Keeping it in the Cloud, a Cloudy issue

by Terry 10/15/2009 8:49:00 AM

With the recent T-Mobile and Microsoft Sidekick data loss incident, it is clear Cloud Computing is often mischaracterized as a safe means of data access, storage and application access. Take this quote from this report on the Sidekick issue.

“The Sidekick service, run by Microsoft unit Danger, is supposed to be more secure in storing data because it is kept in the "cloud," which involves storing information on the Internet and not one physically vulnerable location, making the temporary loss of data striking.”

What strikes me is the misconception in the statement. The data loss is striking because it is believed that cloud computing is secure and safe. Sadly, just because data is available on the internet does not make the data safe or secure. Just because an application is on the internet does not guarantee its availability, longevity or protability.

Take for example a service like Shutterfly, or Costco’s online print services. Karen, my wife, has made some fantastic albums using these services. The costs are reasonable, the quality is great. I have no complaint with the outcome (with one exception with Shutterfly sending invitations which had no printed text, but this ultimately had a good outcome).

Once I upload data, pictures and text, to a cloud application, there is no magical invincibility cloak surrounding my data. The service can be hacked, suffer from espionage, have a server fail, go out of business, and so on. Additionally, while the raw data may be mine, the formatted data that the service uses to provide its output is owned by the service itself. I may have my own personal copies of the picture and text, even the printed album in my hands, but the data to generate the album, calendar or greeting card I purchase is not transferable to another service. I cannot, in most cases, get the output of the first service in a generic, openly transferable bit of data to use in another service. In this sense, I do not own all the data that I may have purchased.

This is a common open source argument with proprietary data formats. If I do not have a copy of Wiget’s WordSmithe 1.0, I may not be able to read a document written with that tool. Cloud computing does not make this any less true and carries the additional risk of possessing the raw data to boot.

I will keep my data on my own storage and backup systems. I will even continue to use services like Shutterfly. I will always do so with a bit of caution in mind, asking myself, “if this service is gone in a year, how will I reproduce my work”?

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computing | Opinion | Personal

It’s a Pirate Ship! Damn the Rules!

by Terry 10/8/2009 12:24:00 PM

State's 'Pirates' ship too dirty for Calif.

“Washington's official state ship, the venerable Lady Washington, is no longer welcome in California.

The 112-foot square-rigger, perhaps best-known as the ship hijacked by Jack Sparrow in the Disney film "Pirates of the Caribbean," normally spends its winters in California waters. Last winter, it hosted more than 70,000 visitors and took more than 7,000 California school kids sailing from California ports.

But not this year.”

The ship is banned because it uses an old engine.

Would not a better alternative be to use processed cooking oil? Consider, a local law is changing the use and public access to a ship with some educational and public value in service for years. The change is forcing a non-government sponsored program to incur $100,000 of refit expenses, putting the program at risk.

I call this a symptom of unintended consequences. I would prefer to have rules imposed which only apply to new ships instead of forcing costly retrofitting. What are the costs of this required retrofit? It goes beyond the cost of replacing an engine. It includes the energy to produce a new engine, dispose of the old engine, transportation, and so on.

I could see a simple possible ‘eco-friendly’ work-around. Why not require the vessel use a bio-diesel alternative? I suppose the argument is that the emissions are unsavory with the current engine. How about the cannons? Are these emissions regulated too?

Damn the rules! It is a Pirate Ship! Who’s to say nay to their coastal passage!

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About Terry Losansky

Terry Dee Losansky

I am a software architect, actively practice and teach martial arts and live in Snoqualmie, Washington. I have an amazing daughter who is the jewel of my life.

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