WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

Clouds are all the rage in technology, these days. Everyone's got a cloud. Everyone wants your data on their cloud. It's a selling point: hey, you don't have to waste your own hard drive space, multiple users can access data from multiple access points at any time, and you can get your data with little more than an internet connection. Sounds great, right?

Not to me.

King Cloud
Awww, but how could you not like this little guy?  

 

First of all, who ELSE has access to my data in the cloud? I need to clarify something here: I recognize that I'm vaguely wandering into "crazy conspiracy theory" territory here, but I'm not quite ready to move to a cabin in the woods and start taping twigs to bombs. I'm just pointing out that in exchange for the convenience of access everywhere and hard drive space or whatever, my data is stored in some ethereal server bank somewhere that's owned and maintained by someone else entirely. I'm not even worried about the illegal or illicit stuff I don't want people knowing about; what if I decide to branch out into a new retail venture that competes directly with one of the big cloud providers? Suppose I really luck out and come up with an amazing, innovative business strategy that redefines the way people do business online? What's to stop the cloud providers from dipping into my business files on their cloud server and seeing my secrets? What's to stop them from a completely-accidental-we-swear server failure that loses or corrupts my data? 

Thunder Storm Clouds
That idiot at Geek Squad said everything was fine.

But okay, fine. There are other options besides the big playas for clouds. And hey, why would they bother with whatever I'm doing? I'm the little guy. They'd rather collect their monthly fee than risk any sort of litigation, right? But it's 2012. We live in the era of cyber warfare. Hacktivism is becoming part of the lexicon. And again, I'm not saying I'm a target. I doubt various PDFs of RPG rule sets and dozens of unfinished short stories and scripts are high priority targets to any hackers. But why would I take my uninteresting documents and store them on some giant, nebulous cloud that makes a nice, large target for someone looking to impact the internet with an attack? What if I lose internet access? Well, if the files are on my computer I can still access and use them. If they're on the cloud they might as well be on the moon; I'm not going to be able to see them until I'm back online.

If my hard drive fails or I lose my data on my personal computer, I have limited options: I can try to fix it myself if I'm technologically-inclined enough (I'm not), I can cut my losses and replace the faulty computer, or I can pay somebody to try and fix/recover whatever went wrong. So what happens when the cloud fails? I get the online equivalent of a TV network's "TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES" sign and I'm left to fume as I wait for someone I don't know, who I can't contact, to fix a problem I don't even know about before I can access the data I trusted with them. And as more and more websites and companies move to clouds, the impact of a failure on the cloud's end reaches more and more people. One person's personal server going down is a problem for one person. A server going down in the cloud is a problem for hundreds or thousands of people. Is the savings on equipment, staff, and development worth the risk?

Here's where I get all Andy Rooney: I kind of like the idea of buying something and owning it. That's changed in recent years from buying a CD to buying a music file, but I can still see that progress bar tracking the file as it makes its way onto my computer. More and more frequently, though, I buy something only to be encouraged to store it with the people I bought it from. Just let me have the thing I paid for, or admit that I'm not actually buying the thing, I'm simply paying for access to it.

Feel free to correct me where I'm wrong. I fully admit that I'm coming at this from the viewpoint of a person who DOESN'T wrangle servers or data systems. Is the cloud worth it to you? 

 

Flickr photos (in order) King Cloud by Karen Ka Ying Wong and Thunder Storm Clouds by Per used under a Creative Commons License.

sgsax


quality posts: 5 Private Messages sgsax

I've been saying this ever since "The Cloud" was a shiny new buzzword. Usually followed by, "get off my lawn!"

lipophilia


quality posts: 11 Private Messages lipophilia

IF
1) you have a lightning fast connection that never goes down
2) you are too lazy or disorganized to do backups
3) you are on the road a lot and have so much data that you can't possibly carry that many flash drives
4) you are convinced that nobody could possibly hack the cloud where your stuff is
... then go for the cloud.

Otherwise, get a Tb drive (or more if you want to make redundant backups) and be that much of a luddite.

geekwhite


quality posts: 0 Private Messages geekwhite

And there's a risk somebody else might do something naughty on the same cloud you're using and you end up with nothing but a note from the FBI where your data should be. http://www.megaupload.com/

juniperlee


quality posts: 0 Private Messages juniperlee

I actually do hate the Cloud. I've been getting a lot of flack for not putting my stuff in the Cloud from people and from Apple with my Ipad. If it weren't a gift, I wouldn't even have it. I like owning my own things. If I drop the hard drive and it dies, my fault. If the Cloud loses my stuff and I scream, all I'll get is the tiny print that says in the event of lost stuff, not our fault.

danmcd674


quality posts: 0 Private Messages danmcd674

You missed the most obvious thing: what happens one day when you go to access your files on the cloud and discover that your storage provider is now going to charge you every time you access your files on their server?

It's no secret that media organizations like the MPAA and RIAA would love to be able to charge you every time you listen to a song or watch a movie/tv show/etc. When everyone starts keeping their files in the cloud it plays right into their hands. One day you go to listen to an album you "bought," and all you get is "That'll be $10 please."

Cloud storage is nice for backups, but that's about all.

dblegend


quality posts: 0 Private Messages dblegend

I couldn't agree more with everything said thus far... Glad to hear I'm not alone!

malkav11


quality posts: 9 Private Messages malkav11

I like cloud backups of my videogame saves. I like being able to redownload anything digital I have ever bought from any provider (if I can't do this, I won't shop there, hence why I stopped using iTunes a long time ago - I realize they'll let me do it now, but I'm out of the habit.). But at the same time, at the end of the day, I want it to exist on my end, too. Services like OnLive scare me, for example, because in their dystopian scenario, I have no access to the game I am paying for. I can't mod it, I can't run it offline, I am screwed if that server ever goes away. Sure, it has some minor convenience factors in terms of not having to keep my computer fully up to date hardware-wise, but it doesn't make the downsides worthwhile, and I sincerely hope I never see the day that a game releases only on a streaming service of that sort. (It should be neat for rental or demoing, though.)

dzeiger


quality posts: 2 Private Messages dzeiger

I recall an interesting case a while ago where someone running an adult site was arrested under obsenity laws--not the FBI or anything federal, but because some local prosecutor found out that the website host the site owner was using had a data center in the local town. So the prosecutor decided that because the physical servers were local, anything on those servers fell under local "community standards" clauses.

So if I put anything in the "cloud," do I have to know where all of those datacenters are and what the local laws are?

yardell


quality posts: 0 Private Messages yardell

WootBot,

I don't blame you at all for being leery of "The Cloud". Just the base premise of putting your data into the hands of others and trusting them to have it ready for you at any given moment can take a leap of faith. Especially if you have little to no idea of where "They" or "Their Servers" are. Still, with the right service and planning, you might find that the pros will match, if not outweigh, the cons.

I like Dropbox myself in that it's a semi-cloud service and it works with nearly anything. Yes, they hold my stuff on their own remote boxes for the web access convenience, but they're just copies. I still have my copies of the files on all of the systems I sync, and they don't go anywhere unless I specifically move them, internet or no internet. For the files that I insist on having near-anywhere access to, but am leery of throwing directly into the cloud , I use homemade encrypted folders with TrueCrypt.

For the record: I'm not a plant from Dropbox or some other outright champion of "The Cloud". I had all of you concerns and still do on a certain level. I'm just a guy that found a cloud setup that worked for me and though I'd share a bit of what I learned.

LukeDuff


quality posts: 3 Private Messages LukeDuff
What's to stop the cloud providers from dipping into my business files on their cloud server and seeing my secrets?



There are numerous technical solutions to this.

The premise of the question is kinda crap though. You have that security risk with any hosting provider or outsourced IT regardless of whether it's "the cloud" or not.

BC4L!

chicken0102


quality posts: 41 Private Messages chicken0102

I'm definitely anti-cloud and I love the Andy Rooney segment. Hackers are abundant these days on the web, some breaking in for info, some breaking in for the sheer joy and challenge of being able to do it. I have family that will not pay bills online because companies cannot always keep their customers' information adequately protected. You do not always know who is looking at any data at any given time. But back to the cloud matter. High speed internet is not available everywhere, whether through a cellular device, wi-fi, or a good old-fashioned ethernet cord. In rural areas, companies will not lay the infrastructure because it is not profitable, and alternatives can make you downright miserable (satellite internet with daily usage caps, anyone?). The helpless feeling of when the cloud breaks and you do not back up your files is like a twist on one of those tags you see in the gift shop: "I break, I cry; You break, I'm s*** out of luck."

abstraction21


quality posts: 0 Private Messages abstraction21

Coming from someone who works at a Cloud company, I'll say that storing data on a legitimate Cloud company is much safer than keeping the data on your machine. A recognized Cloud company will likely offer redundant backups which prevent you from losing data due to a crash in a server. The way it works is that the data is stored on several servers in different states or countries. So even if some crazy earthquake, nuclear bomb, or other random disaster strikes; the data will still be safe on a different server hundreds of miles away. Just a though.

Victor J.
IT Guy

hpygrl78


quality posts: 0 Private Messages hpygrl78

IDK. I guess if I happened to say, buy a product from someone *gmhummm* that used said cloud that happened to NOT be broken...I might be able to have an opinion on if i were to ihate them or inot. Get it? Get it?

arismella


quality posts: 16 Private Messages arismella
chicken0102 wrote:I have family that will not pay bills online because companies cannot always keep their customers' information adequately protected. You do not always know who is looking at any data at any given time.



Online billing can actually be a measure against identity theft. I worry more about the paper copies! But to each her own. We live in a sometimes scary digital age, but at least we live here together? Kumbaya, people. Kumbaya.

Gatzby


quality posts: 43 Private Messages Gatzby

I've kept my files online more or less since I had some space on a BBS. Sure, I don't store my financial data there or anything, but nothing truly bad has come from being part of the cloud... or leaving my machine permanently connected to the internet. Doesn't matter where your data is, you should try to minimize risk... which, yeah, maybe not storing your embarrassing Alf-erotic fiction there is a good start.

(Also, I love Dropbox too.)

Did you know shirt.woot ships internationally? Get you some!
Why do my posts always get deleted? -- Noise Reduction -- Try it in podcast format.
No, you can't have our iPod, keys, or Lego. Sorry.

kayladnd


quality posts: 1 Private Messages kayladnd

I hate the cloud too. Mostly for paranoid reasons... sort of the same reasons I try not to use a plastic card to pay for things...

The more the companies collect data on me, I feel the less options I am afforded. My husband wanted to share his iCalendar with me, and couldn't because I'm not on the Cloud, and he is.
Before the cloud existed we had no problems sharing our calendars so we could sync our lives together.

So now we have a magnetic calendar on our fridge - call it old fashioned... but all of us know what the other is doing on any given day. (take a picture of it if you need to take it with you)

I don't want my data in any storage facility that isn't in my home, pocket, or generally in the vicinity of me.
More over, it pisses me off that I am losing services I gladly paid Apple for and used greatly.

If you have so much data that you need to make room for it, well, you've probably got a storage unit with things you haven't looked at in years too. So stop collecting crap.

aggykat


quality posts: 0 Private Messages aggykat

i love cloud.... it makes it so i can grab all my amazon mp3s and ebooks directiy to my kindle fire

johnxx


quality posts: 0 Private Messages johnxx

I'm relatively in touch with tech stuff these days and I still don't really trust the cloud. It's not really related to paranoia about people looking at my files (they have very little incentive to do so). It's much, much more about the fact that companies operating "cloud" services tend to be hilariously short lived. Either they get tired of offering cloud services (HTC with their 'Sense' cloud storage), they get sued into oblivion (Megaupload) or they just go out of business (Peek's "lifetime" email service). That being said I still use cloud stuff for non-critical stuff: My savegames are on Steam, *copies* of my photos are on Flickr and I share documents on Google docs and articles on Google Reader.

As for email, files, photos, and music? Those go on my own local server or a VPS I rent. I realize most people aren't willing to go that far, but it works alright for me.

strawhousepig


quality posts: 60 Private Messages strawhousepig

I heard that. Which is why I DIM with a server at home.

What I dislike and distrust more is the new trend for websites and companies to ask for more personally identifiable information to help keep me and my identity "safer". /:|

Uh-huh. And what happens when they lose control of their database? No, we are not safer with more of our personal information being out of our control.

I just have to tell them to get ridiculous with themselves and leave me out of it.

theant


quality posts: 7 Private Messages theant

I think this is a perfect article, and I wish something like this would be published in a major newspaper or three.
The only changes I would suggest, is that clouds are usefull, as long as you do a couple of things.

1) treat them like offline storage (i.e. a flash drive that is not always connected to a computer. you will not be able to access the file when you need it most - refrence murphy's law)

2) regardless of if the data is sensitive or not, encrypt it (and I mean YOU encrypt it, don't let them do it, or they will be able to decrypt it also) then treat it as a random blob of bits. it will have absolutly NO meaning to anyone but you.

3) treat it as off-site backup. the ONLY thing you want to put in the cloud is something you have also stored locally. There is no good reason I can think of to have it stored ONLY in the cloud (unless you treat it as access, rather than ownership)

bogus


quality posts: 11 Private Messages bogus

I don't trust cloud computing...and I'm a web application developer. Reasons:

1. What happens when they pull the plug? There's no such thing as "always" on the internet, either it'll get hacked, the company will go out of business, get bought and shut down by a bigger competitor, whatever. All been done. This is also why I don't like how game companies are forcing Steam DRM on everyone even for single-player games.

2. Where's the beef? There aren't a lot of tangible applications where the cloud model is better, and for every legit reason there's ten shady services that don't work well but exploit the hype to make a fast buck.

3. Cloud computing is basically just a sexed-up reincarnation of the old mainframe/terminal architecture, especially the M$/Google vision where nobody really has physical software anymore and just rents it (for a monthly fee, natch). This puts all the cards in the hands of the service provider, and they *will* abuse it. Think "Origingate" was an epic clusterbomb? Just wait until people get locked out of their thin-client OS due to a server hiccup or being accused of something the establishment doesn't like.

4. Security/privacy. Large companies sell out their customers pretty regularly, the government has gifted itself near unlimited power to do whatever they want with any data they get thier hands on, and the post office has recently announce they're going to hand everyone's names and addresses over to their favorite junk mail houses. This doesn't paint a particularly rosy picture of a world where people can or should feel safe having all their stuff out where anyone with a little motivation can have a look.

bogus


quality posts: 11 Private Messages bogus
theant wrote:1) treat them like offline storage (i.e. a flash drive that is not always connected to a computer. you will not be able to access the file when you need it most - refrence murphy's law)

2) regardless of if the data is sensitive or not, encrypt it (and I mean YOU encrypt it, don't let them do it, or they will be able to decrypt it also) then treat it as a random blob of bits. it will have absolutly NO meaning to anyone but you.

3) treat it as off-site backup. the ONLY thing you want to put in the cloud is something you have also stored locally. There is no good reason I can think of to have it stored ONLY in the cloud (unless you treat it as access, rather than ownership)


Agreed 120%. Having a pocket datacenter is really the one area where cloud makes sense to the average user, but it should be an addition to, not a replacement of, the status quo.

Peschello


quality posts: 0 Private Messages Peschello

I understand the security concerns, so I won't make any argument there. But not wanting to use the cloud instead of your hard drive because you might lose internet access is like not wanting to use a computer instead of a typewriter to write something because the power might go out. Rejecting new technology because it isn't 100% reliable is not a good reason.

lroux


quality posts: 2 Private Messages lroux
Peschello wrote:I understand the security concerns, so I won't make any argument there. But not wanting to use the cloud instead of your hard drive because you might lose internet access is like not wanting to use a computer instead of a typewriter to write something because the power might go out. Rejecting new technology because it isn't 100% reliable is not a good reason.



Sorry, but the Cloud is NOT new technology. It is just old technology rebranded to sound cool (hosted computing, anyone?). There are many reasons that the original concept failed (many noted in this article and responses).

But this is a new generation, so perhaps they can either a) make it work this time or b) be more accepting of losing all their data. After all, these kids change cell phones like they do their jeans.

whosaprettypony


quality posts: 0 Private Messages whosaprettypony

Erebody just calm down. You are not so special that everyone is out to get you. Even if you think they are, the cloud can still be useful. Don't treat it as an extension if you hard drive, but as a separate space for back up. Good "back up theory" says to make a local copy and a copy in a different location, so if your house burns down, you're still covered. Or if the cloud blows up, still covered. And if you are afraid of hackers, don't put anything you are afraid of people knowing out there. But having a large back up space for pics/music/term papers... yes please.

bogus


quality posts: 11 Private Messages bogus

As an additional backup it isn't that big a deal, provided you follow theant's excellent suggestion of using your own encryption before uploading. The issue is more where the major players are trying to steer things, namely Google and Microsoft. They want to have *everything* be hosted and the users use thin clients to dial into their network to get things when, and only when, it's needed locally. Think Google Docs for all of your applications and utilities, including Windows itself. That's where there's major problems...

rmills24


quality posts: 0 Private Messages rmills24

You could solve a number of these problems by running your own 'private' cloud.
Basically just an offsite data centre but I don't see why you can't call it a cloud if you want, lots of people do.
You can virtualise and use cloud tools to make your hardware spend efficient while having full control over security, etc.
Also, aren't your Amazon overlords going to flog you for this post?

daughterjudy


quality posts: 2 Private Messages daughterjudy

Don't put anything in your cloud that you wouldn't put on Facebook.

jcolag


quality posts: 8 Private Messages jcolag

I'm anti-cloud, too, and have been since Sun tried to push it on us. Oh, gosh, everybody having lightweight terminals into a big computer owned by a large company where I rent time and space? What an innovative business model!

For, y'know, 1965. It's called a mainframe.

But I have other reasons to hate it. I'm a developer (non-cloud, though I do some web applications) and I see the business motivations.


  • If you don't own, you rent. Back when Sun was pushing, my secret minions at...a major microcomputer software manufacturer told me that, as soon as they could get the developers to stop laughing at how stupid the idea was, they wanted to roll out an Internet-only Office version where you paid a monthly subscription. It's predictable, recurring, infinite revenue that doesn't require marketing or new features.
  • Windows and then Linux did such a wonderful job (seriously) that the PC hardware industry is almost 100% commoditized, with lousy profit margins on almost any component or model. So "Post-PC" isn't a market trend so much as a prayer by manufacturers that we'll spend the same five hundred bucks on a hundred dollar tablet instead of a four hundred dollar PC. That requires the cloud.
  • It adds another point of failure. If I ever want to cancel my Internet service to see how long before the shakes set in, I can't, because all my data is there, rather than here. So I'd be locked in basically forever.
  • It's the perfect programming project for the uncreative. Online backups/cloud storage/synchronization/etc. are hard enough a thing to be interesting but not so hard to frustrate. So a lot of services (remember Hailstorm?) were just the same boring idea with a web interface. Admittedly, that's better than 1998 where most businesses were no idea with a web interface, though. So there's that.


So I don't find the whole thing trustworthy, even before we talk about security. The "essence" is to write some quick code that takes your money after convincing you it's more convenient.

That said, the "personal" cloud works for me. One of my first few Woots was...a "Seagate FreeAgent DockStar," which turns external drives into a file server (through their cloudy site or reflashing with other software that avoids it), and that works fine. In fact, if some popular deal-a-day site were to sell more of them or something equivalent, I have friends on the lookout for them and I want to mess with the innards more aggressively, so...

fishzine


quality posts: 0 Private Messages fishzine
rmills24 wrote:Also, aren't your Amazon overlords going to flog you for this post?



Was thinking the exact same thing!

thatheard


quality posts: 6 Private Messages thatheard
lroux wrote:Sorry, but the Cloud is NOT new technology. It is just old technology rebranded to sound cool (hosted computing, anyone?). There are many reasons that the original concept failed (many noted in this article and responses).

But this is a new generation, so perhaps they can either a) make it work this time or b) be more accepting of losing all their data. After all, these kids change cell phones like they do their jeans.



I think that's my biggest objection to this "cloud" thing. Everybody (read big companies) getting all excited about what boils down to an old fashioned file server. W00t. (no relation) You gave a file server a sexy name. IT'S STILL A FILE SERVER!!! So same arguments apply from any other online storage. Or am I missing something?

Jason Toon


quality posts: 19 Private Messages Jason Toon

For me, the problem is the numerous points of failure cloud-storage introduces.

I've owned enough crappy cars where the power windows were broken, so the windows wouldn't roll down, unless I wanted to spend hundreds of dollars getting it fixed. Gee, thanks for the "convenience"!

I always have two external hard drives with my stuff backed up to them. One fails every few years, so I buy a new one. I don't lose any data because it's just one of two copies. Not a big deal, not a big expense, I can always get to my data. I don't see what "the cloud" has to offer that's any better.

Jason Toon


quality posts: 19 Private Messages Jason Toon
Peschello wrote:Rejecting new technology because it isn't 100% reliable is not a good reason.



It is when you already have a solution to the problem that is much closer to 100% reliable: keeping your own backups.

I would say: rejecting existing technology simply because it isn't "new" is not a good reason.

bogus


quality posts: 11 Private Messages bogus

In fairness to cloud storage, it does have you covered if your house burns down. Unless you keep backup USB sticks in a fireproof safe as I do. But then it's got you covered it a tornado or flood totally pwns everything, which does happen.

sleetish


quality posts: 2 Private Messages sleetish

"Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it ;)"
-Linus Torvalds 1996

anachostic


quality posts: 4 Private Messages anachostic

Here's my contribution to the conspiracy theory:

There is a race for companies to get everyone into the cloud and get them dependent. Especially governments and businesses - i.e. cloud computing.

Once everyone has their data and applications in the cloud, the hosting companies can be as financially reckless as they want. The governments won't let them go out of business either because they have all their data tied up with the hosting company, or their constituents have all their data there and are defecating bricks.

That, is how you become too big to fail.

dedicateddad


quality posts: 6 Private Messages dedicateddad

What you're missing is that *REAL* cloud storage is distributed in the same way that RAID is distributed, only better!

Your files aren't on a file server - parts of them are on numerous file servers.

If one - or even SOME - of them go offline for whatever reason, the software managing the distribution can rebuild the missing parts from parity info stored on the still-accessible servers.

THIS is a reason to love the cloud!

Brisc


quality posts: 0 Private Messages Brisc

This is a pretty naive, almost to point of ignorant, way to perceive cloud based technology. You understand that cloud computing has been around for ages, right? There are simply easier ways of distributing your data to your many platforms nowadays.

If your biggest fear is that your data will be compromised then I'd highly suggest going back to pen and paper; email is replicated dozens of times across many servers for backup purposes as well as so you can connect to the closest server cluster and get your mail faster. Oh, and let's not forget online banking, which can be compromised just as easily as any popular cloud solution.

As for introducing fees, it's not as if you sign up with your CC information. Unless you're using a paid-for service, they won't be automagically charging a card you didn't sign up with.

cookie1943


quality posts: 1 Private Messages cookie1943
abstraction21 wrote:Coming from someone who works at a Cloud company, I'll say that storing data on a legitimate Cloud company is much safer than keeping the data on your machine. A recognized Cloud company will likely offer redundant backups which prevent you from losing data due to a crash in a server. The way it works is that the data is stored on several servers in different states or countries. So even if some crazy earthquake, nuclear bomb, or other random disaster strikes; the data will still be safe on a different server hundreds of miles away. Just a though.



Different countries? That is even worse! No cloud for me. I had my credit card hacked last year. They bought a cloud with it. Maybe that was cloud access. Donno... but anyway, no clouds for me except inn the wild, blue yonder. I use an on-line back-up service that is reputable and is there for the sole purpose of backing up, not file sharing. Sure I pay a monthly fee but I'd rather that then possibly end up "sharing" my files with who knows who. I don't have any important files that anyone would want to see anyway. But still, data recovery is the thing I want, and I don't need a cloud for that. I will say that I updated my iPhone software a month or two ago. Guess what... now I have the cloud. Does that mean my iPhone stuff automatically goes to the cloud even tho I didn't tell it I wanted that? Or can I just delete it. I don't like other people telling me what I should do, where I should store my stuff.