The Ephemeral Cloud

I’ve been a proponent of trusting the cloud for a long time, but I’m starting to rethink that trust.

“The cloud” is a murky term, but what I mean by it here is: leaving your shit with someone else. Your files, your music, your movies, your everything…if it’s not physically stored somewhere in your home, it’s probably in the cloud. Most of my stuff is in the cloud. I’ve trusted it to remain there until I need it, but lately, that trust has been broken. The cloud has screwed me over three times in the past week:

First: for some reason, a file that was emailed to me via Google Drive is no longer accessible. One cloud service (Gmail) lost its link to another cloud service (Google Drive), and now I have no way of getting to my very important file.

Second: a simple web page, which I had saved the link to, blinked out of existence. It was a news story with an interview I’d done by phone, so there is no other record of it anywhere (other than the Wayback Machine, luckily).

Third: OneDrive announced that it was nerfing its storage limit. Since Microsoft got its head out of its ass and started doing useful things, all linked to OneDrive, I’ve been using their services a lot. For example, all my photos are backed up to OneDrive, which was convenient when it had unlimited storage. But now OneDrive’s storage is capped, and if I had over 1TB stored there (luckily I don’t), I’d risk losing everything I’d trusted with the service. More importantly, I can’t really trust anything with Microsoft again, because at their whim, it could be intentionally wiped out. Even more more importantly, the same thing applies to anything else in the cloud too.

I guess the lesson is that all things are fleeting. All the stuff above could just as easily have been wiped from a hard drive, or a backup hard drive, or a cloud backup of a backup. The only way to ensure anything stays in my control is to have three or four different ways of storing it and hope they don’t all crap out at once (I’m looking at you, EMPs). I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking of the cloud as a magic data centre in the sky that will safely keep my digital life safe forever. I was dumb.

Just think of how this will play out when we’re uploading human consciousness to the cloud.


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