Yesterday’s post generated a few comments that focused on the cost and ease of use of the Chromebook. Now it’s time to put a data management spin onto it.
Today we keep our primary data either directly on our PC/laptop or on a file server. File server can mean many things; a home NAS server, a corporate Enterprise server or somewhere in between. There are also options to share data in the Cloud via products such as Dropbox. In all of these options the user or company maintains control of the primary copy of data. Backups (if taken) can also be local or perhaps into a cloud offering. Google are providing something different. They manage both the primary and backup copies of data and products such as the Chromebook make it difficult (almost impossible) for the user to take additional backups of their own data. This is a control thing that Google want to maintain.
Unfortunately there’s a price to be paid for giving away so much control. Imagine a company with 1000 employees. If one of them loses a laptop, the exposure and possible loss is on that laptop. The exposure is only valid if the laptop was not encrypted and would pertain to any locally cached files. Admittedly that exposure could be significant, but with encryption, easily mitigated. Loss represents any data not already replicated or backed up elsewhere. With tools such as Dropbox, this can be minimal, or almost nothing.
Now look at the Chromebook model. All the data is stored and managed by Google. If there is an issue in a Google datacentre, which could range from data being inaccessible, to data loss, to inability to recover, then all 1000 users are potentially affected. Imagine primary storage is damaged and lost – Google have the backup copy too – you better hope the restore will work. In addition, why would Google prioritise you over other customer restores? All of a sudden your risk becomes the loss of your entire business if you can’t get things back. Will Google pay if this happens? I doubt it.
Running your own infrastructure gives you a degree of control over your own destiny. Your own solution may not be perfect but you can control how data is stored and protected, including the frequency and type of backup. Cloud solutions by their nature are deployed for the lowest cost possible otherwise they don’t become economic. By reducing cost and moving to the cloud you are also increasing risk. I am not saying this is bad, but merely that you should understand the consequences of moving to a less expensive service. If you are comfortable with the risk, then Google (or other cloud services) may be the right thing for you.
Perhaps as cloud offerings mature, we will see a range of service levels offered – from free to premium, where the quality of the infrastructure and degree of resiliency is matched to the cost. The ability to segregate the valued data from the MP3 files yet retain the same portal interface may be the best way for cloud offerings to go mainstream.