The Box.com data debacle part deux: Am I a total idiot, or what?

Some readers say I should have known better than to use a cloud service to store and share files. Here's what I have to say about that.

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That’s silly in so many ways I don’t where to begin. I’m willing to bet that nearly all of these folks store data in the cloud in some way, even if they don’t realize it. Use a Webmail service? You’re storing data in the cloud. Shop at Amazon? They’ve got your name, address, and credit card information stashed away on a server farm. I’m sure most of these folks have long histories of their comments on Slashdot, Reddit, and Hacker News and don’t think twice about that.  I won’t even get into whether they use Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

Unless you consider the Unabomber a role model, you’re going to use the cloud for at least some of your data. That’s only going to become more common over time, not less.

The simple fact is there is no 100 percent secure way to store your data. Web storage can be hacked or bollixed by sys admins with too much power and too little oversight, as happened with Box. Thumb drives and removable media are easily lost or stolen. Tapes get brittle, hard drives die, and any local storage can be destroyed in a fire or made inaccessible by any number of natural disasters.

It is not a mistake to store your data files in the cloud. It is a mistake to only store your data files in the cloud. Just as it is a mistake to only store them locally. The solution is to do both.

Some readers suggested I keep my data on a NAS device hooked to my home network that I could access remotely via VPN. That’s an intriguing idea, and I might give it a shot. But it’s not a solution for the non-geeky masses.

2. I am an idiot because I gave my password to strangers

Well, no, actually I didn’t. That’s not how Box.com works. Yet some people who have no clue about the process seem to believe I handed over my logins. So let me explain.

When you create a folder in Box, you have the option of choosing people to collaborate with you on it. You can invite them via email, or post a link and send it via text or IM. If they accept the invitation, they are prompted to sign on to Box with their own email and password.

These collaborators only have access to the files or folders you choose to share, and they only have the rights you give them – like whether they can upload and edit files or merely view them. They can’t get at your other data or alter your account in any way. 

Box also offers a sync option, a la Dropbox and SugarSync, for paying customers. But the way I’ve described it above is how I (and millions of others) use it for collaboration.

3. I am an idiot because I didn’t back up my data locally

Well, maybe. But as I noted in the piece, I used Box.com folders only to store nonessential, nonpersonal files, which I shared mostly with editors at the 347 publications* I write for. I had copies of most of those files, and I didn’t care about the rest.

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