Seven Hidden Truths About Personal Clouds
Increasingly, people are discovering the joy of using personal clouds for a wide range of tasks, such as photo and video sharing, mobile backup, anytime music and project collaboration. Consequently as their popularity increases, people’s skepticism about worrisome aspects, such as privacy, security and reliability, is starting to ebb and growing desire and expectation for anytime access of personal content is trumping concerns.
This article highlights some key potential gotchas that personal cloud providers prefer users don’t know, but, being aware of these is essential as it helps adopters gain the most from personal clouds while avoiding potential pitfalls.
#1: The service is free (except when it isn’t). Every personal cloud service offers free sign up, but the catch is the ‘freemium’ model that relies on users upgrading to a paid service or mining user data for advertising. So even though a service appears free, there is no such thing as a free cloud.
#2: We don’t care about your data (we want your $). Although personal clouds tout their many benefits, they are really offered to sell people things such as more storage, devices, mobile data and content. Or they are offered to reduce switching because your data is in their cloud. This is a modern version of the strategy of giving the razor away for free in order to sell the blades i.e. the aforementioned stuff. Don’t be fooled, keep a close tab on your wallet.
#3: Trust us, your data is safe & secure (unless it isn’t). A personal cloud service accessible by the public has a good chance of being hacked, even with stringent safeguards. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies can legally search cloud information, depending on location and circumstance. You should still not put anything online that you don’t want Uncle Sam or other unknown relatives to access.
#4: We are 100% reliable (except when we’re not). There have been numerous outages and incidents affecting personal clouds, resulting in data loss, despite best efforts to avoid this. It is too costly to 100% guarantee that all data will be available forever. The chances may be slim that you will lose data sometime, but if you really want to be careful, maintain an off-cloud version of important stuff. It’s like dentists say, you don’t need to floss all your teeth, only the ones you want to keep.
#5: Get a lot of storage for cheap (that you probably won’t use). Most personal clouds offer a nominal amount of free storage and a lot more storage for a modest fee. How do they do this without going broke? Is it economies of scale, storing data on low cost media, compression or storing a single copy of commercial content such as movies and songs? The answer is yes , but it’s also a numbers game. Services are based on the premise that a high percentage of purchased storage is never used. When you run out of free storage and upgrade for more, it takes time to fill it up, which for most people, never occurs, for many reasons. When this happens, you are actually paying for free storage for other people.
#6: Having a bad cloud day? (Good luck getting help). How many personal cloud services offer phone support? OK, stop laughing. If zero popped into mind, that would be about right. Many services offer online support, which may be ok for techies. If you are non-technical, you should befriend a techie or there is safety in numbers i.e. stick to popular services because if millions use something, it must work.
#7: We’re not mining your data (but we might tomorrow). Popular personal cloud services are legit, with privacy policies that prevent data from being mined without consent. That’s fine until they change. They can publish a revised policy with fine print that may relax privacy restrictions. How many people read the fine print? About the same as the number of providers offering phone support. So while, you enjoy the convenience of your personal cloud, treat confidential data with utmost care, by keeping it off-cloud.
In sum, these seven hidden truths may cause you to pause before using personal clouds. That wasn’t the intent of this article; it was to make people aware, so they know how far they can rely on personal clouds. As a final word of advice, personal clouds are here to stay; it’s best to make them your ally, which you can do by being aware of potential gotchas.
By Hal Steger
Hal Steger is Vice President of Worldwide Marketing and Business Development at Funambol. He has more than 20 years of marketing and business development experience. Steger co-founded and was VP Marketing of Rubric, where he positioned the company as the leader of the new category of Marketing Automation solutions. Rubric was acquired for $370M. Prior to Rubric, Hal held product management and product marketing positions at Oracle, Uniface/Compuware, and other high profile Silicon Valley companies. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan with a double major in Computer Science and Economics, and an M.S.I.A. (MBA) degree from Carnegie-Mellon’s Tepper School of Business (formerly GSIA).