Today there is a huge push to do everything in the “cloud”. You can now edit and leave your photos on the cloud or work on documents “in” the cloud or plan your workday with the cloud. It seems many have gone cloud crazy. And while cloud based storage and applications are all the rage and make accessing your data from just about any computer very simple. There are a number of drawbacks that anybody who values their data should know about and prepare for before using any cloud based service.
First of all what kind of guarantee do you have that your data is safe? As your storing your data on a server that may be located in any country on the planet, how are you sure that others are not looking at or monitoring what you do? While some may assume that their laws protect them from people looking at or using their data, it may not be the case that the law provides any protection in the country that the server with your data on it resides in.
Next what happens to your data if the company closes shop or gets bought out by a bigger company. This has already happened a number of times and in almost all cases customers were left scrabbling to retrieve their data before it was set to be removed from the “cloud”. While this may not be a huge deal if you have access to a high speed internet connection and a large hard drive to copy your data back when it happens. What about if your away on vacation? Guess you would then be out of luck.
Another concern is security. The odds of a hacker targeting you personally at home or even work are very small. But as we have seen many times over the last few years companies known to store large databases of customer information seem to be a prime target for hackers, as they know if they can break into a large database they could get the information of thousands and in some case millions of people.
And there are legal concerns as well. Today in the USA if the government wants to look at whats on your computer they need to show just cause and obtain a search warrant. What are your rights if you leave your data on a “public” cloud server?
Then there are issues that for the most part have not been addressed yet. Like what happens to your data when you die? Does your family own it? Does the company storing it have a right to it? Who decides which people will have access to it?
So while the cloud can provide unique services that can be used on multiple computers from almost anywhere, I recommend just a bit of forethought and caution before using these services and for all users to check out the companies end user agreements so that they will know beforehand what risks they may be taking.
Lastly while it is becoming common for people to store most if not all their data in the cloud I would recommend that everyone still make a copy of their data to an external hard drive so if your computer dies or your cloud “evaporates” one day, you will still have your data.