"Cloud computing" is the usage of remote server-based, rather than desktop-based, tools and information. Software and data is virtually stored on the internet, meaning computer users do not need to download any software or maintain a physical database to store information.
Technology experts and the general internet-using public have virtually identical expectations of how cloud computing will develop during the next decade. When asked to agree with one of two statements regarding where computer users will "live" in 2020, 72% of experts agreed with a statement that most people won't do their work from a PC running software, but from internet- and smartphone-based applications. Another 25% agreed with a statement that most people will still do their work from a PC running software, with internet- and smartphone-based applications having some functionality. The remaining 3% did not respond.
The general respondent base responded to the two statements almost identically. Seventy-one percent agreed that internet- and smartphone-based applications will become dominant, 27% agreed that PC-based applications will remain dominant, and 2% did not respond.
Among the most popular cloud services now are social networking sites (the 500 million people using Facebook are being social in the cloud) such as:
This does not mean, however, that most of these experts think the desktop computer will disappear soon. The majority sees a hybrid life in the next decade, as some computing functions move towards the cloud and others remain based on personal computers, says the report.
Many of the people who agreed with the statement that cloud computing will expand as the internet evolves said the desktop will not die out but it will be used in new, improved ways in tandem with remote computing. Survey participants said they expect that:
Most of those surveyed noted that cloud computing will continue to expand and come to dominate information transactions because it offers many advantages, allowing users to have easy, instant, and individualized access to tools and information they need wherever they are, locatable from any networked device. Some experts noted that people in technology-rich environments will have access to sophisticated-yet-affordable local networks that allow them to "have the cloud in their homes."
For many individuals, says the report, the switch to mostly cloud-based work has already occurred, especially through the use of browsers and social networking applications. Many people today are primarily using smartphones, laptops, and desktop computers to network with remote servers and carry out tasks such as:
Among the defenses for a continuing domination of the desktop, many said that small, portable devices have limited appeal as a user interface and are less than ideal for doing work. They also expressed concern about the security of information stored in the "cloud," the willingness of cloud operators to handle personal information in a trustworthy way, and other problems related to control over data when it is stored in the cloud, rather than on personally-controlled devices.
A number of people said cloud computing presents difficult security problems and further exposes private information to governments, corporations, thieves, opportunists, and human and machine error.
There are also quality of service and compatibility hurdles that must be crossed successfully before cloud computing gains more adopters, concludes the report. Among the other limiting factors the expert respondents mentioned were: