Column: Head in the (public) cloud PDF Print E-mail
If you take a step back for a moment, the cloud can seem quite science fiction. It's the stuff of Star Trek: being able to access your data from anywhere with just a simple command.
 There are a great range of benefits, it's all very exciting. "Cloud" has become such a buzzword for this reason. 
However, there is also reason to be cautious. 
Businesses for the most part seem to have realised this. They have been debating the risks and benefits of using the private cloud for their professional content for years already. However, the big, bright and tasty carrot of the public cloud, dangling in front of the nose of the private user, is sometimes too tempting.
An example is Google. Google offers a wide range of services -- so many in fact that there are people who believe that Google is a synonym for Internet. Now that Google even offers a social network and it's possible to integrate all Google services to some extent, it's more tempting than ever to move your life onto its platform.
But what happens when your account gets deleted?
Thomas Monopoly (a pseudonym) recently discovered the answer to this horrifying question. In his open letter to Google, he explains how his account was deleted by Google because of some perceived Ts&Cs violation. 
"I had spent maybe four months slowly consolidating my entire online presence, email accounts, banking info, student records, etc, into that one Google account, having determined it to be reliable. That means in terms of information, approximately 7 years of correspondence, over 4,800 photographs and videos, my Google Voice messages, over 500 articles saved to my Google Reader account for scholarship purposes," he says in the email.
He did not knowingly commit any violation, but could not find any explanation... or any recourse. After exhausting all the help options available online, he even tried visiting the Google offices in person -- to no avail. No one could tell him why his account had been suspended without warning, no one could correct what he believes to be an error. 
The problem with storing your data on the cloud is that you don't necessarily have someone to hold accountable if it all goes missing. The Google incident is receiving a lot of coverage online at the moment, but it is by no means an isolated case. 
The Web is rife with such horror stories: "Flickr accidentally wipes out account: five years and 4000 photos", "Ebay deletes account and store for no reason", "YouTube suspended my account?! but i never uploaded any of those videos!"
Perhaps the moral of the story is: keep backups of everything. The cloud is an ideal. The idea is that we can now live like those people in Star Trek -- our data is always with us, as long as we have an Internet connection. The idea is that we no longer need the hard drive space, or the software and equipment on our actual machines. The reality is that it's still advisable to keep that hard drive space aside - just in case.
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