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  #1  
Old 01-18-2011, 04:00 PM
Jason Dunn
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Default And When The Cloud Breaks, Your Data Will Fall...

<p><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/wpt/auto/1288893309.usr1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d2d2bb;" /></p><p>It's all about <em>The Cloud</em> these days - your data, you entertainment, your everything - stored on a service that you can access with any online connection. The benefits are many, but what you don't always hear about are the down-sides of everything being cloud-based. What if you get locked out of your account? I've heard of more than a few people that get <a href="http://www.google.ca/search?sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;q=locked+out+gmail" target="_blank">locked out of their Gmail account</a>&nbsp;or who can't access their <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/RichardFrisch/statuses/4211597274783744" target="_blank">Gmail calendar</a>. It happens to Hotmail and Yahoo users as well.&nbsp;What if the company hosting your information deletes it, either accidentally or not, or goes out of business? <a href="http://www.tagsmith.org/2009/05/28/dear-kodak-stop-holding-my-pictures-hostage/" target="_blank">That's not an uncommon problem</a>. In terms of uptime most cloud services are fairly robust, when things go wrong, they can really ruin your day. <MORE /></p><p>Case in point: my wife uses an HTC Snap Windows Mobile 6.1 phone, and it's connected to a <a href="http://www.4smartphone.net" target="_blank">4smartphone</a> hosted Exchange account. With our 17 month old running around the house, she uses per phone as the primary device for doing email and calendaring tasks rather than her desktop computer. 99.9% of the time, that works really great. But when you rely on The Cloud and something goes wrong, it can seriously mess things up - for some odd reason back in early November the phone stopped synching with 4smarpthone. That means no new email, no ability to add or edit new calendar items, etc. Texting and contacts still worked just fine, but without access to email, the phone was of little use to my wife. Now, unlike my Web site accounts which reside on the server I rent, when something goes wrong with 4smartphone, there's nothing I can do about it other than ask someone in tech support what's going on. And of course, I have to use a different email address than the primary address, because that's broken.</p><p>4smartphone tech support wasn't sure what was going on; I tried everything I could think of, even going to far as to hard reset the phone, which allowed me to re-establish the partnership from scratch. It still didn't work. Frustrated, I gave up at the end of the day. The next morning, amazingly, everything was working again. I didn't change anything, but the phone was once again synchronizing with the Exchange server. Undoubtedly, someone at 4smartphone did something - perhaps fixed something they broke - but the end result was the same without The Cloud, my wife couldn't do what she needed with her phone.</p><p>When it comes to email, virtually all of us rely on The Cloud in some fashion - because unless you're running your own mail server on a computer you have physical access to, your email for all intents and purposes is in The Cloud. Some people take it a step further though, storing all their documents, music, photos, videos, etc. purely in The Cloud - there's no local storage of those things. That's the part of The Cloud that I can't get behind; I value my files/data too much to ever trust someone else to take care of it. Sure, I use <a target="_blank">Mozy</a> [Affiliate] to back up my data, but it's not my sole backup - and I'd never dream of having only one copy of something. Every single one of <a href="http://www.youtube.com/thoughtsmedia" target="_blank">my nearly 200 videos uploaded to YouTube</a> exist as a backup copy on my Windows Home Server and an external hard drive - and then also on Mozy. And when it comes to getting work done, even if I lose Internet access completely, I have all my offline email, contacts, documents, etc. so I can keep working. When you rely on The Cloud for all of that, you're almost useless when your data connection to The Cloud breaks.&nbsp;The Cloud is good at a lot of different tasks, but being the sole repository for your data isn't one of those things.</p><p>Don't get me started on cloud-based programs that require large data uploads before anything useful can be done - are you really any further ahead on editing your photos using a cloud-based service when you have to upload every 4 MB file before you can edit them? Cloud-based video editing solutions are even more ridiculous. Sure, this problem will be solved eventually, but with ISPs the world over putting the choke-hold on upstream bandwidth (either through low upload speeds, data caps, or both) it's not going away any time soon.</p><p>Where are you at on "The Cloud Continuum"? Do you use it for anything, everything, or something in between?</p><p><em>Jason Dunn owns and operates&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.thoughtsmedia.com/" target="_blank">Thoughts Media Inc.</a></em><em>, a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://photos.jasondunn.com/" target="_blank">photography</a></em><em>, mobile devices,&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.jasondunn.com/" target="_blank">blogging</a></em><em>, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, his wonderful son Logan, and his sometimes obedient dog. He's going to scream if he has to write The Cloud one more time in this article.</em></p><p><em></em><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//ppct/auto/1240336793.usr1.gif" /></p><p><strong>Do you enjoy using new hardware,&nbsp;<a class="iAs" href="http://www.digitalhomethoughts.com/news/show/93798/dell-s-inspiron-mini-10-reviewed.html" target="_blank">software</a>&nbsp;and accessories, then sharing your experience with others? Then join us on the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thoughtsmedia.com/reviewteam.php" target="_blank">Thoughts Media Review Team</a>! We're looking for individuals who find it fun to test new gear and give their honest opinions about the experience. It's a volunteer role with some great perks. Interested?&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thoughtsmedia.com/reviewteam.php" target="_blank">Then click here for more information.</a></strong></p><p><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com//ppct/auto/1240336793.usr1.gif" /></p>
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  #2  
Old 01-18-2011, 06:57 PM
hummingbirdhill
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Default Clouds drift with the wind . . .

Yo, Jason, I completely agree with all you have written. Regarding my data, I'm truly a local yokel. As a college professor, I've too much to lose in lectures, research, personal writing, to trust my stuff to a cloud. Have you noticed how thin and transparent many clouds are? The term "cloud" makes me think "wishy-washy with the signal" rather than "reliable."

This is the sole reason I expect to jump from my WinMob HTC Fuze to the froyo android HTC Inspire as soon as the latter becomes available (rather than to a Win 7 Phone).

The HTC Inspire, I understand, is to have direct syncing with desktop pc Microsoft Office docs and email--just the thought of which makes me grin.
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:36 PM
Joe Johaneman
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I use the cloud in a few ways. I use dropbox to sync files between machines. I use CrashPlan to back up my hardrive. I use Google Contacts to backup my contacts. I use a few cloud services like Flickr and Picasa to store photos.

I never rely on the cloud for any of that data. I have it all locally as well, and it's all backed up to a local hard drive. I generally have 3 copies of everything: The original, the hard drive backup, and the Crashplan backup. Some files are also backed up to other machines in the house.

I use the cloud, but I don't depend on it. I hate the term cloud anyhow. There have been cloud services forever (IMAP email comes to mind), but we never called them cloud services. *sigh*
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:40 PM
Fritzly
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For our company we have server in the office running Exchange etc., etc. We have three different local backups and nothing in the cloud.

For my personal things I do the same: no clouds. I have WHS at home and all my data is stored there plus I have two external HDs for backup.

And I agree with you about ISP: we are witnessing one of the biggest scam attempts in history: people are lured to do everything online: music subscriptions, movies streaming, pictures stored online somewhere etc. etc. Once people will fall in the net ISP will strangle them and we will see a return of the old "Compuserve mantra" with "premium" charges to access certain services etc.
Granted in the long term ISPs will have to revert to a regular subscription model but in the meantime they will make tons of money.

In spite of my frustration I am patiently waiting to see if MS will offer a desktop sync for WP7; if they will not in June or July when the iPhone 5 will become available it will be either Apple or Android.

Maybe because I am old and as I stated I remember the Compuserve time but the cloud is not for me.
 
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Old 01-18-2011, 08:51 PM
Brad Adrian
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Im with you guys. The ONLY use I have for The Cloud is for occasional synching files across devices...But that's SYNCHING only of backed-up data. No matter how trusted the ISP or Keeper of the Cloud, I'll never trust anyone 100%.

That's why I always laugh when I see Microsoft's "To the Cloud...!" commercials. Streaming through the cloud is okay, but my valuable data gets backed up locally...to two separate servers.

My friends and family think I'm just an uber-geek gone nuts...But I've not suffered an unrecoverable data loss in years and years.

Nice photo, BTW. Ansel Adams, isn't it?
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Old 01-18-2011, 08:51 PM
Tim Williamson
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Nice commentary Jason. I'm one of the partial-cloud people.

I use Gmail to host my email, calendar, and contacts. And recently I've started to use Google Docs (as much as I can) for saving and editing various documents and spreadsheets.

Convenience is the name of the game for me. I'm at my work computer 10x the amount of time that I'm at my home computer. Having my calendar/contacts/email/docs hosted means I can always access the latest version of all my data instantly from any place with an internet connection (or from my phone).

With my calendar/contacts/email in the cloud, I always know that if I lose/break my phone the data is still easily available and syncable with virtually any smartphone out there. Or I can access it from the web if I immediately need the information.

Don't get me wrong though, my photos/videos are still living on my home computer (backed up to Mozy and an external drive).

I've been very happy with Google and can think of only rare occasions where my data wasn't accessible. It really comes down to selecting a cloud service that will be around for years to come, and that has manpower to handle issues that crop up.
 
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Old 01-19-2011, 04:36 AM
Janak Parekh
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If you're a power user, you probably like having local control of your data, and more importantly, you know how to do it.

But for the average user, do you trust them to backup properly? Keep their machine in good shape to avoid data loss? What do you think the uptime is of a typical cheap desktop compared to the cloud? Jason, when your mail server goes down, you know specific people to ask, but are you going to ssh into your server and do low-level debugging?

I think a distinction needs to be made between power users/system administrators and average end-users when discussing this question.

--janak
 
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Old 01-19-2011, 07:57 PM
Jon Childs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Janak Parekh View Post
If you're a power user, you probably like having local control of your data, and more importantly, you know how to do it.

But for the average user, do you trust them to backup properly? Keep their machine in good shape to avoid data loss? What do you think the uptime is of a typical cheap desktop compared to the cloud? Jason, when your mail server goes down, you know specific people to ask, but are you going to ssh into your server and do low-level debugging?

I think a distinction needs to be made between power users/system administrators and average end-users when discussing this question.

--janak
I have to agree with Janak here. I am big user of gmail, which I am sure is designed for much more uptime than anything I could put together. If something goes wrong with my local email server then its my problem. I think I would much rather have the story be on the front page of Digital Home Thoughts/Engadget and have 1000 guys with PhDs working on fixing any issue than me personally.

For files sure, I have a three tiered backup system that ends online, but for stuff that needs to go through the cloud to get to me I think someone like google can do a much better job than I can personally.
 
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Old 01-19-2011, 09:08 PM
Janak Parekh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Childs View Post
I have to agree with Janak here. I am big user of gmail, which I am sure is designed for much more uptime than anything I could put together. If something goes wrong with my local email server then its my problem. I think I would much rather have the story be on the front page of Digital Home Thoughts/Engadget and have 1000 guys with PhDs working on fixing any issue than me personally.
For the record, I used to maintain my own server for many years. Despite the control it gave me, I found it too much of a hassle and stressful for the applications I wanted. In particular, there were four things:

1. Backup is a surprisingly hard problem to get right. For example, it's easy to make local backups to disk. But: off-site backups? What happens if there's a fire or water damage? Do I start remembering to shuttle tapes or disks? Oh, and buying extras of those isn't cheap.

2. Updates. Keeping it up-to-date in the face of Internet threats. This sounds easy, but what happens when your server software is deprecated? Then you have to reinstall your server.

3. Outages. What if the machine's hard disk seized up one day? Backups are great, but until I sat down and reinstalled it, I was offline.

4. Upgrades. The machine started getting too slow, the disk started filling up. On the software side, I wanted to add SSL support, but that took hours and hours to get right on my Linux box, and even then self-signed. Spam filtering was never going to be as good as commercial cloud implementations, even after many hours tweaking SpamAssassin. IMAP incompatibilities between WM and my server were brutal, because neither Microsoft nor the server vendors would test with each other. I spent years getting that right. Alternatively, I could have gotten Windows Server + Exchange, but...

5. Cost. Windows Server costs a dear fortune to set up, especially for a personal server. As a consequence, when Exchange ActiveSync push became a possibility, I sat on my hands, because I didn't want to ditch my free Linux setup.

Now, I use three main cloud systems:

1. Gmail for my email across all my devices, including Exchange push;
2. Dropbox for my files;
3. MobileMe for address/cal/etc. sync.

I find that this combination works well for me. Sure, the power user in me would love to have a mail service that's under my control, but for now, I find myself happier not worrying about all of the aforementioned issues. I accept the cost that the cloud will sometimes go down as a consequence, because I know I had many more hours in outages when I ran my own setup.

--janak
 
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  #10  
Old 01-19-2011, 10:24 PM
Jason Dunn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad Adrian View Post
Nice photo, BTW. Ansel Adams, isn't it?
How flattering - but, no, it's a photo I took and did some editing to.
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