Why I Don't Trust the Cloud

Clouds“Cloud computing” has easily replaced “Web 2.0” as the current trendy buzzword. The state of California is even turning to it for government systems. I have to say, however, that I have serious reservations about heavily implementing cloud computing in my own work flow. I believe that cloud computing is the killer app of the future, but the future isn’t quite here yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I do make limited use of cloud computing applications, especially Gmail. But mostly, I don’t feel comfortable putting my entire computing life “in the cloud”. Here’s why.

Access. Putting all my data in the cloud means I need an Internet connection to be able to do my work. This limits the times and places that I can work, and makes it more difficult to develop a plan to keep my business running in case of a utility outage. I can’t complete work offline on my laptop’s battery power and then make a short visit to an Internet connection to upload it.

Backups. Very few cloud services provide for making a local backup of customers’ online data, leaving me to trust the service itself to do it. I prefer the security of having my own data backups.

Data Loss. One particular issue that I’ve experienced with cloud services is with those set to sync with other devices or services. If one of the sync locations experiences data loss, the other locations see the lost items as deleted and delete them from their storage as well. The multiple locations don’t act as a backup, because being synced makes them vulnerable to multiplying data loss that occurs at any one of the sync locations. So I have to keep data in an additional (not synced) location to have a true backup.

Service Stability. When I buy software for my computer, I have it for as long as it is compatible with my machine’s operating system. If the software’s designer goes out of business, I can continue using it. With SaaS cloud services, I am dependent on those services continuing to operate to be able to do my work. If a cloud service closes up shop, which has been known to happen literally overnight with startup companies, I can at the minimum experience work flow disruption and possibly total data loss. Even financially stable companies like Google sometimes discontinue SaaS products, forcing users to look for a replacement, and to find a way to port data between incompatible applications.

Privacy & Security. Last, but definitely not least, putting data in the cloud raises a whole host (pun intended) of security and privacy issues. It is easier to protect data that is held on a single local machine than it is to guard against breaches on a server-based cloud system. Having a public point of log-in raises the risk of security breach via compromised password, and data can also be breached in general server attacks, not even specifically targeted to your data.

Data held on someone else’s servers is also more vulnerable to being accessed legally by subpoena than data held on a local machine (which requires a search warrant to access). A cloud service usually has no reason to invest resources in fighting legal requests for data held on their service.

So for now, I’ll keep my data (or most of it) on the ground.

Do you trust the cloud?

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