Saturday, February 19, 2011

"The Cloud" is convenient, but dangerous

Districts Day 2 (4/17/2010)The "Next Big Thing" in technology is "The Cloud". The idea is to keep your data on the internet - rather than on your PC, cell phone, etc. - so that you can access any information anywhere with a connected device. You're probably already in "the cloud" - NetFlix streaming, Hulu, Flickr photo sharing, even GMail are examples of "Cloud Technologies" - and if the major media companies have their way, you'll be spending more and more of your life there. After all, who wouldn't want access to every book, song, movie or TV show ever made, whenever they want it?

But it is time for us all to take note of Egypt and Libya, and to realize that putting our lives in the cloud really means putting our lives in the control of others. In these cases, hostile governments were able to eliminate "The Cloud" by flicking a switch. In other cases, companies have been able to suppress or eliminate speech by pulling media from "The Cloud". Perhaps the best example of a "Cloud Nightmare" was the T-Mobile Sidekick - a phone that stored everything "in the cloud" - whose users were horrified when a simple server migration error destroyed every photo, every e-mail, every text message, every address book in one horrible moment. It took weeks of work to bring some of that data back. And if the Sidekick had been owned a company with pockets less deep than Microsoft, who knows if it would ever have been done.

It is time to reevaluate our "cloudy" future, and consider making it a policy to return to hard copies for our most important data. Local backups are key to preserving our history, and ensuring we do not reach a point where one bad actor can deny us access to the things we need.


quizwedge said...

As far as backups are concerned, most users are probably more secure in the cloud. How many people don't have offsite backups or don't back up at all?

Nomad said...

Valid point.

But that only holds for things that originate online. Most users have backups of their music as CDs, and backups of their movies as DVDs. Many even keep backups of their photos as prints. If we go 100% cloud, those options will disappear, and if a big company decides to delete or lock out our data, it is gone forever.

We live with 2-edged swords. :-)