The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Head in the clouds

Okay, I received the following email from a friend of mine (not saying who, as I don't want to drag him into this) about cloud storage. It was a bit odd, in that it was addressed to “undisclosed-recipients” but even if he did send this with good intentions, well … given that he knows my views on this, I wonder why he included me in the email.

I'm not given to sending mass-emails, so when I send one out, it's a biggie. And this is a biggie.

I'm a huge proponent of cloud-based storage for convenience and backup. And, joy of joys, an online cloud storage provider,, has teamed up with Dell to give away the deal of the century: 50G of online storage—for life!

As near as I can tell, there's no catch.*

Plus, you can access your files from anywhere: From you Windows PC or Mac, from your iPhone, or iPad, or from your Android phone or tablet. There are sync clients available for all the major platforms—even FTP. I use myself. It's really easy to use.

This is a tremendously good thing to have, if for no other reason than to store your important pictures. So many times over the course of my career have people come to me with dead hard drives and said: “Please, I don't care about anything else—just save my pictures.” I can tell you from personal experience that the very safest place to store copies of your important files is the cloud. With Box, you will never, ever have to worry about losing your important files again. Plus, you can access your files from anywhere, and collaborate as well.

Click the link below to get started:

* Uh-oh, the dreaded asterisk: There actually is a small catch—the size of any one individual file in your account cannot exceed 250 megabytes (250 megabytes = 250,000,000 bytes, or a quarter of a gigabyte). 250 megabytes is enormous, and is quite literally ten times larger than you are normally allowed to send over most email systems.

I am NOT a proponent of cloud-based storage. First off, there's that bit about “online storage—for life!”. The implication is your life, but more likely the company will die long before you do. And it's not just limited to small companies that go under, even large companies like Yahoo and Google (who now has more money than God and Microsoft) have shutdown “online storage—for life!

No, really—you can lose access to your “cloud-services” for the darndest of reasons and have absolutely no recourse.

Yes,, this time it will be different.

The next item, the 250M file limit. Yes, it's large, but personally, I have about two dozen files that exceed that limit. Okay, they're videos and CD images of various Linux distributions, and one archive (a zip file) of MP3s (the soundtrack to an online game someone made). It's not a horrible limit, but there are legitimate files that exceed that limit. This isn't necessarily a deal breaker, but it does limit what I can backup on this so-called “cloud service.”

The next reason I dislike these “cloud services” will definitely come across as “tin-foil haberdashery” but—you may not have Fourth Amendment protections for data in the clouds. Even if it's served with a warrant, Google may not be able to notify you of the warrant it received to search your email stored there. Even having nothing to hide is no reason to give up your rights to hide the fact you have nothing to hide (told you this was “tin-foil haberdasery”—furthermore, you might want to be careful what you post at GoogleFacePlusBook, I'm just saying).

One last reason I don't like “cloud-services”—I can access all my files here at Chez Boca from anywhere, thanks to the miracle of the Internet. I don't need a third party to manage my own data. Of course, it's a bit of work to do so on the modern Internet (what with dynamic IP addresses and that horrible hack known as NAT, which broke the true peer-to-peer notion of the original Internet, but I digress) but it is possible.

But in the mean time, just be aware of what you can expect from “cloud services” (no privacy) before using it.

And remember this: if you're not paying for the product, you are the product.

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