Many firms are touting the benefits of “cloud computing”. It’s particularly beneficial for mobile users. If you could store everything in the cloud, your information would be accessible from anywhere using any device. That’s Nirvana!
This approach would also make mobile devices cheaper. If they don’t have to store anything locally, they can do without hard drives and large amounts of flash memory. Do you realize that the single costliest component of many portable devices is the flash memory?
As consumers and businesses flock to mobile computing, the emphasis on cloud computing will grow exponentially. Yet, the key weakness in the cloud computing vision is reliability. A few noteworthy examples include:
- Google just experienced a Gmail failure resulting in thousands of their users temporarily losing all their emails. It impacted a small percentage of users but if you were one of them, that statistic means little.
- Microsoft’s Danger subsidiary lost Sidekick user data in 2009. It was likely one of the worst embarrassments in the company’s history.
- Facebook experienced a major outage last year as millions of its users were unable to access the site for several hours.
- Amazon Europe suffered a brief outage during the Christmas season last year — the worst possible time of year for any retailer to have connectivity issues.
- Twitter has a famous “fail whale” that shows up periodically instead of user tweets. The problem is better than it was two years ago but still occurs far too often.
For some, these failures are merely inconvenient. They simply try again later. For others, appointments are missed, deals are forfeited and opportunities are lost. Not every situation is resolved with a simple “try again later”.
What can you do? Not much. If you have information stored in the cloud that you really need and depend upon, back it up. Backup tools exist for every major cloud-based application. For example, Gmail can be backed up with an email client application like Mozilla’s Thunderbird.
One other tip, save a local copy of critical information on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. For example, many cloud services will allow you to store a local copy of a file, note, image, etc. at least temporarily. Also, you can copy and paste information into a local text file or document so that it is readily available with or without the cloud.
Don’t be caught without your critical information. Sooner or later you will be impacted by an outage.