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Can a 'Sex Tape' really get stuck in the cloud?

"Sex Tape," which comes out on Friday, is a movie about about a married couple whose sex tape goes viral, reaching their family and friends, after they accidentally upload it to "the cloud."

In their frantic rush to clean up their problem, Cameron Diaz's character begs the question: "You can't get it down from the cloud?" Jason Segel's character exclaims back in a fit of panic, "Nobody understands the cloud, it's a mystery."

Cameron Diaz, left, and Jason Segel in a scene from the film "Sex Tape."
Claire Folger | Sony Pictures
Cameron Diaz, left, and Jason Segel in a scene from the film "Sex Tape."

While the deus ex machina of "the cloud" in "Sex Tape" is a necessary plot device to drive a funny story, like many Hollywood send-ups, it takes heavy liberties in what actually happens in the cloud. First of all, the cloud is not that mysterious. If you are using the cloud, you are simply using computing power and storage from a pool of computers accessed over the Internet, as opposed to using your own computer's resources for a given task. As a guy who talks about software development and testing in the cloud every day, I noticed a few issues that need clarification. For instance:

There's a big difference between putting something in the cloud and publishing it on the Internet. Many of us are familiar with the cloud-based file storage services we use on our smartphones and tablets such as iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Cloud. Yes, you can share files in a cloud-hosted folder, but there is generally at least one additional step involved before an uploaded file is shared or viewable on-demand by anyone else.

The cloud is also not an open video-on-demand service in and of itself. Most streaming videos are offered as services (what we call SaaS, or more specifically Software-as-a-Service) by companies that pay for the cloud infrastructure needed to play the videos. Since this can be costly, they also have policies in place to ensure the content is authorized and generally safe for consumption by their intended audiences to avoid legal problems. A homemade sex tape video wouldn't make it through, especially if it has copyrighted music playing in the background. Assuming that this is their first sex tape, I doubt they're set up to bypass these systems to stream a movie to the world — certainly not by accident.

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A three-hour sex tape video upload … come on, that's just too long. I'm not talking about the difficulty of making such content without lots of blue pills, but really — compiling and uploading a video file that big would take more than just a night. For instance, YouTube and Vimeo would still be spinning wheels and suggesting the user upgrade to an enterprise account, if they didn't automatically suspend them for the content alone.

Cloud architectures are generally quite secure and redundant, so if that three-hour sex tape were somehow shared virally, that video would likely be backed up in so many places, that spy activity wouldn't make it disappear. Our movie's protagonists can't delete a file by burning iPads or smashing servers in a data center down at their local Internet service provider (ISP) – but it sure is funny to watch them try.

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The cloud isn't some magical place where your private life gets laid bare for the world to see — that takes some serious effort. If the movie was a little closer to reality, we'd expect this couple would have needed to jump through a few more hoops to post their video "in the cloud."

But then again, we go to the movies to suspend disbelief, expand our imaginations, and have a good time. This romp may be a poor primer for cloud computing but it might be just the ticket for a grown-up date-night comedy.

Commentary by Jason English, an author and evangelist on software development and virtualization topics. He is currently the galactic head of product marketing at Skytap, a cloud-based enterprise development and testing software provider. Follow him on Twitter @bluefug.

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