Send it to the cloud… Or not

Lately it seems consumers are being barraged with commercials and advertisements for cloud services. “Send it to the cloud” is Microsoft’s latest catch phrase, but the consumer needs to stop and question exactly where he or she is sending that data and who is going to be maintaining it. There were recently two very high profile cases involving cloud services in the form of Google’s GMail and Yahoo’s Flickr. Here are two of the largest tech companies “accidentally” deleting the data consumers have trusted them to hold.

The Flickr scenario is mystifying. Why does a service with as large of a user base as Flickr have a system where a single employee has the power to permanently delete a user’s data? Shouldn’t there be some type of approval for the deletion of accounts by more than a single person? Why hasn’t Flickr instituted some type of temporary hold to maintain deleted data for a certain period of time? Aren’t these basic things that one would expect a company of Yahoo’s size to think of? These are the type of things that worry me when it comes to cloud services (not to mention having no idea where my data is held and who has access to it, but that is a post for another day).

Google’s situation is a bit more frightening. In this day and age email is arguably the most important form of communication and Google continues to advertise that your email is safe on Google’s servers, even safer than if it was saved on your home computer or your corporate network. Google will argue that its vast resources will allow for more efficient backup systems to maintain availability, and that confidentiality and integrity is better maintained due to Google’s superior security systems and personnel. With all this talk of how much more efficient Google’s service is than the traditional in-house mail server, 39,000 users logged in to find their mailboxes empty and years worth of email vanished. Google is currently working to recover the email, but the damage has been done.

The above scenarios are exactly what companies providing cloud services will need to overcome in order to convince the IT world to trust in the services they provide. Losing data in the age of cheap and available backup solutions is inexcusable for even a small IT shop, let alone companies the size of Yahoo and Google. Let’s hope that there are some lessons learned and internal procedures changed. Until then, I plan on keeping a backup of my Gmail and Flickr accounts local.

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