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Your Documents, Up in the Clouds?

September 25, 2008 — Eric Böhnisch-Volkmann

There’s a lot of discussion about ‘cloud computing’ and storing your data ‘in the clouds’. Some new applications are based on this paradigm and are either built ‘in the cloud’ or use a servers cluster for synchronizing multiple clients and for giving web access to your data. While we clearly see the necessity for synchronizing a database between two or more Macs and maybe iPhones, we’re still unsure about what implications full web access to your documents has. My top issues are data integrity and data safety.

The first one, data integrity, is a matter of programming but bug could lead to documents disappearing and being lost forever. There is no bug-free software, and one example is MobileMe where server-side problems together with client-server synchronization had lead to complete email archives being lost forever if there was no backup. But, as said, it’s possible to get this under control.

Data safety is way more critical. Every server that is connected to the Internet can be broken. There is no system that is 100 percent safe. And if it can be broken, your data can be compromised. Even if one stores all data encrypted at least the web interface that you use to access it needs to know the decryption algorithms and keys, e.g. for convenient re-login.

I’d like to know if you’d use a web service that would sync with your databases and host them, give access to them, etc. including all the named security risks? Or would you rather go for a sync service that, e.g., uses the MobileMe iDisk as the hub? What is your personal attitude towards ‘cloud computing’? And how large are the databases that you would send across the public network?

Side note: Our license code server which holds all your details including your name, address, phone number, and email address works in ‘poll mode’ and is not directly accessible from the Internet.