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Trust in the Cloud

I planned on naming this post In Cloud We Trust but then realized that Sarah Perez over at ReadWriteWeb beat me to it with a post with the same title.  It is a good post that discussed a lot of the views surrounding trust and cloud-based services.  This post is a continuation from my last one discussing cloud services.

I began thinking about the number of ways in which I think about the levels of trust we place in the cloud.  Here is the short list there are probably more:

  • Trust the Value – Obviously you need to make the conscious decision to start using a service.  Early adopters typically begin the movement.  And there needs to be value in having it in the cloud.  This is clearly why many of the cloud based services we try out are ones in the productivity arena where taking the data with you is less convenient or you need multiple access points (i.e. multiple computers).
  • Trust your Patience and Fortitude – There are so many services being offered today, the Web 2.0 phenomena.  So any early adopter needs to trust their patience as these new services develop and evolve.   You also need to trust your fortitude and comfort in collecting user-ids and passwords like they are going out of style.  Perhaps there is a cloud-based start-up just to keep track of all of the cloud-based services you try out? :)  I know I’ve lost track, reminder emails are very often my best method of remembering I signed up for something.
  • Trust the Service’s Longevity – Wouldn’t it be great to know that the service you signed up for will be there for you in 12-24 months.  This goes to security of your information.  This goes to your time and effort in learning a new services capability, its nuances and how to integrate it into your work-flow, particularly for your productivity tools. (See jumping from Google Notebook to Evernote).  This also extends to simply the longevity of your own account at these services.  I discussed this in my last post and Matt Mullenweg blogged about this yesterday regarding Google account take over.
  • Trust in Privacy – To use many of these services, particularly those that have social integration, you need to have a pretty good comfort level with your information being out there.  Many services, such as Vimeo and Plaxo, allow you to govern who can see what about you and your content but many are open in their nature.  And if you are placing your data someone besides the confines of your own home, you need to have a good sense on how much you trust the vendor to keep your data private.  Everyone has to make their own decision but my sense is this type of trust has to happen, it is simply the way the technology world is evolving. Not to mention, but my view is you have the same privacy concerns even with desktop software that uses the internet to “talk back” to the mother ship.  The cat has been out of this bag for years, it is just becoming even more pervasive.
  • Trust in Data Security – I believe, over the long term, this is the most important one.  Everything else will shake out over time but once you have the services you’ve selected, learned how to use them effectively and gotten over privacy concerns, will your data be there all the time and when you most need it.  If you lost all of your mail, your contacts, your calendar, your photos, bookmarks, what kind of impact would it have on you.  If you are like me, I would imagine a big one.

There are probably many other elements of trust that I haven’t touched on.  In fact, another one, trust in others, with the power of social media comes to the social contract with your connections that you trust them with the information that you are sharing with them.  This may be its own post that I will follow-up on at a later date.

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The Cloud Marches On…

A consistent meme lately has been ‘cloud computing’ or more specifically, how much trust users can have putting their data in the cloud.  We’ve reached a point where most users, particularly the early adopters who pervasively use cloud-based services have to consider the how much data they trust being out there.  Let me preface this post in saying, that I am VERY BULLISH on cloud computing.  I think it is the way of the present and will continue to be a very strong wave of future innovation on the web.  In fact, I think there will be even more cloud services developed where data that is traditionally kept “close to home” will be moved into the cloud and shared storage services.  Mobile services, like the iPhone, will drive a lot of this movement as will the netbook. This is not new thinking on my part, just the side of the debate regarding cloud services that I end up on.

So, why a post today?  Ma.gnolia experienced a severe data corruption issue and outage.  As of 3:50 pm EST, news of when the service would be back up (with or without the user data) was still a question mark (see the site’s note below).  I do not keep my bookmarks there but I do keep them at De.lic.ious.   But this news is the fourth story as of late that struck a cord with me and I decided to list them out for those that may have missed them.

1.  Google Shuttered Google Notebook and others – not sure how many people kept notes up there and they have a month to move the data but moving your notes and note-taking process must be aggravating or at least an efficiency hit.

2   Steve Rubel’s post about the Bloodbath in the Clouds – I really enjoy reading Steve’s stuff.  Also very thought-provoking.  If you haven’t read his post, he recommends heading to high ground.  (I do not, I just recommend being aware and using caution).

3.  Flickr deleting a user’s account and all of their data due to ‘content violation’.  Not sure if the user violated the terms or not but it sure seems that one should be able to pull their content back before it is vaporized, particularly when they paid for the service and aren’t even using the free version.  Imagine a non-cloud example, imagine if a dry cleaner realized you brought in one shirt that didn’t belong to you so they decide to not only not clean all the clothes your brought in, but throw them all in the garbage.

4.  Ma.gnolia outage – severe data corruption and outage today, strong possibility of people’s bookmarks are gone.

So here are four stories that would cause many to run for the hills regarding using cloud services.  However, I continue to think seriously about moving even further into the cloud.  Time and continued innovation will only continue to improve the services available.  And unfortunately a lot of the value will be developed on the backs of some mistakes, it often does.  But rest assurred, it will be mistakes that we all learn from.  But even more so the value of cloud computing will continue to excel based on feedback from the users, users like you and me who use these services in the early days and act as lead users on what can make them more viable.  One thing is for sure, cloud or not, redundancy is the only sure fire way to protect yourself as cloud services continue to mature.  Stowe has some thoughts here as well.

My view is cloud services need to establish clear policies on how they handle the security of the data and policy issues.  It needs to be done in a consistent manner.  What would also really help if the consistency cross service lines and there was a greater level of consistency across the cloud as well.

I have more to say regarding the the types of trust we place in cloud computing but will leave that for a follow-on post.  Til then…


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