Picnik will be closing April 19, 2012.

Picnik will be closing April 19, 2012.

Later this month Google will close the shutters on Picnik.com, a popular online photo-editing site that Google bought in 2010 and is now being absorbed into the web giant's Google+ social-networking venture.

Picnik's users, many of whom have built up significant portfolios of work created with Picnik's Flash-based image editing tools, have been exhorted to download their images using Picnik Takeout – a feature that compresses all of a user's images into a compressed, downloadable .ZIP file. It's a one-time offer: once the site goes dark on April 19 (US time), every picture stored in the service will be gone.

Picnik isn't the first cloud service to close its doors, but it's a textbook example of the risks inherent in entrusting too much of your digital life to cloud-computing services. Web-based services like Apple's iCloud; file-sharing site DropBox; Adobe's Photoshop Express; Microsoft's new Office 365 apps and Windows Live services; photo-sharing sites like Facebook, Yahoo's Flickr and Smugmug; and Google Docs and related apps – these, and hundreds of other online services, are built around the idea that the software providers will look after your data for you, forever.

A screenshot of Gmail Keeper.

A screenshot of Gmail Keeper.

Since they promise to look after that data, you assume they're backing it up and will always make it available to you – but what if they don't, or can't? What if, as in the case of file-sharing site Megaupload, they are unexpectedly closed down. Or, as now-defunct hosting provider Distribute.IT found out last year in dramatic style, what if they're hacked, data protection measures fall over, and countless gigabytes of crucial customer data is lost?

They're far from common, but disasters like these do happen; Google's Gmail service, for example, suffered a five-day outage last year that left over 30,000 customers without email. And that's why, despite the marketing hype and a high success rate in cloud migrations so far, Cloud Solutions Group managing director Josh Rubens advises his clients to make sure they maintain backups of everything they've stored in their cloud solutions.

Rubens recalls one customer that ignored his advice to install conventional backups and became distressed when their original cloud provider had a four-day downtime that severely disrupted the business; a replacement provider was sourced but suffered its own downtime a few months later. Eventually, the company gave in and set up their own on-site backup.

 

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