I’m about to move into a new apartment in a few days and have noticed how much computer related crap I have to move. I’ve got my computer, a NAS, a few external hard drives, routers, CDs, and about a million cables to with everything else. This got me thinking, what would happen if I lost all of my equipment? How screwed would I be?
After thinking about it, pretty bad from a financial point of view, but as for my important data, really not that much.
I feel like most of my important data would be safe, thanks to cloud computing.
Cloud computing is basically putting copies of your data on internet servers run by schools, companies, or individuals you trust. (You SHOULD trust them, but I guess you don’t HAVE to.) You are assuming that they better understand how to manage your data and have more stable computers than you do. Google has a lot better plan for outages and other factors than I do.
Thinking about it most of my data is hosted by:
- Purdue – All my school projects have to work on Solaris, which I don’t have, so I just do all my work remotely with ssh.
- Hosted version control – I have online Git and Mercurial repositories through GitHub and BitBucket which I use for homework and my own projects.
- Google – Gmail is my main source of email.
- Banks and/or credit cards – My bank and credit card company have copies of any data I could want.
- WordPress – This blog you’re reading!
So really, if I lost my computer and all the data on it, I would lose all my games and all the customizations I’ve done on my machine, but critical data would remain in the cloud somewhere. I think this is a pretty cool concept.
However, this introduces all sorts of issues related to trust. For instance, do you trust your cloud hoster to:
- Not close up shop?
- Not use your data inappropriately?
- Not sell your data?
- Not give your data away for free?
- Keep backups in case things go wrong?
- Have enough security so a hacker can’t get to your data?
Keeping online copies of your data in the cloud exposes you to a whole host of potential problems. Imagine if Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail all decided to discontinue providing email, sold your emails, or mined your emails for information? I don’t know about you, but I have some pretty sensitive information in my email account that I’d rather not have the whole world and I sure wouldn’t want to get a new email and deal with getting people to use that instead of the old one. I’m pretty sure this would cause a rip in the time-space continuum (That’s right, I went there.)
For Purdue services, I feel pretty confident about keeping my data there since if there’s any downtime, my professors are pretty good about extending deadlines. But other services which I have no face-to-face contact with, I don’t know if one day they might just go rogue and I’d be in some trouble.
But on the other hand, where else am I really going to get these services from? I don’t have the time, skills, or desire to run my own mail server. Banks are always going to have my records. Online version control is by definition not on my computer. It appears to be a real no-win situation. I guess I’ll just have to hope Google isn’t evil, which is even their motto. (Or at least it used to be until April).
Cloud computing makes it possible to worry less about losing your data, but also introduces all sorts of security issues. It seems that Spiderman had a few good words for cloud providers: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”