February 23, 2011, 6:10 PM — Virtual Private Servers: best idea ever or one more sign you've squeezed too much into your intertube?
Ars Technica has a good writeup justifying why and how to migrate your personal data and apps to a private cloud, rather than using those wishy-washy personal-PC-access products or services.
I can't decide if it's the best idea ever or another example of the trend toward consumers putting everything online, whether it belongs there or not.
There's no question cloud and SAAS apps can be great; you get better software than you'd buy or use at home, faster hardware, better reliability and someone to fix it if something goes wrong.
On the other hand, if you can't get to the 'net, you can't get to anything, and it's much harder to keep your data consolidated, secure and backed up in a way that will let you find lost emails or documents in a year or two years when you've forgotten you even had an account with some fly-by-night SAAS site, let alone what data you put there or what the password is.
Stacking it all on virtual private servers – your personal tiny VMs in a data center run by Rackspace or Amazon or Microsoft or, more likely one of a host of smaller players – either puts it in one place or creates a hub you can use to keep it all synced, or at least be able to find it.
It also gives you a better idea of where it all is and some level of control over the data, the apps and who has access to them, without memorizing login data for 10 or 12 sites and accessing them one at a time when you need to get contact info, notes from a meeting, a couple of presentations and a history of your email with someone if you have to get ready for a F2F meeting or defend how you responded to their poke.
A lot of it depends on cost and, in my case, anyway, how ambitious I feel about getting my digital house in order.
It's a lot easier to keep using old PCs larded up with extra hard drives for backup or local servers, and access them via FTP or GoToMyPC or a VPN than to try to move all my dusty old data to someone else's shiny new system (at a few megabits/sec at a time). Cheaper, too.
The Art Technica piece gives some justifications for virtual private servers, but focuses mostly on how you'd set one up and why it's not as daunting as it looks (from the dauntingly long and detailed directions).
I'm unquestionably sold on cloud and virtualization; when and whether they're worth the trouble or cost for me personally is where the drive to upgrade breaks down.