The Cloud is convenient, it’s easy to set up, it’s often free. What’s not to like? Well, after I’ve been on cloud services for a while, I’m getting sick of some of the serious issues associated with investing time and effort on platforms run by other people for their agenda. Which is why I am on my own damn site, paid for by me, under my control. Since I toted this as a listicle, here are 10 reasons to avoid Cloud services.
- All your data belong to us. Facebook is the poster child for this, but it’s the age old problem, if you aren’t paying for the product then you are the product. This is the biggest issue with cloud services – the surveillance and advertising model is the original sin of the Web.
- It’s easy to set up but surprisingly hard to maintain. In one short period Pachube became Cosm which became Xively, and I get to change my code and learn new, poorly documented APIs
- Cloud providers come and go. They’re just plain unreliable. I’ve been hit by several – UK Intuit’s Quicken XG, Google Reader, the Vox blogging platform, Pachube, Flickr ratcheting down functionality before Marissa Meyer sorted it out
- Cloud is for the moment, not for the long-term. If it’s all done and dusted in a year or less, cloud is great. Crowdfunding, broadcasting an event, running a survey, printing a book – great. Building relationships, building a brand (musicians on Myspace, f’rinstance), lifelogging or even expecting to pass your baby snaps to the parents of your grandchildren in 50 years? Don’t expect the Cloud to do it. Will there even be a Dropbox or Flickr in the 2060s?
- The wrong sorts sticking their nose in your business, From Gmail reading your mail (and mine too, because I don’t use it but know people who do) and narrowcasting ads to you all the way to all the Snowden stuff. How the heck do people sleep at night using Mint, for instance – and what is it with Intuit and bad ideas?
- The hostage to fortune business – when free becomes paid and you’ve invested a lot of work in the platform. All the work you get to do again, even if you can get hold of your data.
- The freemium/in app purchase issue. Apps seem to be classics here – they start off useful in the free version but after a while they are either upgraded to exclude the useful feature you were using or simply don’t support your version of iOS, which seems to be how Apple enforce hardware upgrades!
- Data loss or theft. If Jennifer Lawrence’s pics weren’t on iCloud then brute force hacks or no, you have to get up close and personal to nick them from her phone. Sure, it’s convenient to have your Stuff available everywhere, but some things should be hard to get to 😉
- You don’t get to control your stuff – how long it is up, who it is sold to, how it is used. That’s how all the papers get a free photo of any miscreant nowadays – they used to have to send a runner to pap them at the courthouse, but it’s so much easier to get it off Facebook. Presumably a nice little earner for the company, too. The credit often says ©Facebook
- Upgrades that break stuff. Sure, you get these all the time without the Cloud, though the likes of Debian and MS seems to get this to work most of the time. Sun Tzu says make the battle at a time and place of your choosing – you can upgrade when your system is quiet, or at least when you are ready to fight the consequences.
One Ring to bind the all – the one that sums it up:
One word. Facebook. It embodies both what is great about the Cloud and what is so evil about it – all at the same time. It does the ephemerality of Cloud so well, Facebook couldn’t even exist without the cloud, it’s the quintessential cloud app. It could take the Mission Impossible approach to your messages after a month or so:
but then stashes everything you say to use it against you in the future with Minority Report advertising.
The cloud rolls up form, function and purpose. And very often my purpose is at odds with that of the Cloud provider. The Internet is a means of communication and publishing. I put up my first web page about 20 years ago. It isn’t there any more, but if it had been important to me I could have seen to it that it’s still there. If it’s important to me then I can make sure this is still here at this URL in 2034, Although I can’t even take back something said on the Internet, if I want it not to be available here in a year’s time I can fix that too. Whereas if it’s on somebody’s else’s information space or real estate I can’t. Nothing I could have done would have preserved my Vox blog, or the information I imported to Quicken XG[ref]I only used it for a week before the awful reality sank in that I was renting the use of the program, not owning it. If I want to run Quicken 2004 in 20 years time, I can run a XP machine disconnected from the Internet and still use it.[/ref]
So I’ll use the cloud – but for things that don’t matter or that have no requirement for longevity. Cloud is about fire and forget – Twitter is a fantastic cloud application because a tweet has no value after a few days. Dropbox is fabulous to share files with a pal, or even temporary backup files as long as I don’t mind various governments taking a look. I won’t use the Cloud for anything strategic. That means anything I want to be there for more than a year, anything to do with personal finances, and anything I’d like to depend upon or look back on in ten years time or more.
In all fairness to The Cloud, that means I take a fair few hits for freedom. I get to worry about my own backups and maintenance, and I lose out having everything available everywhere.