Lots of people are starting to live their digital lives in the cloud. They don't think too much about the cost, privacy, or security -- but perhaps they should.
Whether we like it or not, changes in the way we perform computing, and where our data gets stored, seem inevitable given everything we read these days about cloud computing.
Perhaps I am an old fuddy-duddy, but I have been resisting the calls to put my data online. It just does not make sense to me due to convenience and cost issues. I can buy a 1-terabyte disk for quite a bit under $100 these days, and I can make it accessible to all of my devices while at home and through a web interface when I want to access my data from anywhere else. For another $100, I can secure that data by putting it in a RAID array.
Admittedly, if I have a fire in my house, I could lose the data, and I would love to have an offsite disk at a friend's house to give me that extra layer of protection. Unfortunately, the software is not in place to enable that to be done easily. So, for about $400 total, I can have one terabyte of reasonably secure storage, and assuming a disk life of five years, that equates to under $100 per year plus a little bit for electricity to run them.
To compare, I looked at cloud storage solutions. I am using Rackspace as an example because they have clear pricing. I have no idea if they are the cheapest or best solution out there -- they are just an example. They charge 10c per Gigabyte per month. So, for one terabyte, it's $100 per month -- over 10 times the cost. In the place I use it the most -- home -- it's going to be more than 10 times slower.
But that is not the end of the cost equation; you also have to pay 12c per Gigabyte to access your data. So, assuming I only access a quarter of my files once per month, that is another $30 per month. What do I do that requires this amount of storage? I am a photographer, and my library of photos exceeds one terabyte. Who knows how often my Lightroom application would access files when I start up?
OK, so let's say I have lost all of my marbles and decide to put my photos in the cloud. What about security and privacy? Let me start with privacy. While I don't believe that I take any photos that are illegal, what if they are and I don't know it? Have I given up any rights by placing them with a third party? We've recently heard about the sweeping spying going on by the US government through the National Security Agency's programs and evidence of foreign countries gaining access to secure data within this country. I am sure that none of this is particularly unique to the US -- it's going on everywhere -- it just gets talked about more openly here. Could it be governments are really the ones who want cloud storage to become ubiquitous so that they have access to more people's private data?
And lastly, there are issues about security. I am sure that Rackspace is a stable company and that they are not going to disappear overnight, but that may be a concern with some of the lower-cost providers. Rackspace also says that all data is written to three separate disks on three different servers, each of which has a dual power supply. Sounds nice and secure, but what happens if the data gets corrupted or lost? What liability do they have? Well, I couldn't find an answer to that anywhere on the website, but I wouldn't mind betting that they limit their liability to the cost of the storage.
So, am I painting an overly negative opinion of cloud storage? I would love to be persuaded that this might eventually be a good thing to do. What concerns do you have?