Google Users Live By the Cloud, Die By the Cloud

By David Coursey, PC World |  Internet, Google

The Google outage confirms what everyone should already know: If it seems too good to be true, watch out! Google's failure is a lesson for everyone who is putting too many eggs in one basket, whether the basket is cloud computing or those who've ditched wired telephones for a wireless-only world.

I hate to say anything good about Apple's MobileMe service, God knows it still has problems, but Apple's approach to cloudiness is sound. I call it "Partly Cloudy."

It works like this: Install apps on the desktop, sync multiple desktops through the cloud, and offer a web-based interface for use away from your home computer or smartphone. There's a cloud all right, but with local backup, the sky should never fall.

Yes, I know that approach takes the supposed magic out of cloud computing, but what would you rather have: Magic that works great, except when it doesn't work at all, or reliable access to backed-up data? Those who got tripped up in the Google crash should consider.

As an aside, does it bother anyone else that an outage at an Asian data center could cause such a drop in all North American Internet traffic? Last time I checked, not everyone in Asia is certain to always be our friend. Do I see a day when the Chinese government will be able to close North America to the Internet simply by pulling the plug on a data center located on its own soil?

Is this, perhaps, what people are concerned about when they protest globalization? Some people considered my "Are we already losing the cyberwar?" post alarming. But the Google incident, plus China's release of a supposedly hack-proof operating system, designed to thwart our attempts to do to them what they do to us, makes my column seem absolutely prescient, if you ask me.

About telephones, a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control Study found that, for the first time, more Americans lived in wireless-only households (about 20 percent) than lived in homes with only a wired telephone (about 17 percent).

The data was from the last half of last year. With the recession and overall growth of wireless generally, the wireless-only crowd has probably grown sizably in the past year.

One day, I think the most ultimately screwed-up business user will the one who has only a cellular phone--no wireline--and depends on cloud-based applications, no local backups or applications to use the backed-up data. You can't do any work because the networks are down? Whoops!

Modern networks are amazing things, but they are also massively interconnected and even fragile. My advice: Don't put anything you don't have another way to access into the cloud, unless it's something you can live without, at least for a few hours or days.

Also, don't rely on a wireless handset or wireless Internet to always work in all circumstances. Nothing is perfect, as the San Jose cable cuts proved, but having more than one way to communicate only makes sense.

David Coursey's ultimate back-up is Amateur Radio. For details on getting your no-Morse code ham license, send him e-mail from www.coursey.com/contact. On the ham bands, David "tweets" as N5FDL.

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