Storm in the Cloud

Storm in the Cloud

I must confess I’d pretty much forgotten about the T-Mobile Sidekick. Some time ago, it seemed to be popular with the younger set as a texting and communication toy – I vaguely recollect my daughter telling me she wanted one, but iPhones and other cool devices consigned the Sidekick lust to history.

A while ago, the maker of the SideKick, Danger Technologies, was purchased by Microsoft and that’s the last I heard of it.

Until this weekend; when it was announced that Microsoft/Danger had gone and lost a lot of their user’s data while trying to complete a network upgrade.

The Sidekick is actually a clever little device – it is a cellphone with a slide-out keyboard that basically acts as a dumb terminal for applications hosted on Danger’s servers, it’s a cloud computing device that’s been around since before the term was fashionable. All the user’s data such as contact lists, text messages etc, is also stored on those servers.

Cloud computing has been around a while now and is growing rapidly. Until now, the biggest objections to the concept seem to have been related to privacy concerns and downtime. I don’t think anyone seriously thought cloud computing providers would just lose all the data.

Now that the unthinkable has actually happened (whoever would have thought that Microsoft of all organizations wouldn’t take the trouble to have a proper backup plan?) I thought it would make sense to look at my own exposure to the cloud and what I can do to make sure my stuff is safe.

There are a number of cloud computing companies that have some of my files.

Gmail – I’m a big user and have a ton of information stored there. I’d hate to lose all of this and currently take care of Google to take good care of my data. A copy of all my WordPress database backups live in Gmail as attachments.

Google Docs – I use this for a number of tasks including a lot of our business marketing files. I do have a lot of these files on local computers

Google Calendar – my life is run from here, but I also have local backups by syncing with Outlook.

All of the finished photo images from our wedding photo business are hosted by SmugMug which in turn keeps them on the Amazon S3 service. There have been a few outages with the system – more of an inconvenience than anything. Until this week it had not occurred to me that there was a risk of all this being lost.

I have a fair bit of information stored in my Todledoo  account, mainly notes and tasks to complete. On the whole this isn’t critical for me, just as well since Todledoo uses servers at Rackspace which for some reason has never provided me the warm and fuzzies.

Now this one does worry me because I don’t know enough about this company to have real confidence that my data is safe. I became a LiveDrive client when it became clear GDrive wasn’t coming anytime soon and I wanted big online stoage.

I have a lot of data backed up there, RAW images from my wedding shoots, archived images, my music files, my “MyDocs” folder, WordPress database and file backups.

On the face of it, LiveDrive offers a nice unlimited on-line storage solution at a great price. However it isn’t always available and looking in their forums shows a lot of unhappy customers. Some of the advertised service, such as being able to use LiveDrive as my iTunes folder just don’t work at all.

For the photo business, LiveDrive is convenient, but everything is backed up in a couple more places. like I say, I really don’t have the confidence that the company will be there in the long term.

You might think I’m am idiot for using LiveDrive if I’m uncertain of the service (you might be right), but I do only use it for backup, not as primary storage.

A while ago I opened an account here (mainly because EMC is a company I’d totally trust with my data storage). Problem with Mozy is that it is backup rather than storage – if a file is removed from my hard drive it’s removed from the Mozy drive too (after a bit of a delay) which is not really what I wanted.

I still have the acocunt – because it is cheap – and files are backed up everyday. I jsut don’t know which ones. I probably should pay more attention.

Tracking and Traceability.
Two of the software companies we work with, BellHawk and Mobia have a cloud computing model for keeping track of clients assets and other items. While there are certainly some big advantages in a client not needing a huge IT infrastructure, I don’t know where these guys are hosting the data or how safe it is.

Of all the companies, other than Mozy, the one I trust the most is Google. Well, I least I trust them not to lose my data, I fully expect them to ransack it for useful things they can use to help their advertising. Come to think of it, I would have trusted Microsoft as well – shows how little I know.

What about you? Do you have a big reliance on cloud computing and data storage? Has the Microsoft/Danger fiasco changed how you use these services?

Photo “It looks like rain” by Ian Boyd

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