Cloud Computing shouldn’t be your only source of data

By on March 6, 2011
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Google’s failure to serve 150,000 customers their email is surely a sign.


Some time back, I stated my excitement about Google’s upcoming Chrome OS as previewed on their engineering sample CR48 laptop. The idea of having all your data reside on the cloud with any device being able to access it is the nirvana of computing. However, with the unavailability of contacts, email and chat to 150,000 GMail users last week makes me wonder if I am relying on the cloud more than I should?

The convenience of having your data stored on the cloud is unbeatable. If you’re like me, you access your data from multiple desktops, a laptop, a tablet and a few Smartphones that are always completely in sync. Ten years back, this was a dream but with an Exchange Server or Google Apps along with Google Docs and many other apps such as Saasu or Zoho, I never have to think twice about my data being accessible on a PC I’m using as long as I have an Internet connection.

At least that’s how I felt until last week before Google gave a few users quite the scare when they logged in to their Gmail account and found all their emails missing. What happened is that Google implemented a software update on their servers which didn’t go exactly as planned. That doesn’t sound like anything new, however when Google has multiple copies of data in multiple data centers and even then some if it goes missing is surely a cause for concern. So how did that happen? Here is the explanation from Google:

“In some rare instances software bugs can affect several copies of the data. That’s what happened here. Some copies of mail were deleted, and we’ve been hard at work over the last 30 hours getting it back for the people affected by this issue. To protect your information from these unusual bugs, we also back it up to tape. Since the tapes are offline, they’re protected from such software bugs. But restoring data from them also takes longer than transferring your requests to another data center, which is why it’s taken us hours to get the email back instead of milliseconds. “

The good news is that your data isn’t lost- just inaccessible until Google recovers it. That’s not too dire of a situation for an individual’s personal account, but if that happened to me on my company account- lets just say that it would leave my business crippled.

Does that put me off cloud computing? Not really. It just teaches me that along with keeping my data on the cloud, its always a good idea to have a local backup. So start using technologies like Google Gear to store your mail offline and Dropbox to keep a backup of your documents on every computer. It might not be as convenient- especially when syncing data, but it sure beats the hell out of not having your data available to you at all.


Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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