Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cloud Computing is Dangerous

In about 25 years from now I can imagine having a conversation with my kids that goes something like this.

"Son, back in my day we used to store all our data on a single computer." My son in turn says, "Dad, that's crazy, I have every song I've ever listened to and every movie I've ever watched on my brand new ibrain, anytime anywhere" and I say "Worse yet, we had to return to that computer in order to access those files, in the snow, without shoes on..." (You get the idea)

Although I'm partly kidding, for most this how personal computing still works. Ask anyone who's ever lost a hardrive and they will tell you that your data is your life and for the most part your life is stored on a single computer. If you lose that computer, you lose, well, your data. (No dramatics sorry) This begs the question, wasn't the emergence of cloud computing supposed to help solve these types of problems? Isn't cloud computing supposed to be the answer to all our problems?

I'm here to tell you. Hell No! Cloud computing is Dangerous!

Helping bring this danger to the forefront was the announcement last week that a division of Microsoft ironically called Danger Inc had likely lost all the contacts, photos and other personal data for users of the T-Mobile Sidekick. Pretty bad, huh? What was worse is this cloud service was a manditory requirement for using the Sidekick service. If you wanted to use a Sidekick you had no choice but to use this sadly lacking excuse for a hosted data service.

Although many of the cloud pundants out there will try to tell you that the Sidekick service isn't a cloud application. Let's call it what it is, it's a cloud app -- your data when using a Sidekick is hosted in some elses data center. In the most basic terms, if I choose a device such as a mobile phone that requires me to use some elses data centers for storing my personal data, I expect it to be at the very least backed up automatically, and preferably I should have the ability to do so myself. It appears that neither was an option for T-Mobile Sidekick customers. This failure hits at the heart of why interoperability and data portability is so important. It comes down to bad things happen and I should have the ability to take the data that is mine if I choose to do so, easily.

Over the last few days I've read a number of articles that point out that this cloud failure means the end of cloud computing. Let me remind you that failures happen and it happen all the time. There are whole groups at major manufacturers devoted to it, on purpose. Whether it's on your desktop, in your data center or in the cloud. To fail is human. But to be prepared is noble.

The best and easiest way to be prepared for the inevitable failures that will occur is to rely on services that allow for portability. Make sure you have a clear exit strategy before you choose a cloud service provider and avoid the ones that attempt to lock you in. At the end of the day it's up to you to make sure you don't get Sidekicked (in the face or otherwise).

Again, for those of you effected by the Danger Inc failure, my deepest sympathies are with you, you deserve more. You deserve your life back, or at the very least your data.

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