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BLOG: Cloud Computing for Consumers—The Downsides

Bill Snyder | Sept. 13, 2011
The cloud should be seen as a choice for some functions, and not an absolute must have.

Outages really do happen. Google and Microsoft were both hit by cloud outages last week, with Google Docs going dark for an hour and Microsoft Hotmail, Office 365 and SkyDrive knocked offline for three hours. All of those services have had longer failures in the past. That's not to say they are inherently unreliable, but if it's in the cloud, you have to assume that sooner or later there will be an outage.

Even when Google Docs is available, it simply does not have the horsepower of either Microsoft Office or Open Office, which is free, by the way. I know, both of those suites are packed with more features than you'll ever use. But it's nice to have extra features when you need them. Would you prefer to be the one who decides what bells and whistles you can add to a document, or do you want to leave that choice to Google?

Cloud (In)Security
When someone else is holding on to your data, you have more to worry about than outages. Privacy and security are issues you need to consider. Hacking is more common than ever this year, and even responsible companies suffer attacks and inadvertent data leaks -- not to mention, the new, untested vendors who seem to pop up every day and don't necessarily have a real security plan in place.

Are there times when the cloud is a good bet for consumers? Of course. A lot of people are doing their backups in the cloud, and given the huge volume of digital stuff we all accumulate these days, it makes sense. Yes, there's a potential security issue, so I'd advise you to read up on the vendors who offer this service and pick one that gets good reviews from reviewers on trustworthy sites. You have to worry about a company going out of business and leaving you stranded, but that's probably a smaller risk than having your backup hard drive fail.

Collaboration is a plus as well. There are a number of free, or inexpensive, cloud offerings that make it easy for a workgroup to share and edit documents and other material. And it's great to have collections of photos online, making it very easy to share. So use the cloud when appropriate, but don't buy into the hype.

 

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