One of the most interesting uses of the "cloud" as a concept is data storage. When applications ran within your computer's boundaries, there were very few issues: you knew where your data was, and knew that you had to back it up. Sometimes data moved to a network server, but it was never more than a few meters away from you. Then, the Internet came along. Store a file onto Amazon's S3, and then tell me where it is. Really.
IBM was the lucky recipient of funding from the European Union, to work on the VISION cloud: basically, a way to have meaningful storage on the cloud, as well as data mobility. Here, "meaningful" means that data has meta-information attached to it whereas "mobility" means that data can be moved into a person's "digital safe" -- a portion of the cloud that belongs to a specific user. Their press release reads like this:
when an expecting mother undergoes a 3D ultrasound, the image is automatically uploaded and stored in her digital safe. This ultrasound is stored together with metadata, such as the date, format, stage of pregnancy, or content description; the metadata is stored as an integral part of the smart 'data object'.
Carbonite, on the other hand, has recently released the Android version of their application. This means that users can now access their data from their Android phones and tablets. Basically, Carbonite allows you to backup all of your information onto their servers. Having a mobile client that can access those files means that people can effectively access their data wherever they are. Ironically, it also means that the "master" here becomes Carbonite's copy, and the user's computer and phone effectively become terminals...
KnowledgeTree, finally, has released an offline backup functionality. This will allow their users to download all of their data onto their machines. There is a lot at stake here: having your data on the cloud makes things easy, but peace of mind (or, in corporate terms, asset safety) is much more important that convenience. Having your data at least available in XML is absolutely crucial, although two questions stay open: 1) What do you do with the data if the service suddenly disappeared? Would you be able to manipulate it? 2) How can you be 100% sure that all of your data is available in the downloaded backup?
These items of news all highlight the importance of mobility, backup and access.