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Is "Cloud" Computing In For Some Stormy Weather?

Well, we survived the Great D.C. Derecho of 2012 with only a fallen deck chair, a few power dips, and a spotty wireless connection. We'll count ourselves incredibly lucky.

Especially since so many people are still without power in 95-degree heat and at least 17 people didn't survive the storm. My thoughts are with their loved ones.

It's been both funny and sad to watch the people here (myself included) try to rustle up a smartphone connection. You can see the tuned-out, antsy look of oh, come on, work already, I really need to check my email from a mile away. So we close our email apps and try the web, because if email isn't working the web surely will be, right?

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Now we find out that "cloud computing," which lets companies store and access encrypted data from some nebulous, unknown location, doesn't work all that hot after a freak storm, and Congress is all over it like Alec Baldwin's mountain bike on a reporter's foot. Geez dude, just show some grace and be glad the paparazzi still bother to snap your picture. Anyway, as WAPO reports today:

The outages affected companies such as Netflix and Pinterest, not the government. But several federal agencies have moved e-mail and other services to cloud servers, which are housed at remote data centers and typically managed by technology companies such as Amazon or Google.

The House subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade is studying the risks of such moves and hopes to schedule a hearing on the matter ahead of the August congressional recess.

"Last week's powerful thunderstorms, along with the massive disruptions they caused, exposed some of the vulnerabilities of cloud computing," said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), in a statement. "But I also believe the problems extend way beyond consumer convenience and customer service. There are some serious privacy issues which we need to look at as well."

So there you are, sitting in your D.C. office this morning without any air conditioning, trying to access files stored "in the cloud" and it's not working. Uh, can I put you on hold? Thanks. Okay, but technically you're supposed to say "may I put you on hold," because we know you're physically able to put us on hold (e.g., "can") but you're asking for permission, which requires the use of "may."

Seriously though, having a third party manage all of a company's data has always struck me as letting a friend carry your wallet and keys in her purse. Chances are, everything will be just fine, but what if she somehow manages to lose her purse? Now you're kicking yourself for not carrying your own damn stuff. Live and learn.

So what do we learn from all of this? That "derecho" isn't a Taco Bell creation, the "cloud" has its pros and cons, we all need to revisit basic grammar, and Alec Baldwin needs to stop acting like a jerk. Oh, and that Congress might soon be doing a bit of storm fitting around the whole "cloud computing" issue. Not to rain on your productivity parade or anything.

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