The trend in technology right now is to move everything into the ‘cloud.’ What this means is, for example, companies are using Internet software hosted by others (like Google’s Gmail email system) to replace traditional products they used to run themselves in their offices (like Microsoft’s Exchange email server). It’s also increasingly the trend for personal information—people are storing all their data in Facebook instead of on their computers themselves.
I don’t like the cloud. I don’t like it for business purposes, and I don’t like it for my own personal purposes either. I don’t like it because, when you rely on the ‘cloud,’ you are relying on the people and systems that run the cloud and hoping (praying?) that they care half as much about your data as you do. If a company uses Google’s email and documents systems to conduct their business, the company grinds completely to a halt when their Internet access (or Google’s servers) go down, and the company can do nothing to fix it except wait.
Users of the Danger Hiptop—generally known as the T-Mobile Sidekick in the United States—are learning this now. Their phones stored their data up in the ‘cloud’ on servers run by Microsoft, which bought Danger and their Hiptop business a few years back. The server crashed hard, and there apparently weren’t any usable backups. Sidekick users have simply lost their information.
I use the ‘cloud’ for some things. This site, for example, is hosted by Dotster (as is my main email account). But I rely on the cloud only as far as I have to, and my desktop email clients regularly sync my messages to my hard drive and I regularly back up my site database into my machines as well. I am a stickler for backups—I have an external hard drive and a server with a RAID array, both of which contain full backups of my important data, and I also have a periodic off-site backup procedure in place. I know where my data is, I know how it’s backed up, and if I lose anything I have nobody to blame but myself.
I don’t trust Google, Microsoft, or anybody else to store and back up my data with anything close to the diligence I use, so I generally avoid using the cloud for anything important. Even when I have to use the cloud (my employer now uses Gmail), I do everything I can to make sure I have my own backups to use when the cloud goes down. This has made me a minor hero once or twice when Gmail goes down and I’m the only one who can pull up an email we desperately need from my local archive.