Los Angeles worries over the “dependability of cloud computing”

With the Los Angeles municipal email contract still up for debate, The LA Times published a “think piece” today on whether cloud computing is dependable. The piece is even-handed, ending with a quote by the city’s chief technology officer, “Is it going to be 100%? There’s probably going to be a time when we may have an issue. But what don’t we have an issue with?”

This political debate is taking place as the dust settles over the Microsft T-Mobile debacle, where many Sidekick users lost personal data. The incident reminds me of the problems suffered at AOL in 1997 with outages that affected hundreds of thousands of email users. Eventually, AOL fixed the problem but users learned an important lesson. They can’t rely on a third-party to protect their files; if data is important to you, you need to take responsibility and keep your own backup.

It’s inevitable that cloud computing will be blamed for problems that hit any vendor using the cloud in their marketing. It is always the new thing that is blamed; people always want a reason why something went wrong.

In the long run, every data loss should do what AOL’s email outage did: remind us that no system based on computers and networks is 100 percent reliable. The only protection is backups. And plenty of them.

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