To put it mildly, it's been a bad week for cloud computing. First of all word got out that Microsoft, the keepers of the data for users of Sidekick phones completely hosed the data. I mean kaput, gone, vanished. See you later, bye. If you don't have a back up, you are pretty much screwed because the keepers of the data have committed the ultimate sin and lost it.
Meanwhile, the The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that MobileMe might be having a data leak and letting people randomly see the contents of your address book. This is the kind of nightmare scenario that cloud computing naysayers always seem to bring up, but we quickly dismiss as not likely to happen. Well, it did happen and it happened twice in one week.
We're Not Talking an Outage Here
Last month, I made fun of they hysteria that developed when Gmail went down for a few hours in my post, The Day Gmail Stood Still: A Tale of Horror, but losing a service for a few hours is a minor annoyance. Losing your data? That's catastrophic and there is no sugar coating it. That these two cloud computing doomsday scenarios were perpetrated, not by some Mom and Pop cloud company, but by two of the largest computing organizations, Apple and Microsoft, makes the situation all that much worse.
Tough to Defend
As a fan of cloud computing, I tend to dismiss the control arguments I hear when people say they won't let their data out of their sight. The easiest argument here, which frankly is the one that vendors always seem to say, is that your data is probably safer with them than it is with you. After all they have fail-safe systems, back-ups of their back-ups and your data is safer with them because you won't be as thorough. What's more their reputation is on the line, right? If something like this happens, well their whole business model is basically up in smoke.
Apple and Microsoft Are Not Pure Cloud Vendors
If Google or Salesforce lost or leaked data in this fashion, it would be truly a monumental failure since this is what they do for a living. That it was Apple and Microsoft, is still horrible, but this is not their primary business model. They still sell other services, hardware, software and so forth. The cloud business is a sideline and maybe that's the problem.
As we navigate this new way of computing, let's not panic and throw the baby out with the bath water, but neither can we idly dismiss data backup and data leak concerns as the worries of control freaks. It's something we should all be concerned about. Something we should all be asking hard questions about and something we need to take much more seriously because next time, the data could be yours and it won't be so abstract. Remember it's ultimately your data and always make sure there is a way for you to back it up locally so that you have a copy too in case your vendor turns out to be someone incompetent, like say Apple or Microsoft.