Hey, the cloud took all my data!

I wish I had seen this post from sociologist danah boyd (who spells her name without capital letters) before I went on TVO’s The Agenda last night talking about the benefits and disadvantages of “cloud” computing. It’s a great example of the downside of using Web apps and having all of your data live in “the cloud.” Someone danah knows had their account hijacked and then ultimately deleted by Google for terms of use violations. Years worth of email and other data — gone in an instant.

Like Karoli at Odd Time Signatures, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it. Having your email and other data — Google documents, photos, etc. — available anywhere you have an Internet connection is a great thing, and I’m a huge user of “cloud” services. But I also make a point of having backups elsewhere as well. All of my Gmail is backed up at home through Thunderbird, and all of my photos live on a hard drive at home as well as at Flickr — and just in case, most of them are also backed up at Amazon’s Web Services using Jungledisk.com.

danah boyd’s friend managed to get Google to “undelete” his account because he had connections to important people who could press his case, but not everyone has those kinds of connections. So it’s worth remembering that cloud services are great until the cloud disappears — or it starts raining. Best to have a non-cloudy option as well.


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