Computer Tech

On-line storage – safe or not?

Cloud computing has become a major buzzword this year and entails the provisioning of application and storage services within a distributed system operating on the Internet. Think Google Apps ( Wave, Docs, GMail, etc. ), T-Mobile SideKick, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud ( EC2 )/Web Services, Salesforce, Bittorrent and many others. These can be put into the following categories:

  • peer-to-peer ( Skype, BOINC )
  • web applications ( Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube )
  • security services ( Messagelabs, Mimecast, Purewire, Scan Safe )
  • software as a service ( Google Apps, Zoho )
  • software + services ( MS On-line Services )
  • storage
    • content distribution ( Bittorrent, Akamai )
    • synchronisation ( Dropbox, Live Mesh )

The one big issue I have with these services is that you end up abdicating responsibility ( sort of ) for your data and services. There have been a number of high profile problems this year with cloud computing with 3 being discussed already in my blog this year ( Microsoft/Danger’s SideKick fiasco, Palm/Sprint’s webOS data loss and GMail’s numerous outages ).

So, do you depend on your service provider to provide you with invincible data integrity or do you take responsibility for your own data and services. Just because it’s someone else’s responsibility if you host with an on-line service, doesn’t mean it’s not an issue. The problem of data integrity and application availability is not solved with an on-line service, it’s simply moved elsewhere.

There are pros and cons each way, for running your own services and or using an Internet-based one. My personal view is that you can make use of on-line services however you also need to make provision for a failure of those services. It doesn’t matter who you are – failures happen and some of the largest companies in the world have had issues with both data and application services.

Get yourself one or two external USB Hard Disks, purchase ( or download ) a backup application and store your data on them. And do it regularly. That way you know you’ve done your duty and your data is ( generally ) safe. This way, someone else’s problem doesn’t become yours.