Keep It Local

Proponents of cloud computing tell us we’ll never have to worry about the integrity and location of our files, cause, like they’re in The Cloud. The problem is, once we surrender all responsibility of our data to remote servers we open the door to relinquishing ourselves of any ownership and privacy over our data.

Sure I hate the phrase, but I appreciate the service cloud computing provides – in the right context. I love having my email and the Internet accessible from anywhere. But my personal documents? Photos? Music? What if I’m in the subway or anywhere else I can’t get online?

I was inspired to write this post based on Richard Stallman’s thoughts on Google’s Chrome OS and it’s reliance on cloud computing and web apps (via Daring Fireball):

But Stallman is unimpressed. “I think that marketers like “cloud computing” because it is devoid of substantive meaning. The term’s meaning is not substance, it’s an attitude: ‘Let any Tom, Dick and Harry hold your data, let any Tom, Dick and Harry do your computing for you (and control it).’ Perhaps the term ‘careless computing’ would suit it better.”

He sees a creeping problem: “I suppose many people will continue moving towards careless computing, because there’s a sucker born every minute. The US government may try to encourage people to place their data where the US government can seize it without showing them a search warrant, rather than in their own property. However, as long as enough of us continue keeping our data under our own control, we can still do so. And we had better do so, or the option may disappear.”

Sure, blindly uploading your data without knowing the integrity of the servers (and the company) might be careless, but you have just as many careless people who fill up hard drives to the point of disk failure.
I’d actually say this potential catastrophe is carelessness by the developers who built your OS, less so on the end user. If we’re going to allow people to fill up their hard drives, we need to emphasize the danger they’re in, just as a fuel gauge does in a car.
Every month of every year our media devices acquire more megapixels, requiring more disk space on our memory cards and hard drives. Many of us (both professionals and amateurs) have been shooting digital photos and videos for over 10 years and even on laptops with 100 GB of disk we don’t have enough space.
So with great amounts of digital media comes great responsibility. Redundancy is key, but keep all on the cloud? I’m not so sure.
The point isn’t to avoid cloud computing. I couldn’t live without services like GMail and DropBox, but always ask yourself it you truly own your content and by own I mean – have complete control over.