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Author Topic: ALL cloud applications should offer downloadable installs.  (Read 4593 times)
superboyac
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« on: July 12, 2010, 08:14:21 PM »

Just today, I've pinpointed what bothers me most about cloud applications.  Most of them only offer their services as a subscription based thing that is hosted on their own servers.  All of these companies should, in my opinion, offer separate downloads of their applications so that users can install it on their own servers, if they chose to.  If this became a trend, I would have zero problems with cloud applications.  I used to think I didn't like the fact that my stuff would be all over the internet rather than my own computer, but I've realize that is not the case.

Of course, we know why they do this.  It benefits the software companies, and that's it.  That's the only reason why they wouldn't offer what I am saying.  This way, they are in complete control.  They control piracy by having basically the only copy of the software in their possession.  They make the users pay monthly for the software.  The users are completely at their mercy.  They get to have registrations for all users, rather than just those users who want to participate in their forums or something (like with normal, locally installed software).

So many of the nice conveniences of shareware as we used to know it are gone.  We can't download fully functional trials anymore.  We have to register for every little thing, and you know you hate that.  We hate having to commit to monthly fees instead of just a one time $30 or something.  I hate coming across these cloud software these days.  I just hate it.  What do they expect?  That I want to start paying monthly fees for every little software that I want to use?  This is what is happening and I hate it.

What?  Just because a software is used for collaboration doesn't mean it MUST be a subscription service.  There's no reason for the old shareware model to be broken just because of Web 2.0.  They are still files.  We just put them on a server now.  Big flippin deal.

Now, if you don't want to deal with the installation, sure, by all means pay for the monthly service.  But that just means that these companies are glorified hosting companies.  Is there any difference?  They say you pay for the software, but you are really paying for the hosting.  But I'm probably paying for real hosting for something else.  Why should I pay for other hosting?  Why can't I pay for hosting, and pay separately for software.

This reminds me of DSL companies and how for some reason, they have all adopted the annual contract model, and cable companies all do it with the more flexible monthly model.  What's with DSL?  What is so different about it that we have to commit for a year?  Same with cell phones?  There's no reason.  It's just that one did it, they realized it's good for their revenue and they all started doing it.  Nothing about it benefits the consumer.

This is the trend unfortunately.  I hate it.  Be prepared as cloud computing takes off...it's going to all be monthly fees.  Any software that can find an excuse to charge monthly fees will eventually do it.  Oh, here is our new version 12...Now you can store your data online and access this software from anywhere!  Yeah!  And by "can" we mean you MUST store your data online or you can't use it anymore.  Oh, but you are of course free to use the old version of the standalone software for as long as you like, no problem.  But the new one is now a monthly fee because we will make sure everything in the software is running smoothly.  Also, you have to download a client anyway for your pc.  But you can access your data from anywhere in the world.

I was recently looking for business modeling software.  I was surprised that most of them were cloud applications.  Like 10-1 ratio of cloud to standalone.  I saw the same with collaboration software, and some other ones recently.

Anyway...who wants to join in on my rant?
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JavaJones
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« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2010, 02:19:23 AM »

I don't think you quite understand the point of "cloud" applications then. Yes, a big part of the benefit to the developer/publisher is that they can change subscription fees, but before "cloud" applications came along, all anyone had were server-installable apps. Those options still exist. So why are cloud services so popular despite the option of hosting something yourself? Because there are benefits you're not seeing

They host, maintain, and keep the software updated. This is a big benefit for a lot of people and well worth the often low monthly fee. Seldom any performance issues, and while you can use shared hosting to host some similar apps, try scaling those apps on that hosting to a production level. Not having to worry about updates, performance, resources is very empowering and freeing.

They also maintain your data backups, hopefully/ideally in a heavily redundant environment. Granted this could be seen as a weakness as well, but if the company is handling it right, your data is likely far more secure on their end across multiple RAID-driven servers than on your own computer. Granted being able to backup your own data is a definite nicety. Some services offer it, others you have to find creative workarounds for, but in most cases you can back things up somehow.

They provide support, and a lot more readily too given it's on their servers. This depends on the application and vendor, not all provide good support (Google, I'm looking at you), but generally anything you pay decent money for gets you decent support.

Finally, some applications are really only possible - or at least reasonable - to do in a "cloud". Global sync like Dropbox or Humyo needs large amounts of remote space and an always-on system. It's going to cost you $100/mo to have decent hosting with 100GB of space like Humyo gives you for $100 *a year*. Many of Google's services rely on the massive power of distributed computing to enable their nifty bits, for example lighting-fast Gmail search, voice recognition, and more. You'll never get enough CPU power at a decent price to do that stuff as well yourself.

Not to mention that dealing with the needs of end-user maintained installation processes and support of them is something a lot of people just don't want to have to deal with anymore. And I can't blame them.

- Oshyan
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2010, 04:42:09 AM »

Great reply JavaJones. (Sorry, couldn't help adding this sycophantic sounding bit - first time I rated something in DC and it was due to the quality of the first reply.)
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superboyac
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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2010, 09:49:06 AM »

Well, I fully understand the benefits of cloud applications.  So what am I complaining about?  I'm really asking myself...
It's just that I don't like cloud applications.  I'd rather use locally installed apps.  If I do need some kind of server functionality, I'll go out of my way to set up a server myself or use an independently hosted server before I start using cloud apps that I have to pay monthly fees for.  I hate monthly fees.  And I suspect a lot of people do, too.  I'm much more comfortable paying a one time fee vs monthly fees.  I just don't like this trend.

Here's a good idea, maybe they exist already...
A company should offer fast and generous hosting for an affordable fee.  This will allow users to go into the cloud, yet still give them the freedom to install their own software on their servers.  I'd do it at home, but normal ISP speeds for upload/download can't compare to professionally hosted servers.  So it's just a matter of speed and storage for me.  If someone offered like that for $100-200 a year, that wouldn't be so bad.  $100 a month is too rich for normal consumers.  So I'd like to see that happen.  I want to see the prices for decent servers to go down a bit.  I actually don't know what the normal prices are, I'm starting to look into it for the first time.
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superboyac
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« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2010, 09:54:43 AM »

To continue on with my point above...
What do I like about the locally installed app?  More so than anything else, it's the fact it's going to be much faster and responsive than anything on the web.  Bandwidth will never be able to compete with local hardware.  For $100, I can get a 1TB hard drive and access it with top speed...and it lasts for years.  To get 100GB hosted with good speed is $100 a month??  So $1200 a year.  Wow, that's a lot.  Will these rates go down as we see cloud computing increase?  Isn't there an opportunity for a company to offer a lot of speed and storage for consumer-friendly affordable rates?
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wraith808
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« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2010, 10:18:01 AM »

Maybe check this thread?

http://www.donationcoder....p?topic=23383.0;topicseen

That might be what you're looking for.
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steeladept
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« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2010, 11:34:57 AM »

JavaJones is right on.  While I agree, I hate a lot of things about "cloud computing" the reasons you point to don't really hold water.  First of all, they don't *only* work to the advantage of the developer/provider's pocketbook.  Indeed, in many cases, they don't help the developer revenue at all and may be a minor detriment.  Where their real advantage is lies in the always on instant infrastructure available to any who want to buy the time. The subscription model is the only one that makes sense in this case, because you are paying for time, not for a product per se.  Your argument seems to be more along the lines of "The software I want is only available in the cloud" which is a different issue.

For the developer, the cloud initiative offers many attractive benefits.  For example, patch 1 machine and they are all patched - no more supporting multiple levels of multiple versions of one application. It also provides always on access on a server (usually clustered virtual servers) that you don't need to configure, maintain, or secure.  This infrastructure is already provided.  It also provides a single platform to target.  "Do you want it to run on a Mac or Windows?  How about Linux?  Mobile phone?  What about changing resolutions and varying aspect ratios?  Oh, the cloud resolves that in the browser?  Cool."  Okay, you pointed out that doesn't always happen, sometimes you need to download the client connector, but it is much easier than dealing with 1.5 million different configurations.  And of course as you already pointed out, a continuing revenue stream to help keep food on the table consistently.  No more feast and famine cycles, or at least not nearly as severe.

What about the end user?  Well, beyond the continued ranting of anywhere access, there is the fact that you always have an updated, secured, and supported version of the software.  Moreover, you don't have to worry about paying $500 for that package each time it is updated (think office for example).  It is a $10 monthly fee for a permanently current package.  Put another way, you need to go 50 months before you break even and 51 months before you start making out on the $500 package.  In 50 months, if the developer didn't produce a new version (at the same or similar pricing), it would be a miracle if he was still in business.  Look at how many times you shied away from software just because it didn't appear actively developed.  If it has been over 4 years, you consider it dead and question if you even want it, yet if you paid that much for a package each time, you would be loosing money, not making money by doing so.  

Okay, maybe the Office $500 retail package is unreasonable - but a common one of a $50 software isn't.  If it went online for even 5%, it would take 10 months to break even, and many of these companies put out updates every year or two, so you really aren't loosing much, it just is every month instead of up front (which if invested means you are really paying less in lost opportunities).  In games, this is even more favorable to the consumer, because the $50 game is often left for the dust heap within 3 months.  If you bought it for even as much as $10/month online, you get to play it for 5 months before you start "losing" money on it.  Yet most people get bored well before then.

My reasons for hating many forms of cloud computing is that 1) I loose control on how secure it is or isn't.  If I want to run it looser so I can use it in a share, for example, too bad.  If I want to be able to shut it down until it is patched (a more common occurance), I have to stop the services as well as shuting down the application itself just because I have an internet connection! :thumbsdown:  Another issue (and probably my biggest issue) is I don't want any company to be able to hijack my data inadvertently or on purpose.  I also want access to it anytime I want, and not just when I can connect to their site.  This is already an issue with my Yahoo email account - arguably the first real successful cloud offering (certainly long before cloud computing was ever coined!).  In a similar vein, I hate the idea of a company going under and taking it's software with it when my data is in it's own proprietary format.  This hasn't happened yet, of course, but I can see it coming and messing up A LOT of people through no fault of their own. I am sure these bother you as well, from what I know of you, but your additional rants seem misdirected to me.
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steeladept
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« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2010, 11:35:44 AM »

Doh, you put your comments along the same lines in while I typed this up.  Guess I should have heeded the warning  embarassed
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« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2010, 11:38:38 AM »

I think i agree with some of superboy's points.. the pattern of this new online service business model seems to me:

1. offer a new web service for free, get tons of publicity and sign ups and users.  no ads, great free support, etc.  everyone is happy and everyone flocks to it.  no one asks themselves how such a service can be offered for free..

2. after a substantial userbase is built.. roll out the ads and subscription charges.  people are locked in at this point so there's not much they can do if they don't like it.  migrating away from a service they've put all their data into is difficult.

It's not unreasonable at all to charge for their service of hosting and managing these things -- they offer many benefits.  But the lack of control over your data and the lock-in and helplessness is a serious concern.

I think the question you have to ask yourself before spending time trusting your data and workflow to such online sites is:  how easy will it be for me to get my data out of this service and import it into another if i want to leave.  if the answer is not easy, then avoid it.  the ideal case is a hosted service that also offers the option to install their open source software on your own or a community run server if you need to at some point.
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steeladept
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« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2010, 11:42:23 AM »

Isn't there an opportunity for a company to offer a lot of speed and storage for consumer-friendly affordable rates?
Yes and no.  Don't forget, beyond the storage, there are redundancy and connectivity issues whose costs must be covered.  While the costs for this gets spread among the customers, there is still a significant cost premium for the components required to do this at a reasonably effective capacity for an enterprise that would implement the service.  Your 1TB drive has no where near the speed or reliability that their drives have and in the volume the provider would need, your failure rates with those consumer-grade drives would be cost prohibitive.
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steeladept
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« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2010, 11:45:56 AM »

I think the question you have to ask yourself before spending time trusting your data and workflow to such online sites is:  how easy will it be for me to get my data out of this service and import it into another if i want to leave.  if the answer is not easy, then avoid it.  the ideal case is a hosted service that also offers the option to install their open source software on your own or a community run server if you need to at some point.
Agreed.  The ideal way, in my opinion are the services that provide the infrastructure and a VMware container (it is so ubiquitous as to be a standard, not unlike MS Office formats).  Then you can load your own server (or buy it already set up off them) and work from there.  If you want to leave, take the entire VM and go to another provider.  Of course I don't know of too many of those and most of them are very expensive, catering to enterprises that insist (rightly so) to maintain complete control of the server.

Getting back to the Original Post, however, from the way I read it, the problem is not so much in maintaining a server in the cloud, as much as a service.  And here it gets MUCH more sticky.
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superboyac
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« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2010, 11:49:40 AM »

It's not unreasonable at all to charge for their service of hosting and managing these things -- they offer many benefits.  But the lack of control over your data and the lock-in and helplessness is a serious concern.

I think the question you have to ask yourself before spending time trusting your data and workflow to such online sites is:  how easy will it be for me to get my data out of this service and import it into another if i want to leave.  if the answer is not easy, then avoid it.  the ideal case is a hosted service that also offers the option to install their open source software on your own or a community run server if you need to at some point.
Thanks mouser, you said it much more eloquently than I did.  I am not an expert in this stuff, so I don't know the details.  But my feelings are in line with what mouser said above.  With normal, local software I just try them out and play around without worries.  With the cloud stuff, there is so much more hesitation and too much to worry and think about.  Even $5 a month is a serious commitment...especially when you're just fooling around and seeing what's out there, which is me 80% of the time.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2010, 01:46:22 PM »

The "bait and switch" problem is a different kettle of fish. It is common but not universal to "cloud computing", and pay-from-the-start services are increasingly common as cloud computing is legitimized. So while I agree with the issue you state, I don't see it as a fundamental problem with cloud computing itself, rather as a separate issue and a business practice to avoid when possible.

Choosing a system with open data formats is a concern *all the time*. Don't make the mistake of assuming this is an issue unique to cloud computing platforms. Is it a bigger one there? Very debatable. What if your desktop app goes unsupported and a new OS upgrade makes it not run properly anymore? How many times have we heard that problem come up here at DC? (the answer is a lot cheesy)

Fortunately many cloud providers do have at least partially open data formats. Google is a great example, generally speaking. You can get all your Gmail, Gcal, Gdocs, and more data out of Google quite easily with a myriad of standard clients because they support standard protocols. For free. Try getting your mail out of Yahoo without paying them. undecided Now granted Google are a particularly good example, there are services that make it much harder, but there are plenty of others that also support open formats. Zoho is another example.

As for affordable hosting options, you really get what you pay for. There is cheap shared hosting that *could* run some of these systems (and I've run sophisticated CMS's off of them before), and there is also higher quality "pay as you go" (more expensive, but still potentially cheap depending on how much you need) like Amazon S3. There are options out there, but you can't get awesome service for ridiculously cheap, it just doesn't work that way. And if you were on the other end of the equation, with a potential customer asking you for the moon in exchange for a pittance, I imagine you might be a bit miffed about it. cheesy

If you want to host yourself, the only way you're going to make it *cheaper* than a hosting service is if you do it through your home broadband connection. That carries with it issues with bandwidth, reliability, uptime, power usage (leaving a computer on all the time for the occasional remote use), and more. There are efficiencies that can be realized with distributed, load-balanced computing clusters that you just can't get at home. Your up-front, obvious costs may be lower, but in the long-run it may work out the same or even in favor of the cloud service, believe it or not. It's like the age-old Mac argument - they cost more up-front, but less to maintain. For the average person *this is probably true*. For a tech-savvy person it's less so, and I've never bought Macs partly for that reason (even though they can now run Windows, my preferred OS, and are generally nicely designed systems). But getting into hosting is a lot more complex than just running apps on your desktop. Getting something served out to the world in a way that is simultaneously easy to access *and* secure on your own is a tough challenge. Is it worth the time, hassle, and risk vs. a $5/mo service? Arguable.

All that being said I am not a universal lover of cloud services either, and in fact have always been highly skeptical of them as a "panacea". Apps like Picnik and Photoshop Online are cool for example, but will never (IMHO) replace desktop apps, at least for the heavier users (not necessarily *professional*, just "heavier"). I think the key is to separate legitimate concerns from simple fears or lack of familiarity, and then make educated decisions on what services make sense and are worth the cost. Seen in that light, some cloud services make sense and are worthwhile, others are not. Google Apps are IMO a no brainer because even if they don't remain free forever, I can get my data out of them, period. Essentially the same points hold true for desktop apps!

- Oshyan
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superboyac
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« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2010, 03:12:11 PM »

Well said Java!
Try getting your mail out of Yahoo without paying them.
This is possible.  I posted about the "secret" somewhere here in the forums.  And it's not using a third-party tool like ypops or anything. Thmbsup

If i find myself needing to go to the cloud more and more, like I am seeing, I may consider buying my own $100 hosted server.  I'd build it myself at home, but I simply don't have the bandwidth.  Or maybe I should consider getting a business-speed line for an additional cost?  Or maybe I can build a server for my sister's house who has FIOS?  FIOS has great upload speeds, but is it good enough for hosting cloud applications?  What are the specs of these hosted servers that is so different from a typical home ISP line?
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wraith808
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« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2010, 03:46:50 PM »

Maybe check this thread?

http://www.donationcoder....p?topic=23383.0;topicseen

That might be what you're looking for.

I looked into the platform, and it seems that they're doing exactly what you wanted... just wanted to post that again as I didn't see your response to it, so thought you might have missed it.  And it's free smiley

If you need more than that, PM me.  I purchased a server for exactly this reason, and I'm parceling it out to help pay costs...
« Last Edit: July 13, 2010, 03:49:36 PM by wraith808 » Logged

JavaJones
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« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2010, 03:53:23 PM »

What I'd like to be able to do with Ymail is *forward* (permanently) for free. Doubt there's a workaround for that, I've looked!

Anyway, FOIS should be fast enough, but there are still the other issues of redundancy, maintaining your own servers, etc.

The Standing Cloud service Wraith links to solves part of the problem, but you still need to use external hosting, Amazon EC2 I think. You could just as easily look at VPS.net nodes with a preconfigured app stack (they offer a number of options), or Bitnami Stacks (they have them available for Linux, installable in theory on any VPS). But unless you're running several apps for web access, the cost of all this probably isn't going to bring you out ahead (depending on the available "cloud" options and their pricing). A VPS is $20/mo or so minimum, and you'd need at least that amount of resources to run the more demanding apps well. More than that if you want a friendly control panel like CPanel.

- Oshyan
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superboyac
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« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2010, 04:14:59 PM »

What I'd like to be able to do with Ymail is *forward* (permanently) for free. Doubt there's a workaround for that, I've looked!
Oh, it's possible.  Find my post...
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JavaJones
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« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2010, 04:51:48 PM »

Found it. For anyone else looking, it leads to here:
http://forums.ypopsemail....-longer-needed-t3956.html
I think I've tried this before, and some people in the thread talk about it not working. But worth a shot. Thanks!

- Oshyan
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« Reply #18 on: July 13, 2010, 05:34:24 PM »

another alternative

http://www.poppeeper.com/

can connect and download the yahoomail free account messages
then use the forwarding in poppeeper

Anyway, isn't cloud computing working with files on your computer already?
If not I'd certainly keep copies of everything committed to the cloud.

But then the collaboration issue.........
If the cloud could be mounted and real time synced to your pc,
that might work.

http://www.gladinet.com/

That's about all I could find, but not free it seems.

Windows live is doing some stuff I don't understand yet.

http://www.ghacks.net/200...ive-offline-installation/
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« Reply #19 on: July 13, 2010, 09:29:04 PM »

On a semi-related note (for developers), IBM shows devs how to move your Linux application to the Amazon cloud, Part 1: Initial migration:

http://www.ibm.com/develo...loud-1/index.html?ca=drs-

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a great concept: You use computing resources, you pay for them. You want more computing power, you pay more. The downside of this model is that you're working with computers that you're never going to see, nor do you really know much about them. Once you get over that, however, there's a lot to be gained by using IaaS.

Because the IaaS model is so different from the traditional model of buying servers, the way you manage your virtual computers changes. It also means that the way you run your application in the cloud changes. Things you once took for granted, such as negligible latency between servers, are no longer a given.

This series of articles follows the migration of a Web application from a single physical server to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). Along the way, you learn how to adapt your application to the cloud environment and how to take advantage of the features that the cloud has to offer. To start, you see a straight migration from one physical server to a cloud server.
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« Reply #20 on: July 13, 2010, 10:05:37 PM »

A VPS is $20/mo or so minimum, and you'd need at least that amount of resources to run the more demanding apps well. More than that if you want a friendly control panel like CPanel.

It really depends on what you want.  If you want options, like fantastico gives you, then yeah.  The one I'm renting my server from has VPS options for $24.95/month- that's what I used before I went the full server route, and it was very nice.  If you don't mind shopping around for the right configuration - meaning that they have one option in each area, but they line up with yours, then you can get them for a lot less.
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« Reply #21 on: July 14, 2010, 08:46:43 AM »

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a great concept: You use computing resources, you pay for them. You want more computing power, you pay more. The downside of this model is that you're working with computers that you're never going to see, nor do you really know much about them. Once you get over that, however, there's a lot to be gained by using IaaS.
This is very interesting.  I could get into this, especially if I start having to do more and more work out of the house.
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