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Cloud Trust



Xavier asks how much do we trust the cloud. My answer is a simple one. I trust the cloud as much as I trust the hard drive on my computer. As much as I trust the external drives that I back up to. I trust the cloud as much as I trust my car to get me to and fro. I trust the cloud as much as I trust my coffee maker to reliably have coffee ready in the morning.

Basically I trust the cloud as much as I trust anything that has anything to do with anything mechanical or electrical. Meaning, I have to have more trust in myself to not become too reliable and complacent with any device or technical solution. Somewhere, somehow, something is going to fail. Nothing lasts forever and if folks aren’t smart enough to back up their data on any device (cloud-centric or otherwise) then perhaps they deserve what they get when a device fails, or the cloud melts into vapor. The T-Mobile Sidekick episode leaves me shaking my head. Sure, it is a disaster that it happened, but the user is ultimately at fault when it comes to his or her data loss. It’s no different than having a fire in your home and being caught up short because you don’t have your important documents in a firesafe or stored somewhere else.

Call me a grouch on this one, but if the data is that important to a user, the user needs to take steps to preserve it. Redundancy is the key. Last night at our  party following the opening night for Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure at Wayside Theatre cameras were flashing as usual as everyone was taking pictures of each other.  One of our interns was showing off pictures he’d taken since the season began. I asked him if he ever dumped them to his computer or online, and he said he didn’t. All well and good. They are on a memory card of some kind, but what happens if that card goes bad or he loses the camera? A half season worth of memories goes down the tubes. With online services for data readily abundant, making redundancy extremely easy,  I think the responsibility begins with the user.



  1. Sam Johnston

    10/12/2009 at 7:46 am

    Hello again – long time no see.

    A few quick comments:
    – Sidekick was not cloud.
    – Open Cloud (that is, Open Formats & Open APIs) could have saved Sidekick’s skin.
    – But users are lazy so replication should be transparent – for example by pushing to Amazon S3 and/or maintaining a fully fledged local copy.


  2. ben

    10/12/2009 at 8:21 am

    Wow. Sounds like a riff going on with the GBM staff. Keep it behind the scenes guys.

  3. Sam Johnston

    10/12/2009 at 8:37 am

    Who ever said that journalists have to agree with each other? I’m far more likely to trust a publication that promotes critical discussion than one where everyone tows the company line…


  4. cybertactix

    10/12/2009 at 8:41 am

    Warner, I could not agree more that the user is ht eone who is ultimately responsible for ensuring their data is backed up. As I say in my blog ( “Given the relatively low cost per gigabyte of storage devices today, and the breadth of available devices (Apple’s Time Machine, external USB drive) there is no reason not to have backups of your data.”

  5. Warner Crocker

    10/12/2009 at 8:45 am

    @ben, I wouldn’t call it a riff. We all see many issues differently and express ourselves accordingly.

  6. Fleon

    10/12/2009 at 9:06 am

    I think both of you have left out a critical consideration; you both talk about how much you should trust the cloud as a backup and redundancy solution but fail to address the more shocking issues of cloud privacy.

    If I put sensitive files on an external hard drive and leave it at my house, I can be fairly comfortable that no one will be able to access that data. In the cloud, we have seen numerous examples of techniques from the simple to the complex that have affected Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter- the list could go on and on.

    As to your point, I agree. Free cloud services shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than yet another external backup solution. Paid solutions are a different matter entirely- I don’t view them any differently than I see my multi-million dollar in-house SAN contracts. I should be able to rely on them because data protection and redundancy is their job. It’s what I pay them to do. I chose them because I didn’t have the resources/knowledge base to do it myself.

  7. Sam Johnston

    10/12/2009 at 9:30 am

    Privacy is important, but not the subject of today’s debate – plus there are both technical and non-technical solutions to the problem.

    I don’t accept your claim about there being a significant difference between free and paid cloud services however. If I let the public onto my property I want to be damn sure it’s safe whether or not I hit them with a cover charge.


  8. Xavier

    10/12/2009 at 9:41 am

    @Ben No riff in sigh :-) We all have different backgrounds and I enjoy participating in lively debate.

  9. Dodot

    10/12/2009 at 9:46 am

    Well put Warner, I think we have basically the same opinion about this.

    Mistakes will happen because no design is without imperfections. The key is trying to be as aware of the risks as possible and thus being able to make informed decisions on the consumption of services. There will always be a risk:reward tradeoff.

    But then again sharing your files to somebody else from your hard drive will be more time consuming than from the cloud. Privacy is also something that can be traded away in increments for something else – we are after all social beings right? :) I’m not exactly disagreeing about the importance of privacy, mind you, just pointing out that 100% privacy would be tantamount to living alone on a desert island. ;)

  10. Genghis Khent

    10/12/2009 at 9:48 am

    Grouch! (OK, I said it). But you’re right of course. As one of our past presidents said (in a different context): “Trust, but verify.”

  11. SAM

    10/12/2009 at 10:36 am

    I must be old fashioned, but it’s hard to trust
    something you can’t see, with sensitive/private information.

    Where are your files really stored?
    On a server in the Bahamas, India, China,
    Nome Alaska, or Granny’s garage?

    How do you know that someone there isn’t “monitoring”
    your files for supposed “objectional” content.
    The temptation to sell information to a third party
    is there.

    Pictures of your vacation, fine.
    Emails to your Granny, fine.
    Private Business contracts or projects, not fine.

    I posted a drawing years ago to a “private site”.
    I still see the picture today on the internet
    floating around on various blogs,forums, and websites.
    This was supposed to be a “secure, private” site.
    So things do find a way out to the internet?

    Sure. someone can break into our office and steal the
    files, but they have to physically be in there. And
    we know they’ve been there.

    The “cloud”, who knows who’s been snooping or scrounging
    around your files…

    How’s that for paranoia?

  12. Sam Johnston

    10/12/2009 at 11:01 am

    So encrypt it…

  13. Stuart

    10/12/2009 at 3:48 pm

    I really don’t trust “the cloud” for anything important. The unfortunate thing about the sidekick incident is that there was really not a good way to deal with the problem as an end user once it was discovered. If your device ran out of power you were out of luck. That is why I personally prefer having local storage for my apps and other things. Web access is NOT ubiquitous or always available. Maybe this will make people determine how they want to use their mobile devices and what type of backup they want. It reminds me of the financial crisis where everyone trusted the “experts” but it is the individual’s money that was lost.

    I’m not saying don’t trust cloud computing. But do your research and make sure you test out contingency plans before you need them.

  14. GoodThings2Life

    10/12/2009 at 6:28 pm

    Warner, I simply could not have put it better. Every word you said is exactly how I feel on the matter.

  15. GoodThings2Life

    10/12/2009 at 6:46 pm

    @Sam Johnston,

    I disagree with your definition. You’re really trying to narrow the scope of definition just to prove your point about the OpenCloud concept. A cloud service is simply one that syncs your data to a remote service… it includes services like Facebook, MySpace, and any number of other services from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, AOL and others.

    I do agree that any number of solutions could have prevented the failure including but not limited to your Open Cloud suggestion and/or the folks at Danger doing the intelligent thing of making proper backups. However, you could have made the point without the narrow definition.

  16. Medic

    10/13/2009 at 3:40 am

    I trust the cloud as much as the fact of an electric grid fall out, knowing I have a torch, spare batteries and candles in the home.

  17. Sam Johnston

    10/13/2009 at 3:58 am

    @Medic: Exactly.

  18. Sumocat

    10/13/2009 at 6:51 am

    @Ben, Warner, Xavier: It’s “rift” with a “t”. :)

    And I third the notion that there is no rift. I believe one of GBM’s founding principles was the expression of different, even conflicting, approaches and ideas.

    As for trusting the cloud, I don’t trust anything. I keep local copies of everything and backup regularly. The exceptions are my GBM blog entries (everything else I blog has a copy of the key content elsewhere) and media I rip from physical copies (the physical acts as the backup).

  19. Warner Crocker

    10/13/2009 at 9:23 am

    Nah, this is more a riff than a rift. ;)

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