Every Cloud Is a Potential Storm

Cloud computing. It’s everywhere now. What’s not to love? Geeky data management is done away with, and we entrust all of our data to people who are more competent at that sort of thing, so that everything “just works”. But does it?

The recent debacle with OnLive, so far at least, seems to have had minimal impact on the end user. Service should be, for the most part, uninterrupted. But it could have worked out very, very differently. Had OnLive not have been bought up, every user could have woken up to find themselves locked out of their account, unable to access the potentially thousands of dollars’-worth of games bought over the past two years. Not only that, but also their own generated data- game saves- would be gone too. Imagine what would happen if tomorrow Blizzard announced they’d made some sort of screw-up and deleted everyone’s Diablo 3 characters. Hell if you really want to go to town, imagine they’d deleted everyone’s World of Warcraft characters. And that’s just one game. And that’s just games.

To really put things into perspective, if Apple suddenly went bust tomorrow you would lose a lot of documents. It’s 2012, and iCloud has been active for a year. If, as is Apple’s plan, you continue to “buy into” iCloud, entrusting more and more of your digital life to it, in five years time, everything you create, and have previously created, could be entrusted to the cloud.

Part of the problem is that there’s an underlying assumption that any large company, be it Microsoft, Apple or even Valve, will never go bust. But people had the same assumption about Enron. Deep down, everyone knows this could happen at any time. Otherwise everyone would retire and just buy Apple stock. We are entrusting these corporations with our data, and we expect them to do right by us. But there’s really no evidence to back this up. More likely, you might discover that you’re locked out of your own account, or that it has been sold on to another party.

Sure, you could have backups. But most people don’t, and even those that do don’t have access to all their own data. I haven’t even touched upon the fact that these companies will censor your own data. Because they don’t regard it as yours, but as theirs. And this really is the point. By seducing you with the idea of cloud computing at its best, the balance shifts from creating data for your own use, to creating it for someone else’s.

We’ve let these corporations convince us that these issues are too complicated for us. That we can’t be trusted with our own data. Computers are scary and best left to the experts. This is a repulsive attitude that marketers are trying to propogate, and has never been less true. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be treated like imbeciles that don’t know what’s good for us, and reclaim ownership of our own creations. Cloud computing can be a great thing, but it should belong to the end-user, not the corporation.

Your thoughts on this?