Get Your Head Out of The Clouds

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When I was young I had a habit of daydreaming. I’d daydream about being a hero, or girls, or becoming a rock star…but mostly about girls.

Actually I still do that to some extent, only now it’s more often about new project ideas or ways to change my small part of the world.

And often as a child when I’d lose myself in some wonderful daydream, my grandfather would yank me back to reality with a sharp “Boy, get your darn head out of the clouds!”

My grandfather was old school. He firmly believed that idle time, hands and minds were “the Devil’s playground”.

I was reminded of those daydream scoldings and my grandfather, who passed away over 20 years ago now, by a recent story I heard from a friend who has been working on a book about people who make their livings online.

This friend is a big fan of “The Cloud“. Web based services and software that allow people and companies to do almost everything that we had grown accustomed to doing with software installed on our own computers. He loves the idea of netbooks and virtual business entities; and I can’t blame him, it’s a provocative notion to run an entirely virtual operation.

So, of course my friend has been doing all of his writing work, using an online service. No need to clutter his laptop with some Office software and document files… his book is about being in the cloud, so he’s writing it in the cloud.

And everything went great for him, he wrote the entire first draft of his book, gave his publisher access to the documents for editing and the start of collaborative tweaking… and then the service had a hardware issue that resulted in my friend’s account being among many that were completely lost.

Not just his book documents, his entire account had disappeared and the service had no usable backups to restore from for some reason.

Now fortunately, my friend isn’t a complete moron and he had been making routine backups to an external drive he keeps in his home office. The bad news was that he only did that when he was at home, and he had been on a 2 week trip across country just prior to this, so his backup was missing a full chapter as well as dozens of edits he had written while on the trip.

So, the hardware issue was devastating for him, but not entirely catastrophic. And while his feelings towards the specific service have changed, his thoughts on “The Cloud” and virtual operations are intact.

Maybe I’m just “fussy”, but I believe there’s a bigger lesson in my friend’s experience than he took away from it, and maybe my grandpa was right, it’s not a good thing to play with your head in the clouds after all.

Never mind the obvious security risks from outside hackers or enthusiasts accessing sensitive information (ask Twitter about this), but there’s also a chance that some individual working at the service(s) you’re using deciding to peek in on your data.

From employee or customer details, to internal notes and strategy plans, anything you keep online is vulnerable.

Sure, storing such information on your internal machine(s) can leave it vulnerable too, but at least there you have the power and ability to oversee and upgrade the security measures being used. With an online service, you’re completely at the mercy of the service provider(s) to keep your data secure.

Then there’s the issue of backing up your data. Many people wrongly assume that just because a service claims to provide backups there will always be a recent backup available through them to restore from.

As my friend found out, that’s not the case, and almost every service includes a statement in their fine print that absolves them of any accountability should their backup process fail for any user. In other words, “we make backups, but we don’t promise they’ll be available or usable if you need them”.

And again, local backups can fail too, but like with security, at least by operating your own backup system you have the power and control over how that system functions, and can change or upgrade it as you see fit for your needs.

I’m not trying to rant against SAAS or “The Cloud”, I love that a lot of things can now be done online and believe they have good and safe uses, but I’m far from convinced that a Netbook and The Cloud are a solid foundation to build a business on–especially when laptops, desktops and servers have constantly become bigger, better, faster and cheaper with every passing year.

Is there really such a need for hard disk conservation that you would risk your business, employee or client information? Is the financial savings really that great? Even if it means not having to hire or contract your own IT person(s), you’re not just risking your data, you’re risking your company reputation and ultimately your company, period.

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  • Tara says:

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