apple or for instance Google Drive joining forces with the major NAS players out there and giving their users the option to use their services … say iCloud or Google Docs on a private NAS server? Wouldn’t the world be a much better place for the privacy enthusiasts, and overall more efficient? It would not only help the Apple’s and Google’s of the world to alleviate the concerns of those against the public cloud while losing close to no revenue, but also boost NAS adoption and improve R&D efficiency of NAS vendors as they will focus on what they’re best at.

And here are a few possible answers to my question: First, it just might not be possible. And that’s fine. Second, it might be deemed a strategy not worth investing in by either party. This would mean neither of them really cares about our privacy. Third, it is something that can be done tomorrow by a simple “Enter your IP address to use iCloud on your private home network” command. Then this might be the next big thing … albeit unlikely.

[1] 2013 Global Storage Market Research Report, Frost & Sullivan

Image source:

Can Akbulut

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