Your Information in “The Cloud” – Safe, Secure, Available or Not?

Everywhere you turn you see “The Cloud” being mentioned – run your applications in ‘the cloud’, store you backups in ‘the cloud’, run your enterprise in ‘the cloud’. There is little doubt that ‘the cloud’ is the buzzword of the year. Google have their shiny new Chromium Operating System and Chrome OS Laptop whose focus is to get you working entirely in ‘the cloud’ or as they call it ‘the internet’.

I used to be pretty sceptical about cloud computing and web applications, however I am slowly but surely changing my thinking and I am using some web applications on a very regular basis. The Web, its capabilities, development tools, languages and libraries have come an awfully long way in the past 5+ years, yet it still feels like we are just at the beginning of much bigger things.

To me the most important benefit of ‘the cloud’ is the ability to have access to ‘my information’ and applications on any PC that has a Web Browser and an Internet connection. Further this also encompasses use on my amazing new Android Smartphone.

Now as wonderful as this brave new world of cloud computing is, there are some show-stopping downsides. At least four come to mind:

  1. When you don’t have an Internet connection, most likely all work stops.
  2. When you have a slow Internet connection, productivity slows accordingly.
  3. The company whose Web Application or Service you now rely on pulls the plug on it or they change it so much as it no longer meets your needs.
  4. Same company goes out of business.

As an end user what concerns me most here is that I no longer have “my information” in my own hands (it is somewhere in the cloud) and I potentially have no way to move forward in the worst case scenarios of points 3 & 4. I might have many years worth of important information that I can no longer access or utilize. So to use ‘the cloud’ you must have absolute trust and faith in the companies or organizations providing you with whatever services you are consuming.

To my mind the ideal scenario is to have a combination of desktop software with “my information” on my PC that is synchronized to ‘the cloud’ and to other PC’s. Then take this one step further and have a Web Application that I can use in any Web Browser on any PC to gain access to “my information” for the times when I am not at “my PC”.

This gives me the best of both worlds – I can keep working whether I have an Internet connection or not, I get ownership back of “my information”, I can continue to use the desktop application no matter what happens to the company who provided it and I will have better prospects of migrating “my information” to a replacement application should the need arise. If the company does go out of business or kills the application I will loose the Web Application and probably the synchronization capabilities, however I still have the Desktop App and “my information” on my PC, so the situation is nowhere near as dire.

This is very much the direction I want to see Surfulater head in, allowing our users to access and utilize their information wherever they are, while keeping their own local databases and being able to access same regardless of whether they have an Internet connection or not. And of course having their local databases synchronized across the PC’s they have Surfulater installed on, work, home etc.

I’d been thinking about writing this blog post for some time and finally hit the tipping point when I read on the weekend that there is talk of Yahoo closing their Delicious bookmarking service down. This appears to have created a degree of panic amongst Delicious users who are now searching for a replacement service. Some have imported their Delicious data into Surfulater, however their Tags aren’t coming across because the XBEL format does not include Tags in its specification.  We should be able to update Surfulater to resolve this.

Merry Xmas to all and keep on Surfulater’n.

Neville

PS. We’ve got a great Xmas special running with a 50% discount on Surfulater – see image at top right of the Surfulater.com web pages. This is our very first Xmas special, I thought it was time we did. Do tell your friends, family and colleagues.

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8 Responses to Your Information in “The Cloud” – Safe, Secure, Available or Not?

  1. Taras Di says:

    That would be a welcome feature. Currently using ‘Google Notebook’ at work for note taking, and use Surfulater at home, resulting in two different databases. Would be extremely useful to take/do my research anywhere :) .

  2. Alexander Deliyannis says:

    Merry Christmas Neville, and all the best for your enterprises!

    I want to take advantage of the Xmas special to buy a couple of gifts, but I am uncertain how the licenses I get can be directed to others; I don’t want to tie them to my own contact details, but in the buying procedure there seems no other option.

  3. nevf says:

    Hi Alexander,
    You can put their name in each order and your e-mail address, so that you receive the license, which you can then send on to them. I can subsequently change the e-mail address to their’s if you want.

    And a Very Merry Xmas to you.

    Neville

  4. DG says:

    Of the four issues you list with the cloud, I personally would categorize #3 and #4 as applying to desktop software as well. The reason is that issues with #3 and #4 in desktop software drove me, in several instances, to seek a more flexible solution…which I found in web services. The real solution, of course, is not to use software that locks up your data. The best solutions allow you to export or recover your data if you need to migrate it to a different platform at some date down the road. And given the rate at which software companies rise and fall, that can be as often as every few years.

    Just my personal experience. Your mileage may vary….

  5. nevf says:

    DG, yes you are somewhat correct on #3 and #4, however if the desktop software company does go out of business you still a) have the application and b) have your data. You could conceivably happily continue using the software for many years to come. And in the meantime another product may have come along which enables you to migrate your data to their application. In the case of the web application you are pretty much screwed from the day they shut the doors. This is the real worry.

    I was listening to a Podcast a few days back and a line that was mentioned a few times was “never trust your data in the cloud (or on a USB stick)”. That really resonated with me.

    I’d be interested to know whether in your experience you have actually been able to successfully migrate your data to a different application. For any but the simplest of applications this can be very difficult, if not impossible to do. Unless of course they are very similar in the design and data schemes.

    -Neville

  6. Ken says:

    Hi Neville,

    Ken here from outlinersoftware.com. I see that you still have your Christmas special at 50% off still posted. Is this price still available?

    –Ken

  7. nevf says:

    Hi Ken,
    Yes should still be good to go, if not e-mail me.

    -Neville

  8. Pingback: To Cloud or not? | Blog@Surfulater

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