I've been using google documents a lot lately, as I like the convenience of being able to close a document at work, then come back home and pick up right where I left off after dinner. It's got me thinking about this new fangled idea that our digital lives should live in the cloud, though.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love my gmail. I just worry that people have no qualms about entrusting their important data exclusively to third parties anymore. Three illustrative stories_
- Ma.gnolia, host to the online bookmarks of tens of thousands of people, suffers massive "data corruption and loss". The end result is that many people have to start from scratch.
- A gmail user wakes up one day to find that he is locked out of his account for no reason, and it takes him over a week to get his access restored.
- AOL Hometown, a sort of neo-geocities, shuts down with very little notice_
Weâ€™re talking about terabytes, terabytes of data, of hundreds of thousands of man-hours of work, crafted by people, an anthropological bonanza and a critical part of online history, wiped out because someone had to show that they were cutting costs this quarter. Itâ€™s an eviction; a mass eviction that happened under our noses and we let it happen.
Think, for a second, about what's in your email archives_ phone numbers and addresses of your friends, instructions for getting that tricky system at work to function correctly, love letters, pictures of your family vacation.
Sure there's a lot of chaff mixed in, but some of this content is irreplaceable. Ever seen the love letters that your grandfather wrote your grandmother? Sure, we're exchanging sappy poetry in a different medium now, but shouldn't your grandkids have the same opportunity?
So stop trusting the cloud to keep this stuff safe for you. Set up Thunderbird to keep a local copy of your email. Use Google Docs Download or gdatacopier to keep copies of your online documents. Don't ever delete local copies of those pictures after you upload them to Flickr. And for the love of pete, stop using services like Hotmail that give you no way to download your mail. Who's mail is it, anyway?
Update_ Some more discussion over at Friend Feed