Security and privacy concerns may be far outweighed for many users by the convenience and appeal of the cloud, but users need to view cloud access as more than just another storage utility on the desktop.
That’s according to Derek Labian, CEO of cloud storage service MediaFire. Instead, cloud users need to focus on cloud performance and application functionality, Labian suggests.
MediaFire’s founders are committed to using open source software extensively both for development and within the company’s Web applications for media playback. For example, JPlayer drives MediaFire’s new media player.
In this interview, LinuxInsider and Labian, who oversees MediaFire’s strategic planning and engineering direction, discuss the continuing changes in cloud storage technology and the challenges arising beyond the next cloud technology horizon.
LinuxInsider: What are the big misconceptions that companies and individual users have about cloud storage?
Derek Labian: Everyday users need cloud storage, but they don’t know it. Cloud storage is often only depicted as a utility, but it can be much more than that. If cloud storage providers want to really connect with consumers, they have to make their services fun to use.
Security is another huge issue that needs to be addressed. With consumer concerns over cloud storage at an all-time high from concerns around PRISM, it is incredibly important that the industry as a whole works together to address user privacy.
LI: How can a cloud storage provider make its services fun to use?
Labian: That is an ongoing process. What we are trying to do is put out a set of tools that makes using the cloud more of a lifestyle service — tools that can help you aggregate your media together automatically and help you work with it, use it in native formats and get away from the cost of the files. The underlying technology is still very similar among cloud source providers and all those other competing technologies. The difference is how we present the cloud to the users, organize it and how we allow you to work with it.
LI: In light of the recent disclosures involving PRISM, what are the most pressing security concerns facing users of cloud storage?
Labian: I would say that in general all the cloud technologies have the same concerns, whether it is email or storage or any other cloud-based service, because security issues are becoming more and more prevalent. Basically a week does not go by that we do not see instances where somebody was hacked, but I don’t think these individual cases are going to slow down the growth of the industry. It is just too appealing. Cloud storage is just too convenient for us, and it enhances our lives too much to let it slow our usage down. So the technology will continue to improve and evolve, and I think those concerns won’t be concerns going forward.
LI: How are large storage strategies changing to handle the run towards cloud storage?
Labian: As business operations become more global in nature, collaboration and sharing will become an essential element for enterprise customers. For consumers, cloud-based storage solutions are quickly becoming competitive with localized storage options, and often, the advantages of having a reliable cloud storage solution outweigh the cost savings of localized backup.
LI: What price-performance requirements should cloud storage adopters have at the top of their list?
Labian: Consumers are less focused on storage as a performance metric and more focused on accessibility and features that let them use online storage effectively. While storage numbers are a great selling point, cloud-based services need to offer users more than just storage. Instead, cloud storage adopters need to look at network performance, platform flexibility and functionality as the main features that matter when it comes to selecting a cloud storage provider. For Linux users, having a reliable desktop client is a plus.
LI: Do you see the focus on cloud storage changing the landscape for converged infrastructure and shared services?
Labian: Cloud storage is a piece of the puzzle, as Steve Jobs would say. It is a tool, not a product. As such, cloud storage integration is going to be an underlying layer powering new products as well as revising how we use shared services and think of infrastructure.
LI: What trends do you see on the horizon for cloud storage?
Labian: We see the cloud storage model evolving into five key trends. One, cloud storage is going to eventually become completely seamless. Two, online storage is going to move towards becoming more of a service offering: Users have a ton of content, but managing it all is a pain. Three, storage becomes individualized; “This is my data; my data goes with me wherever I go.” Four, we will move away from the concept of “files” and towards working with media as media, as in photos, videos, audio and documents. Five, content discovery will become a huge growth opportunity.
One trend he missed, undoubtedly by design, is the rise of private cloud alternatives to public clouds. There are obvious unresolvable privacy and security issues of public clouds. If your data is stored on the same server as some criminals, the government may come and haul it away, your files included, and you may never get them back. It’s been happening with increased frequency. Private clouds, like the Cloudlocker, avoid this issue. And they stay in your exclusive physical possession. The onset of more private cloud offerings, like the Cloudlocker, may pose the biggest challenge to services like Mr. Labian’s.