Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When The Cloud Blows Away

Last week's FBI bust of MegaUpload, in an airborne dawn raid on a rented Coatesville mansion (which saw the prime conspirator lock himself in a safe room with a weapon), was all quite exciting.
But now the smoke's cleared, customers have realised they'll probably never again see the personal files they uploaded to his system. Globally, millions of people uploaded files to MegaUpload - personal photos, home videos, software well as pirated material (which was the target of the investigation).
With it's accounts frozen, companies that house files for MegaUpload can't be paid. So those storage companies could begin deleting data this week, although they've agreed to hold off for at least two more weeks. But for Joe Public to ever get his material back, MegaUpload would have to be temporarily kick-started again, because it's simply too hard for hosting companies to ascertain which users should be entitled to access what files. I can't imagine the FBI would be thrilled about that idea (although the stored data may yet be required as evidence in Dotcom's court case)...
As more and more people upload files to online storage "clouds" to save space on their computers, it's unlikely many of them make physical back-ups any more: they would perceive the "cloud" as their back-up.
And therein lies the problem. When something as convenient, unlimited (and generally free) as
"cloud" storage comes along, naturally it gains a strong following and it's all too easy to rely upon it as your sole safety net. But the MegaUpload case has highlighted that safety nets (and thus your personal data) can be compromised by data pirates.
RapidShare, another online storage site, estimates about 5% of files stored on its computers may be pirated. While that figure may not sound much, if the FBI decided to shut down RapidShare, then the other 95% of "safe" personal data could be lost!
Caveat emptor.
It remains the responsibility of all computer users to maintain several back-ups. By all means, use a "cloud", but do not neglect a local safety net of discs, USB sticks or an external hard-drive. A little time-consuming and "old school" perhaps, but it could end up being your cloud's silver lining...

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