PCMag today has a nice article geared toward consumers looking to store their information in the cloud, asking cloud providers to answer eight questions that boil down to where is my data and how safe is it. Most of us already have our photos on Flickr […]

PCMag today has a nice article geared toward consumers looking to store their information in the cloud, asking cloud providers to answer eight questions that boil down to where is my data and how safe is it. Most of us already have our photos on Flickr and Picasa, and others are using cloud-based web apps such as Gmail, but I bet few of us actually know where that data is stored (question 1) or have a way to get help when things go down (question 2).

Reading the article, I realized that the underlying issue with many web apps and cloud offerings, are that some of the largest providers are not in the service industry. Microsoft sells software and Yahoo and Google sell ads. But to provide cloud computing, storage or applications involves providing a service — it puts the “S” in SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. Being a service provider comes with certain expectations, such as offering limits on the amount of data one can store (question 6) and clear knowledge of what happens to data should a consumer forget to pay a bill or log on for a few months (question 8).

If I think about my utility service, I know who to call when it goes out, what happens if I don’t pay my bill, and how the utility service makes money from providing me with electricity. With web services, especially free ones, none of these things are clear. If consumers are going to rely on web apps from software, search and portal companies, they need to recognize that these services are window dressing to get them onto a site or chained to other products. Then they need to protect their data themselves.

  1. As important as that is, I think most internet users will take that for granted. That kind of assurance just isn’t necessary at the moment. When Facebook or Flickr loses people’s stuff, then maybe we’ll see that change.

  2. Smart SaaS providers should be leveraging their communities to pick up the slack. For every web 2.0 app I’ve ever used, I’ve found at least one – often multiple – “mavens” who have advice, know the keyboard shortcuts, the cool little features… and the potential pitfalls.

    The average consumer doesn’t always have the time and inclination to seek these people out, but they’re out there. The SaaS provider may not have the time and resources to provide the same full-service as more expensive alternatives, but they DO have one form of very valuable capital: the power of distribution. If hundreds of thousands of people come to your company’s site, you linking to a community member gives them exposure they would’ve had to work months or years for.

    Of course, there’s work involved in maintaining your community and risk when “non-official” people speak for you – but they will anyways, and the alternative is losing your customers to the full-service alternative (OR the tiny scrappy company who does community better than you.)

  3. while the questions & your commentary are valid in concept, we need to remember the pricepoint we have chosen for ourselves: gmail is free, and offers no SLA nor customer support. Basecamp changed the project management game partly from using an online collaborative model, but also partly from reducing project management software (ie. MS Project) from $300++ a seat to $10-50/mo for the entire team. This shift is at least partly the result of the incredibly bad support that most traditional software companies offered during the 80s & 90s… we – as consumers – realized we had to depend on ourselves for technical support… and so the web 2.0 companies filled a new niche: you can have the software for (close-to-) free, but no service, no contracts, no suing us… I for one, much prefer this model.

  4. this reminds of a quote by some ceo. “customer expectations are exceedingly unrealistic and its OUR duty to
    surpass expectations every time”.. (or something in that style) Once you “made music free” by sharing via P2P
    the music market collapsed, we keep devaluing our value chains to re innovate or remarket services/products..
    its our “WAY OF LIFE”…

  5. Stacey,

    Perhaps you can try to find the answers to these questions for us from the leading providers of these services? Would be a nice follow-up article.


  6. Actually, andjules, you can get affordably priced, per-seat, subscription based project management with great stuff like Outlook integration and automated to-do reminders and also get great support. Project Insight has a customer base that raves about their service.

  7. I wrote this article last september and I suppose it is pretty exhaustive.


  8. [...] Web Apps Suck at Service [...]

  9. [...] (or are dying) at one of the leading Internet companies, more and more questions have arrived about web apps and their reliability. That’s especially the case of those examining cloud storage and the much touted [...]

  10. My concern isn’t really that the apps aren’t intuitive for workable, it’s that over time I wonder about how safe my identity. How dedicated are they to digital security. That’s my main priority. After that, then the fun.



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