There’s been some discussion about the possible “dangers” or problems of Cloud computing. Some of it, though not all, stems from Richard Stallman’s recent comments about the Cloud initiative. The primary concern is that one may lose control of one’s data, or be at the mercy of (or “locked in” to) a single entity.
To be sure, Mr. Stallman and others make valid points in that if you trust your data to the cloud, where is your control? Where are your options in case of failure? If the entity has a catastrophic error, you could be in a world of hurt.
I freely admit that for years my concern with the Cloud (even before it was called that) was very real. For example, I’ve had a Yahoo! email account for years, but always set my desktop client to download the messages and then delete them from the server. They were local on my primary machine only.
However, I’ve recently changed my mind and moved whole-heartedly to the Cloud, though not without some conditions that make it possible for me to feel a bit more comfortable with the move.
- Though my primary email is no longer Yahoo! (I use MobileMe), I still have all messages downloaded to my desktop client. However, I no longer delete them from the server, so that I may also access my email from my mobile device, the web, and even other desktop applications.
- I utilize iDisk, and have moved most of my data (see exceptions below) there. The beauty of iDisk is that it keeps a local copy on your desktop machine. I have this for my iMac and MacBook, so the data is actually in two locations as well as the Cloud. These all serve as multiple backups, but are automatically kept in sync as well. I have presentations, word processing, spreadsheet, PDFs, and other document types all stored there.
- I have also moved some pictures to iDisk. I used to have a project in Aperture called “Blog” that contained the many screenshots, quick pics, images from the web, etc. that I’d gather to use in blogs or other activities. Keeping this in Aperture didn’t make any sense, since launching the app to get at these was the equivalent of killing a fly with a sledgehammer. I exported them all to a folder on the iDisk and now have quick access across multiple machines to those as well.
- I use NetNewsWire for managing and reading 100+ feeds, but I use the option to store articles as HTML files locally. In this manner, I take advantage of NNW’s syncing so that I can read my feeds across multiple machines, but also don’t have to worry about losing an article I had flagged or clipped.
- I even moved my MT-NewsWatcher preferences folder to the iDisk. Now I can use that app on both Macs and keep my subscribed groups in sync.
If these various cloud servers blew up tomorrow, I’d lose nothing in terms of data I already possess. My email and data are already stored locally on two machines (and backed up via Time Machine as well). Likewise with NNW.
So what have I not moved to the Cloud? Two things:
- Media files. My iTunes library is 80GB, so it wouldn’t fit on my iDisk unless I shelled out extra cash for storage, and I’m not sure the payback would be worth it, even if performance considerations didn’t preclude it.
- Other pictures. Space is not an issue here (they’re JPEGs), however, I let Aperture manage my images. If I move the Aperture library to the iDisk, changing one picture would sync the whole thing. Ouch! I could export them all as a folder hierarchy to the iDisk and manage them as referenced images — and I haven’t totally ruled that out — but for now I just leave it like it is.
Bottom line for me is that most of my data (email, calendar, contacts, documents, PDFs, etc.) are in the Cloud. Yet, I access them via local desktop applications. Further, they’re stored locally on two machines, so I’m not subject to the vagaries, whims, or bad management of any Cloud entity. Best of all worlds, in my view.
Further, as I’ll describe in an upcoming article, syncing to the Cloud with MobileMe makes setting up a brand new Mac a breeze.