Why The Cloud Sucks

I've had too many personal experiences get messed up just because companies change things on the cloud. I've come to a depressed state of feeling that I own nothing on the cloud and have no ability to keep things working the way they do. Features change and get dropped, things you depend on disappear, etc. And no company will ever take responsibility. It's rare to ever get told what really happened.

Not long after upgrading to Mountain Lion, one of my three primary Google calendars disappeared. It no longer existed. I have multiple Google calendars and some people have read ability while others can create events, but I have the sole admin account that could have deleted a calendar. I would never do this, and checked to make sure it's not easy. In fact, a dialog appears telling you to OK that you will lose all your events. I would never do this.

Fortunately, iCal and BusyCal still had copies of this calendar, although they weren't up to date. My wife exported the calendar from iCal, and I created a new calendar in BusyCal and imported the events. Not every event was saved, and this led to calendar conflicts of a HUGE magnitude in my life, including hasty rearrangements of my schedule next week and some monetary concerns.

Since I'm the only admin, I had two ideas as to what might have happened. Some zealous Google employee might have been looking at my calendars (I wouldn't mind) and accidentally deleted one. Or some hacker got my password and deleted only one calendar. Neither made sense. I did go and install a two-step security method for my Google account, with odd passwords you never see again generated for apps like Apple Mail and my iPhone Exchange Server accounts and my Android phones. This was also for some apps like BusyCal, but that didn't trigger anything for me right away.

Then last night I got an email from BusyCal saying to basically delete its data before upgrading to Mountain Lion. After upgrading, then you could turn BusyCal back on to do its thing. Click. BusyCal has my Google access and has admin privilege, just as I would. So do these other devices. Something changed with Mountain Lion and BusyCal wound up deleting my Google calendar. This must have happened to other people as well, since I got the BusyCal warning a week or two after the Mountain Lion upgrade.

When I saw how Gizmodo's Twitter account got hacked because some social-engineered illegal access to Mat Honan's iCloud, I thought it was more of the same.

It does suggest a responsibility of service providers to recover from such events, whether caused maliciously or accidentally, or by bad software. Our 'freedoms' come from regulation. The Bill of Rights reads "[some party] shalt not [do bad things]". Regulation is the only way we'll own a bit of what we trust to the cloud. I believe that regulation applies to banks and that money lost due to no fault of your own is replaced, at least for large amounts. Why not for the cloud, as well? And it would be better for this regulation to begin now, not in 30 years, when it may be too late.

Guys like us are at the early stage of most things that become common within five years. So I expect this sort of occurrence to get worse over time.

Steve Wozniak is the co-founder of Apple.



    The cloud is just an easier way for "they" to access our information. It's the equivalent of storing our own furniture in some dude's mansion, hoping he won't spill his coffee over our fabrics... or even worse.... misplace our furniture with his own... then throwing it away in a dump.

    The cloud is not trust worthy, because we're literally handing over our own personal content.

      Furniture is a poor analogy and your two concerns are easily addressed. Firstly, the cloud does not remove the need for backups. Having data in the cloud is a sensible and convenient way to go but does not magically eliminate the need for backups. Secondly, it is as if noone participating in the Cloud debate has ever heard of crypto. Try handing over your own personal ciphertext rather than your "personal content" in the clear... Don't rely on other people for your data security, you will inevitably be disappointed.

    I've never understood the need for cloud based storage, nor do I feel the need to give someone else my stuff with no guarantee of privacy or ever getting it back.

      So encrypt it if it's private / sensitive data and keep multiple copies in multiple locations / services. Done.

        Why not just keep it in one place, your own computer? Done.

          I don't know about you, but I tend to move around from time to time and having access to data anywhere there is an internet connection is a very handy thing.

            You can always set up a VPN, or simpler yet, carry one of those tiny HDDs containing a copy of your data. That way, you don'e even have to worry about a connection. But then, if you need access to work data, then you're likely connecting through a secure connection anyway.

              This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

                It sounds like you store all of your eggs in the one basket. Separate data copying and synchornised backup has been a mainstay for a long time. Many organisations still use the grandfather, father, son principle of backing up data. Thus you never lose everything. Privacy isn't the issue here.

            It's not hard to connect to your other computer over the internet. In fact you can do more than cloud based storage, at roughly the same amount of effort. Only, you control your own data, and either way, you need a connection. Besides, how much data are you crunching that cannot fit on a USB stick?

          And then your HDD crashes and suddenly you've lost a lot of data.

          Or there's a fire and you lose everything.

          That's a brilliant backup strategy you got there.

            Most sane people keep a backup on a separate HDD (separate as in not even in the case), often including an image of the OS and programs. HDDs are so cheap, that you could afford to keep multiple backups buried in the backyard, in case that fire suddenly erupts.

            However, if one has data that is so important, then one will also have a sensible backup plan in place from the outset. Important data should be under your control, not dependent on the vagaries of someone else with their head in the cloud/s.

          Uhh... because when your HD fails, you're Done.

    Cloud is fantastic - as an option not as mandatory service (which seems to be pushed on us lately)

    I never really had a use for cloud based storage either, that is until i applied it to my work. I use its simply as another backup system. I usually have multiple copies of my projects on my computer and a hard copy for the very important ones but i find the cloud gives that one extra mode of keeping things safe when everything else gos to hell.

    Let's be honest, the cloud's primary function is to paper over all the holes created by device/OS fragmentation. If sheeple weren't idiots, they wouldn't need the cloud because they wouldn't be carrying round three or four largely incompatible devices that all do largely the same things.

    I have a smartphone for a phone and an ultrabook for a computer. There is some overlap - calendar, contacts, email - but a sync relationship is maintained through a cable or Wi-Fi network, not via the cloud. Some of that data exists on the cloud but only as an extra back-up, not as primary. Wipe my Windows Live account tomorrow and it would take my phone or PC two minutes to restore most of it. In all probability I wouldn't even know it had happened, except my inbox would be cleaned out (which would save me doing it). But my email has been on the cloud for as long as I've been using email without too many problems, so I feel OK about that.


      Like I'd address which points you made is wrong but in general your grasp of the concept of the cloud in general is wrong so we'll just leave it at that.

        Your understanding of what the cloud is and its function is completely wrong and misunderstood, and thus your comments are invalid, Mr MM!

      Everything with you always comes back to your obsessive hatred of Apple and these mystery "sheeple" doesn't it? Its almost like you have a phobia of Apple. Did an Apple computer fall on you as a child or something?

      And talk about not understanding the cloud at all! Your comments make no sense whatsoever and seem to be blaming the rise of online storage on Apple users. Is that because you've confused the cloud with iCloud? (sorry if that "sheeple" word scares you).

      Someone needs to spend the evening on Wikipedia (and let go of their obsessive hatred).

    I will never use the cloud, specifically iCloud. Although Apple says that my data would be encrypted their user licence states that they have to give the US admin access to all that data if asked. I don't trust the US government nor its hyper-rich supporters.

      So stop being a whiny bitch and encrypt your data BEFORE you give it to Apple. Then the government is quite welcome to compel Apple to hand over your ciphertext, right?

    I've never trusted the cloud from the beginning. It has its uses though - in our company we find it very handy for sharing of files but would never trust it for keeping all of our data there.

    I do some work for Windows software developers and we spend a lot our time keeping the software working on a different user's computers. Some lack the RAM, some lack the required system DLLs, some have draconian security setups that prevents our apps from registering properly, some systems prevent our app accessing the user's directory, some users rarely upgrade the app yet complain about bugs that were addresses a year ago ie. its a real PIA.

    Going to the cloud would (assuming users used modern browsers with javascript enabled) save us these installation/maintenance issues. The bad side is:
    1. Users would have to take responsibility for backing up their own data in case something catastrophic happened to the cloud servers
    2. Users can never be certain no one else is accessing their data
    3. If we go belly up users won't have access to the cloud-based app (in the sense that one could continue using an app installed on one's own computer even though the company that created the app no longer exists.
    4. No one's quite certain who owns the data users put on the cloud.

    They need to rename 'the cloud'. Who likes a cloudy day after all? If it were called the stares heaven, Narnia or something I'm sure it would have a lot more support.

    I don't understand why so many people think that apple or google or microsoft givea flying crap what you store in the cloud. 'ohhhh they are going to access my datat and spy on me'. Are you really that self decieved and concieted that you think anything you say is that important.

    I can understand someone wanting to see Woz's data, but my info has nothing of interest in there to anyone but me and my wife.

      Actually all data is important. While you as a person may be of no interest whatsoever all your habits, preferences, desires... are of value to marketers, advertisers...

        The value of your stuff is priceless. Armed with just your Facebook account, I can access your bank account via phone. Take out credit cards, house loans all in your name. (its called fraud). From that point on your life has ended, literally as you cannot prove who you are now. I can even access your birth records and get a reprint for myself to use.

        Hurry up and give me the keys to your house. I want your stuff.

          Just thought I would add, I would never do it, however it happens more regularly than you think. From ABS.

          The Personal Fraud Survey for 2010-11 found that Australians lost $1.4 billion due to personal fraud, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

          Now factor in how cloud services are only just now taking off and realise the true risk and lack of regulations that exist under Australian law. None, because they are all hosted overseas.

    This is called the bleeding edge of technology. This is why you never install a service pack or update immediately upon release.

    I agree with Woz on this, I'm not a fan of my data solely being in the cloud, I use the google command line - "googlecl" to back up my calendars,docs and contacts to my linux server. Granted this isn't an option for everyone but I think having some sort of offline backup tool to compliment these cloud solutions would be the ideal solution. Problem is the majority of cloud suppliers don't seem to like you owning a copy of your own data, they prefer to lock you in by holding onto your data and/or making it difficult to migrate away.

    The fundamental question is how do we protect our data? I've been trying to figure this out for a while now to no avail, we need a completely open source, intuitive, simple to use system. If we took something like a *.txt file and kept our data in that, we could have applications interpret that. 0600 28/04/2013 Dentist could be read by an iOS app, an Anroid app et cetera. Backup locally, on the cloud, and store a hard copy of the print in case of massive EMF currents?

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