Get you head out of the clouds

November 12, 2008 at 13:25 | Posted in Privacy/Security, Tech | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

This will be a posting on why I, like and others, think this movement to “cloud computing” is a bad idea.

Privacy

Why, for gods sake, why would people willingly had over their sensitive personal documents to some corporation that can then do with it as it pleases? Scan it for key word, so they can advertise to you better, or to see if you are a threat to their business model, etc. Then there is the fact that all this glorious, wonderful, information will be sitting in one pot begging over zealous governments to go snooping. “Hey Google, this is the NSA. We suspect that terrorists might be using Google Docs. We are invoking the Patriot Act. Please hand over all the files stored in the Google Docs servers.” It can happen. The US government already went fishing for search histories a few years back.

Even if you totally trusted your government and large corporations to be completely hands off with all this data. There remains the fact that this huge pool of data will be a big target for malicious hackers. these individuals must be salivating at the thought of millions of files accessible in one place. Not just for the wealth of information, although that would be enough to get them interested. But imagine the possibilities. hack an account, change the password, and then ransom the data back to the owner. Hack an account, deposit illegal materials, call the cops on the owner of the account. hack business accounts and silently watch what goes on selling the important bits to competitors. Write themselves into someones will, or just be a nuisance and corrupt data is a manner that they find humorous. It is just a bad idea to make all your data network accessible.

Fees

Right now, many of these offerings are free. But I suspect that once enough people are on-board and their precious data is tied up in another companies servers we’ll start to see access fees. The companies that are offering to host the cloud aren’t doing it as a civil service. They are doing it because they perceive some way to monetize either your access or your data. Sure, you might say, well if that start then then I’ll pull my data and run.. But then what was the whole point of this cloud exercise.. other then giving some corporation a peek at your data.

a step back to client/server model

This is a conceptual step backwards. This is going back to the old Server/Client way of doing things, just with a shiny new name. This dis-empowers the individual and empowers the corporation. Which brings us to my next point.

Tenuous benefits

I can see few benefits to this “cloud” concept. I don’t see a Utopia of accessibility in this what I see is a world where my data is locked behind proprietary web applications and interfaces and I’m forced to pay a fee every time I want to edit a document, or a monthly fee so my data doesn’t go in the bit bucket when my account runs out. I see a world where a failure of the electrical grid (black out of 2003), failure of some part of the net, or even a DDOS attack on the hosting companies servers means I can’t get at my data.

Most of all I see no reason for it all. Hard drive storage is insanely cheap right now. I can get a 1TB external USB drive for $200. Laptops are cheap portable and powerful, free Peer-to-Peer technologies exist that make data collaboration easy. If I keep my data on my laptop, or my external drive my privacy concerns are hugely reduced. if I host things on a SVN server accessible through a VPN, my colleagues can collaborate on the documents with ease. And still the data is totally in my control and far less susceptible to power failures, etc.

In short, the “cloud” makes data less accessible, less private, less secure, less reliable, and less cost effective. Why, Why, Why would anyone go this route.. unless they have their head stuck in the clouds.

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6 Comments

  1. Why would anyone go this route..[sic]

    1. It’s easy. You’re up and running in the amount of time it takes a webpage to load.

    2. It’s available. Any computer with a browser (and an internet connection) gives you access to your crap^H^H^H^H data.

    3. It’s maintenance free. The user doesn’t have to worry about the usual headaches that computers inflict on them: upgrades, hardware failure, malware.

    4. The price is right. Cloud services are usually free.

    Here’s a more interesting question: “How can we make locally hosted services as easy to use/maintain/upgrade as cloud-based services?”

    • 1. true. provided you have a modern enough computer that can handle rich content, and a broadband connection. I live in a place where many people just outside of town are still stuck with dial-up.

      2. only if said computer has a broadband connection. Also accessing personal data from “any” computer is a security nightmare.

      3. not true. There will still be updates for the browser and the O/S that the browser is running on. As SaS services advance people will be forced to “keep up” (get a newer machine with the latest cloud support) or risk loosing access to all their stuff.

      4. True. For now…. once these services have millions locked in whats to stop them from adding access fees.. nothing.

      You’re assuming that Cloud based services will be easy.. I doubt they will be such a panacea. hosting outages. isp outages. Hacking and defacement will probably make them just as troublesome as the current methodology. I seriously doubt you can make something “simpler” by adding increasing levels of technology to the mix. I do know that the calls Techies get for help will become much more urgent because we are looking at an all or nothing situation.. if something goes wrong users wont be able to get any of their stuff.

  2. Hmm. I didn’t realize this post might have been sarcastic. It is, of course, posted to a cloud-hosted service itself…

    • I would consider WordPress.com a “hosted” service more then a “Cloud” service. I tend to reserve the term Cloud for SaS type services. Since much of my posting to WordPress.com is via BloGTK, since I can back up my blog locally, since I could had I the time and resources set up my own WordPress server and host my backed-up blog on it.. Most of my arguments do not apply to a service like wordpress.com

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