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The Cloud is a Scam


Lightning Storm

photo by Brandon Morgan

In the early days, before the mid-eighties, we called the cloud by another name: "mainframes". That was back in the days when computer computation time and storage were extremely expensive, before "microcomputers" became useful as a tool in industry. We're talking a hundred thousand dollars in inflation-adjusted dollars to rent a computer for a month and a million dollars to buy a megabyte of storage.

When I entered the work force in the mid '80's, the cost had declined somewhat. My company was using VAX 11/780's--cost: about $150,000 each (not adjusted for inflation). And it wasn't unusual for 50 engineers to all be at VT100 terminals competing for time on one of these things. Let me tell you, you think you're frustrated by slow computers now? You don't know what a slow computer is.

Then, sometime in the mid-to-late eighties, microcomputers received a new name, "PC's", and began landing on engineers' desks. Why did we stop using mainframes and start using PC's? Cost. PC's only cost about two to four thousand dollars each (not adjusted for inflation).

Now, everything we've been hearing for the last four or five years has been about how great the cloud is and how it's the new thing, the future. Do you ever hear anything concrete about the virtues of the cloud? So, why the big push to get us all in the cloud? What's the cost compared to what I have sitting on my desk right now?

Unfortunately, I have no idea how much a provider like Google, providing a service like Google Docs, can make by selling any of my data that they can manage to siphon off. So, I have no way of computing the true cost of computational time in the cloud.

But I can talk about data storage costs. Today I can buy an external, 2.5", four terabyte hard drive for $90. If I have my primary hard drive and two backups, that comes to $270. My guess is that, if I take care of it, the average hard drive will last me for about five years. One website says 6 years. Assuming five years, that's about $60/year to store and back up four terabytes of data.

Now let's look at how much it costs to store four terabytes of data in the cloud for five years.

Product Cost/Month Cost for 4TB/5yrs
Google $2.57/mo/50GB $12336
Dropbox $33.16/mo/4TB $1990
OneDrive $1.99/mo/50GB $9552

The cost of google storage includes some, but perhaps not all, of what Google charges to transfer data. And none of the above charges include what I pay my internet service provider to upload and download that data.

So, the cost to store data in the cloud is significantly higher than to store it on my desk. The cheapest provider, Dropbox, charges 737% of what it cost me to store data on my desk. And Google charges me a whopping 5570%! No wonder they want to store my data!

You may choose to argue my point. You may say, "But those data storage providers store my data outside my house. So, if my house burns down, my data is safe." My response is: that's what I do with the second backup hard drive. I store it at work, or at a relative's house, or even in my car. You respond with, "That's too hard!" My response is: we'll then you're paying all that money for you're convenience. I don't think I want to pay that much for convenience, because I don't think storing data is all that inconvenient. In fact, if you want to pay me $12336 to store four terabytes of data for five years, I would gladly store it on my desk.


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