Friday, 29 April 2011

Head In The Clouds

Wow. Google had plans for a Dropbox or Skydrive of their own? So why haven't we heard about it?

Because it was shelved. It seems Google saw no point in a dedicated online file storage facility when cloud computing meant that files can be stored online when they are created or being edited in the cloud. Besides, said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome, "Files are so 1990s. I don’t think we need files anymore."

What? Not need files anymore? ...Why?

"Think about it," said Pichai in that article. "You just want to get information into the cloud. When people use our Google Docs, there are no more files. You just start editing in the cloud, and there's never a file."

Can you smell the hubris? If you can't, you'd at least feel it. Sometimes I feel these tech companies are a bit too heavy on the hard sell

Yes, we're all more mobile now, taking our tech with us everywhere. Batteries and data storage hardware are clunky, and it makes devices... less mobile. They're getting smaller, but they don't seem to be going away. So why not ditch the disk or flash memory altogether and store it in the "cloud"? In a decade or so we'll finally be making calls, taking pictures, ordering groceries, getting the latest news and Tasering snatch thieves with our watches.

Thing is, data still has to be stored. In hardware. Just not the ones we're carrying. It might not be called a "file" or look like a "file", but it's still data.

Handing over the responsibility and burden of keeping our data and keeping it safe to third-party providers may free us and our devices to do more of what we want, but the risks are also transferred there as well. Gmail has suffered outages before. Natural disasters have severed our tenuous connections to our data. And the millions of potential customer records concentrated in a few sites have proven too irresistible to cybercriminals, the way ants feel about picnic baskets.

Which is why I still keep physical backups - in more than one format - with me. I do save some data in the cloud, but I'd never rely on it entirely. The big cloud companies may have better, more secure facilities, but it isn't foolproof. And it's statements like Pichai's that make Murphy's ears itch.

Backing up one's files can be a pain, but the loss of data can be even more painful. Think Google, et al will set you free from caring for your own data? Get your heads - and at least one copy of your data - out of the clouds and back on earth. Even if one can build castles on clouds, the foundation, at least, has to be solid.


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