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I bow to no-one in my admiration of Richard Stallman. Anyone who can found the Free Software Foundation as well as creating GNU (as in GNU-Linux, the bit that does most of the work) is well worth listening to. So when he talks about cloud computing being potentially dangerous it is as well to stop and listen. Although hearing anyone use a phrase like “worse than stupidity” gives pause for thought. And not in a good way. The gist of the argument is that computing in the cloud, whether mail via GMail or documents stored on Zoho, are a trap. In the same way that traditional software applications forced you into using their software (I’m looking at you WordPerfect), cloud computing may trap your data. And that’s true; as far as it goes. However this is not a criticism of cloud computing. It’s a criticism of anyone who doesn’t properly back up their data. That’s a problem whether you use Notepad and save your data on a floppy disk or photos stored on Flickr. As it happens I’m a big fan of cloud computing. As almost every computer I have has a net connection it saves messing about with floppies, pen drives or external hard disks. I’m not stupid enough, however, to trust that my data will always be there. Even Amazon, who have a history of reliable web services, had a glitch that knocked out their S3 data storage service for a working day. If I turn up to give a presentation I have e-mailed myself a copy, saved it on Mozy, have a copy on various on-line services and kept a copy on a pen drive attached to my key-ring. In other words I don’t make it out the door and into my car if I don’t have my data. It’s frustrating that this far into the history of computing people are still writing “Back up your data or you’ll be sorry” articles. Even more frustrating when the person saying it has written the back up software themselves. EDIT: Richard Stallman must have the computing gods working for him. Just as I tried to post this my net connection went down. I’m sorry Richard. Please don’t hurt me again. Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder | Technology | guardian.co.uk
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