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Amazon reaches into customers’ Kindles and remotely deletes already-purchased books. Facebook launches Beacon, an advertising mechanism that collects and publishes information about what you do on external web sites on your Facebook profile (only to apologize and offer opt-out later).  Twitter doesn’t offer the ability to export more than 3,200 status updates. Flickr only lets you see the last 200 photos you uploaded if you don’t have a paid Pro account. MySpace and Facebook don’t immediately remove photos from their servers when you delete them.

When you’re living in the cloud, you’re beholden to a third party who can make decisions about your data and platform in ways never seen before in computing.

Server Unavailability and Account Lockout

One of the biggest benefits of storing your data in the cloud is that you don’t have to worry about backing it up anymore. Big companies with hundreds of servers are more reliable than your little external hard drive, right? Yes. But servers do go down, and when you’re dependent on a web application to get your email or access that PowerPoint slideshow for the big presentation, there’s always the risk that your internet connection will go down, or that the webapp’s servers will. Offline technologies like Google Gears, decent export functionality, and a good backup system can ameliorate this particular concern, but not all systems offer those things.

Getting locked out of your webapp account is another possible pitfall.           The NY Times reports:

Discussion forums abound with tales of woe from Gmail customers who have found themselves locked out of their account for days or even weeks. They were innocent victims of security measures, which automatically suspend access if someone tries unsuccessfully to log on repeatedly to an account. The customers express frustration that they can’t speak with anyone at Google after filling out the company’s online forms and waiting in vain for Google to restore access to their accounts.

(If you’re worried about getting locked out of your Gmail account in particular, here’s one way to automatically back up your mail to your computer.)


Don’t get me wrong: I personally am right on the cloud bandwagon with all of you. My web browser is the one app I run on my desktop at all times; I’ve entrusted the likes of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Yahoo with my data just like you have. The key is to know what you’re getting into when you make that choice, to ratchet up your personal security mechanisms (like alternate email addresses and password choices) and to lobby for better user protection by hosting providers in the cloud.

What is your biggest concern about living in the cloud?

What risk factor worries you most about relying on webapps and storing your data in the cloud?

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker’s founding editor, is cautiously optimistic about the future of cloud computing.

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Click here to find out more!
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