What Happens When The Cloud Goes Away?
As more and more users entrust parts of their digital lives to the cloud, they’re increasingly running into a problem: it doesn’t always last forever. More specifically, cloud services that people have relied upon are just like any other business: they can close their doors.
Just in the past few weeks, here are some cloud services that have shut down or drastically changed their offerings:
- Boxee (set-top box and online digital video recorder)
- Google Reader (RSS reader)
- MySpace (social network)
- SnapJoy (photo library)
- SimSocial (gaming)
But some changes to these services resulted to significant “birth pains”. Take for example MySpace, which has been rolling out new features for some time and relaunched a new branding last June. Some commended this relaunch, but its remaining loyal users became upset as this restart deleted their content.
The rapid pace of innovation when it comes to mobile and cloud services means that, unfortunately, services which fail to succeed and become profitable quickly shut down as well – even if they have many users who depend on them. So, what can you, as a user do, to minimize the risk if this does happen to you?
There’s not much you can do about services that use data that isn’t yours (like, say, video and music streaming services). However, for your own data – like documents, pictures, and news feeds – there are steps you can take.
Remember the traditional 3-2-1 rule about backups: at least three copies, in at least two different media, with at least one copy off-site. Storing your data in the cloud fulfills the last two requirements, but it also means that you should keep copies of your data outside of any particular service’s own closed cloud.
This means, for example, storing a copy of your movies and pictures on your device (or even another cloud service). For every cloud service you use, the procedure would be different, but the concept is the same: make sure your data exists in some form outside of any app or service’s own servers.
Preparing for a cloud service going offline may seem like an extreme precaution. Aside from a service going completely away, there are many other scenarios where you’d like to access data in a cloud offline: you’re in a location with non-existent/insecure/expensive Internet access, or the service goes down due to maintenance and/or a security breach.
For cloud services provider, it is best if they announce any major changes (or shutdown) months ahead. The recent shutdown of Google Reader was a good example of effective announcement, as it resulted to minimal effect to the users (other than searching for an alternative service, of course). The MySpace gaffe, unfortunately, shows that changes or improvements can turn awry.
The underlying fact: “going to the cloud” is not an excuse to manage your data poorly. You still have to be responsible for your data and avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. For more information on how to protect your data in the cloud, you may read our Digital Lifestyle E-Guide Keeping Your Cloud Data in Check.