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I love the cloud and see a majority of benefits in using it and storing data on it. Except safety. And by meaning safety I do not mean only keeping your password safe. I mostly set strong unreadable and not memorable passwords for my accounts. What I mostly fear is reliability.

Let's say that you keep your project spreadsheets in google drive and google decides that you violate their terms. They suddenly close your account and you are unable to access anything. You have an unknown downtime until you find out what went wrong, contact the right people (what kind of support do you get for a free account from google?) and access your files again. And what If they do not recover access to files?

This make me think that everything free is not viable for serious usage. I should keep everything in BOTH the cloud and my computer. This is not portability, this is just a backup system! If I intent to move all my data in podio or trello for example, what do you think is the possibility of failure in the future ?

Another subject of concern is taking your files out of there... In google drive you can't get them directly but export them to word and excel files. Not so practical but at least there is hope (lol).

I would like to hear your opinion on my fears !

EDIT: it might help some people

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And waht happens when the conmpany owning the cloud goes out of business. (or goes out of that business) – HLGEM Feb 26 '13 at 19:17
Other than "Duh, relying on other people for storage may result in losing said storage", what "answer" are you looking for? – Dave Newton Feb 26 '13 at 20:44
I am looking for someone that had a such experience with his/her data. – Radolino Feb 27 '13 at 6:46
They haven't been around long enough to have horror stories about. So far, I find them safer than external drives. Park your car in a shopping mall and the parking lot might catch fire and destroy your expensive car. Put valuable files online and the company might be taken down by terrorists. Still more likely to lose your car. – Muz Feb 27 '13 at 7:17
Haven't thought that one about terrorists. In the end, no data is safe. And keeping data on the cloud means that you keep local backups also. So counter-productive. Especially google docs that are being saved in google formats. Even If you have google drive installed, only links to the files are kept locally. MAC files are not read and excel/word files cannot be edited. I wonder If so many people that are using them are not aware about safety and security or I may be doing something completely wrong. – Radolino Feb 27 '13 at 7:29
up vote 7 down vote accepted

As a portion of my day job consists of providing consultancy on business continuity and disaster recovery I thought I should add a small note here about practical resiliency. I may be slightly more paranoid than most, but that is a good thing in this situation.

I keep backups in various forms, because computers, hard drives and storage systems fail.

  • I categorise data as essential (family photos etc), confidential (certs, keys, certain docs, emails), nice to have (configs, game saves etc) and everything else
  • On my computer I keep a copy of all my live data on a spare hardrive - mirrored 1:1
  • I then take an encrypted backup of essential, confidential and nice to have onto external drive every week
  • I also keep an encrypted backup of essential and confidential on Dropbox and on a shared server on a different continent
  • I keep a separate backup of my encryption keys on two USB sticks and an external hard drive physically locked in fire safes in two locations
  • The only thing that I really do only online is my Gmail. Google at least has the resources and motivation to protect my emails, but I still keep a local copy of every email, because even Gmail is sometimes down

I would use the cloud more, but it has some issues - not least around reliability and availability - so I do not yet feel it meets my personal uptime requirements.

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You are absolutely right. You have thought of almost everything and did what was right to keep your data safe. This answers my question also. Cloud offers a sense of portability and fake security/safety. – Radolino Feb 28 '13 at 13:41
Finally, everything cloud related is like giving your home key to a total stranger with the promise that he will be a "good guy". The thing I am trying to understand is if one step forward is 10 steps back: are the benefits of the cloud more than the flaws? Are we making our lives more and more complicated without a reason ? – Radolino Jan 10 '14 at 9:41
RobDel - no. If you read my post, you will see that everything I store 'in the cloud' is encrypted, so this is not like giving a stranger the key at all. As regards benefits - it depends entirely on your needs. The cloud does provide many organisations with cheap and convenient applications, storage, platforms etc while simplifying things like support, configuration, maintenance etc – Rory Alsop Jan 10 '14 at 10:49
you mean that they your data are encrypted and cannot be viewed by the stranger? Do you believe that ? – Radolino Jan 10 '14 at 10:51
Of course I believe it - I encrypt the data myself to a level definitely considered as overkill before I send it into the cloud. – Rory Alsop Jan 10 '14 at 11:03

As the T-shirt says: "Jesus not only saves, he often backups." I don't see the difference between trello and any other document: it needs backing up. Keeping stuff in the cloud keeps you safe from disk failures, but it creates some brand new risks: account closure, data loss due to service being hacked, password loss, etc. Cloud is not perfectly safe, it's just unsafe in other ways than keeping stuff on your hard drive. But the concept is the same: if you wish to be 100% sure that you won't lose your data, then back it up.

Every service out there has a built in backup option, or a 3rd party backup script (for trello see here). I back up all of my services on monthly basis: trello, RTM, gmail, evernote, google contacts, all of my wordpresses and even dropbox and gdrive. It takes 15 minutes per month and I sleep tightly knowing that my data is safe.

Just back it up, man.

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I didn't say I do not backup my data. My concern is that everything in my computer is backup in crashplan but everything in google drive or whichever app (like asana or producteev) are too difficult to maintain - how should I export 150 tasks in separate projects to a text file and what should I do with that? it's useless... – Radolino Feb 28 '13 at 6:44

No matter how you organize things, there is always a possibilty that things go wrong. Accounts can get hacked, hard disks can crash, your house can catch fire, etc.

I think the real question should be;

  1. what are the chances that something will happen to your files or documents?
  2. how important is it that you have a backup and/or can have access anytime your want?
  3. how much effort are you willing to put into reducing the risk of you loosing (access to) your files?

You should ask yourself those questions and setup a system based on your own answers. If you think the risk is high, then make backups. I you don't want to make backups all the time, then find a more reliable service.

Personally I'm quite content with free services like Google Mail and Drive. Based on my own experience and those of collegues, friends and family I think that Google is pretty reliable (at least when it comes to their service level ;-). I do store some mildy important documents there because I very much like the possibility to access those files from multiple locations and I don't make a backup but that's because I'm too lazy.

I don't have any experience with podio or trello, but when in doubt about the risks of some free service you can always do an Internet search and look for other people's experiences with that service.

EDIT: I just found out about Google Takeout that allows you to easily backup a lot of your stuff from your Google accounts. Your Gmail contacts will be saved as .vcf files and drive documents as .docx or .xslx. Sadly it lacks the option to backup your emails, but apparantly that can be done with another program called Gmail backup (which I haven't tried out yet).

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What is their service level for free customers ? I mean, there is a contact form but what are your chances of being supported in a small time frame ? They have the right to take your data down whenever they want and we have accepted the terms for that. Having a separate backup system for each of your systems is a time and money loss ! It makes things complicated. – Radolino Feb 28 '13 at 6:36
@RobertoDelgazzo I suspect the service level of Google for free customers is pretty low and I'm not sure if it is much better for paid customers. I think all ISPs grant themselves the right to close your account when they notice you are violating their terms. It doesn't matter if it's a free or a paid service. – THelper Mar 1 '13 at 10:49

Sensitive personal information should not be stored unencrypted in the cloud, because of the security risk. So you should always ask yourself before uploading: Would I be able to handle it if this data became public? If you use good encryption, uploading to for example Google Drive is normally fine.

As mentioned in the other answer, you should always backup any valuable data, including emails, in the cloud. So always verify that it is possible to download data for backup purposes easily before committing to a data service of some kind.

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Dropbox is a nice middle ground. Your data is on both the cloud and your devices - all your devices.

Personally, I keep all my important documents in multiple places. (none of which is dropbox.)

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I'm part of a group of start-ups that are developing something called a Personal Cloud. The intention is to give people more control and portability over their personal data. It is a nascent market and this post obviously identifies the Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability issues that arise when you don't have an open, portable and structured format for your data and meta-data. Again, this is an early-on and we'll see how all of this plays out.

If you're interested in finding out more, check out:

In particular, I am working on a Personal Cloud in which you have better self-hosting options that include backing up across your own local and "distant" network. Our Person2Person Technology is based on things like IPv6 which isn't fully available yet.

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