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Cloud computing is not a picnic

Sydney Morning Herald | April 17, 2012
Risks of putting digital life in cloud.

"Clouds fail and can fail regularly, just like on-premise infrastructure does," Rubens says. "But people are a lot more sensitive when their cloud provider fails. We always tell customers to have a disaster recovery plan in place: like any other part of an IT infrastructure, this data needs to be backed up."

Strategies for duplicating cloud data vary widely. For example, Dropbox data is stored on the local computer and generally included local computer backups; as long as you're backing up regularly, your files will be protected.

Other cloud services have different options. It's possible, for example, to set up your desktop email program – Outlook, Thunderbird and the like – to download mail from many online email services. You can also use tools like Gmail Keeper to maintain a running backup of your Gmail inbox, while Backupify does a nightly backup of data from Gmail and Google's other cloud services as well as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Blogger, Zoho and LinkedIn.

Small business owner Luke Humble, who runs graphic design business Pixel Perfection from his base in Hervey Bay, Queensland – has worked hard to ensure his reliance on cloud services doesn't leave the company high and dry. Gmail and Google Contacts, for example, are both downloaded to work computers using Outlook for continuous availability, and pushed to Humble's Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone.

"In the event my phone dies, I've got emails both in the cloud on my laptop – and vice versa," says Humble, adding that many of the firm's clientele have solicited advice on how to set up similar backups. "Our clients also need to make sure they have access to their data as and when and where they need it, so some of the solutions we've put in place for ourselves, we implement for those clients as well."

While there are many options for getting your data from mainstream cloud services, smaller or newer services may have enough fans to be supported by third-party apps: in such cases, once you put your data into the cloud, it's not going anywhere. Factor this into your decision-making, and consider favouring cloud services that offer obvious ways for you to get your data out it you want to back it up – or just want to take your data to a competitor.

Early cloud companies were focused on building awareness of their services, but startups are increasingly recognising that customers won't buy into the cloud if it leaves their data landlocked. "One of the things we advertise very clearly on the home page is that 'your data is your data'," says Justin Strharsky, managing director of new occupational health and safety startup Synaptor, which manages industrial safety data that's shared amongst field workers in real time using a social media-like interface.


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