The recent magnolia-scandal brought back concerns about data backup and service quality from the back of the mind of many users. I know how important these issues are but like most users I blindly trust most new services with my data. Most services offer data export such as Delicious or synchronization such as Gmail provides. But when there is nothing to export from these options become quite irrelevant.
This post is actually a bit counter-argumentative to what is usually one of my main points for moving from a desktop application to a web application. Moving data and service hosting to a professional provider is better than taking care of that yourself. But when even a bank can destroy a disk full of bank transactions which happened here in Norway a few years ago, questioning data handling by even the largest SaaS providers is important.
Data are fairly well taken care of and there are usually solid agreements in the enterprise SaaS segment, but what should consumers require from vendors regarding personal data in the cloud? Here are some examples of what we can do and what we should demand from vendors:
- Backup of course. Including off-site verified backups with recent data. With services such as Amazon S3 there is no excuse not to.
- Off-site backup should always be available from external host. Service problems always occurs at the worst time it seems. By providing off-site externally hosted backup users can at any time reach their data.
- Offer “remember to backup locally” services such as e-mailing data or just a reminder once a month.
- Get backup processes verified by external consultants. I have a lot of photos on Flickr. I use Flickr as a online gallery and have my photos stored locally, but for others it might be their primary photo storage. Gmail is actually a even better example as most people usually have no local copy of the e-mail data stored in Gmail. If backup processes are verified by a competent objective source then users can more easily filter out vendors they can trust their data with.
- Register with a competing service that offers synchronization to your main service. Use Delicious? Then sign up with Diigo to make sure your data is available from two services.
What can be the solution? Here’s a suggestion for protective or paranoid developers with some free time: application for automatic cloud data backup. Should probably include a browser plugin so it can track your logins to supported sites. This application should daily/weekly connect to services I use and transfer all data to a local backup.