With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
I love cloud computing. I use various aspects all day every day. Just like I’ve trusted my banks and utilities with my financial information, I trust Software as a Service (Saas) providers with much of my data. However, there are always a few concerns that should be addressed.
I am a firm believer that if I can trust my bank with my financial information (which I’ve done for years), I can trust Google with my documents, Flickr with my images and Mint with my financial account information. I pay all of my bills online and I file my taxes electronically. I can’t justify drawing a line all of a sudden. My biggest concern is that if my laptop is lost or stolen, I am in big trouble. Like many others, I tell my browsers to store my passwords to make it easier for me to login. However, now anyone can do so. A measure I have taken is to use TrueCrypt to encrypt my entire hard drive. Every time my computer powers on, it asks for my password. If it’s entered wrong, the drive is wiped. Someone may have my hardware, but they don’t have my login information or important documents.
I’m a Name-Brand Junkie
Not typically, but when it comes to the cloud, I trust the big names more. I saw the dot-com boom and bust. I’ve seen many companies come and go. I’d really rather not trust my data with too many small, unknown operations. Google (Docs, Gmail, Calendar), Yahoo (Flickr) and Adobe (Photoshop Express) are big names. Whether I’m justified or not, I have a greater sense of trust with them than someone I’ve never heard of. I poured over Mint.com’s privacy and security policies whereas I didn’t even read Flickr or any Google product’s. Is that wise of me? No, probably not, but when I started writing these articles, Id id read them, and I still feel safe. Just like real estate consumers still see value in names like RE/MAX, Keller Williams or Century 21, we all tend to trust big brands we know better than unknowns.
Are you an employer or IT manager?
If so, I feel sorry for you. I’ve had to lock people out on the days they’ve been given their pink slip. We do it so they can’t email their important documents or other files to their new employer. If your employees are storing their data online, you need to be prepared that when they leave (or are let go), all of their data is going with them and there’s not much you can do to stop it. Yes, you can have contracts signed at the point of hire, but it’s still a tricky path to walk.
Hopefully you now know more about what cloud computing is, how to use it as part of your work flow and some of the potential issues. Like email, cell phones, the internet, blogging, social networking and so many other technologies, cloud computing is here to stay and will only continue to grow. Learning how to harness the advantages while protecting yourself from some of the potential problems will allow you to become more mobile, spend less on computing hardware and require smaller investments up front on your software.
November 7, 2008 at 9:13 am
You can have your own personal place in the cloud using Amazon’s S3 for just pennies a month.
Amazon’s ToS for S3 is very clear, it’s your data, you own it, they do not make any external use of it.
I have been using it for my person storage and back-ups for a year now, never had an issues and I have spent all of about 30 bucks for it in the past 18 months.
I use a simple, non geek, browser interface to manage it, so I don’t have to deal with nerdy FTP command lines.
November 7, 2008 at 10:52 am
Good article (at least someone is talking about the problems inherent to vendor-hosted software). My suggestion: just get in the cloud yourself. You can get a virtual dedicated server from Godaddy for $30-40 a month, run your own software on it and access it from anywhere in the world. You don’t have to worry about someone stealing your data and if you lose your laptop, just access your server from another computer. For the vendor-hosted services you do use, just make sure that they are not real estate specific; whereas Google, Apple and others aren’t blatantly trying to hold you hostage, most real estate specific vendors will not allow you to take all your data with you should you decide to cancel the service.