Last week Amazon announced a new cloud-based, consumer-oriented service offering called Amazon Cloud Drive. According to the company, the Cloud Drive is “your hard drive in the cloud.” It will allow users to store “music, videos, photos and documents online and access them from anywhere.” Cloud Drive let people store up to five gigabytes of music, photos, videos and documents. The basic storage is free; additional space can be purchased for a yearly fee. The approach is designed to let users access their files or play music and videos they have purchased from multiple computers and locations—such as at the home or office—as well as smartphones and tablets.
“Five years from now, people will think of online services like Cloud Drive as the primary place for safe keeping of critical information, as opposed to a backup, which is how they think about it today,” said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research. “It is a big deal for Amazon to get into this.”
While this is already causing a stir in the music and film industry over potential licensing infringements, we’re more interested in seeing how public sector IT enterprises might take advantage of such a service for storing non-sensitive data. There are already some government agencies using Amazon’s cloud services. Last year, for example, Scott County, Minnesota moved its disaster recovery services to Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. According to county officials, the move produced tangible results almost immediately with quicker data recovery (eight hours now versus 48 hours previously) and less lag time for transaction updates as far as recovery (one hour now versus eight to 12 previously).
Whether Cloud Drive is seen as a opportunity by government agencies remains to be seen. There is still a persistent perception that the cloud is inherently unsafe and agencies are rightfully concerned about turning over control of their data to other agencies, vendors or third-parties. To many, the thought of putting agency data into the public cloud is simply unacceptable. But as consumer-focused services like Cloud Drive become more widely available and accepted by the general public, it seems likely that service providers will move to ensure data security, accessibility and availability.
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