Friday, July 25, 2008

Cloud Services Can Have Thunder Storms

The latest winner in the battle for the land-grab over consumer digital music goes to... well, NOT Yahoo. Seems that they've decided to throw in the towel when it comes to the DRM (Digital Rights Management) servers they use to make sure that the music you've purchase is legit.

The only problem is - once they do that... ummm... you can't move your music - you know, the stuff you paid for - to any other computer or device.

Um... yeah.

Hey - MORE good news for the shareholders of Yahoo next week! Ol' Carl's dance card is going to be full, that's for sure. I guess when your stock tanks (called it!), Carl Ichan now owns 33% of your board (called it!) along with 12% of your stock - and he says "cut the losses and get out" - I guess you get out.

Now, it's not happening until September - so if you bought music on Yahoo - then hurry the hell up and copy it to every single device known to man. Yahoo is also offering folks the option of either a) getting all the money back they spend on buying all that music (Carl Ichan rolling in grave); or b) DRM-free copies of all the music they bought (the way it should be anyway!).

I can't get that Queen song "Another One Bites The Dust" out of my head. RealNetworks is the venue that Yahoo picked back in April to take over their service - but to me it just confirms that Amazon got it right with DRM-free music that you can actually buy and OWN - versus the "buy it - and own it virtually" concept.

This is one instance where "in the cloud" went horribly wrong.

At least, to be fair, they're trying to take care of their customers. But that leads to a bigger question about "cloud" services - what happens if your particular vendor decides ("for business reasons") to shut down it's data centers or turn off its servers? Not all companies will "take the high road" as Yahoo has with regards to its customers.

It's inevitable that in the future one of these large vendors will just go tits-up and leave their customers (and all of their data) in the lurch. The smart bet is to make damn sure you have a backup (on "paper" if necessary) of all of your important data in a way that you, personally, control.

Or, at the very least, back it up to more than one online, virtual datastore. I think you see my meaning here. As more and more of services go SaaS - and more and more companies and individuals buy into PaaS - you can't just abdicate control of your digital future.

You need to actively manage your digital assets (music as well as email, database data, website pages, etc.) as you would data in an "old fashioned", on-premises data center. Back it up in more than one place, and be ready in case of a natural disaster - or an "economic slowdown" - or some other unforeseen event.

Cloud services are great, don't get me wrong. But we've all seen how the shiny promise of MobileMe, Salesforce, iPhone activation, get us to part with cash and then the absolute backlash and worldwide flogging of those same companies when their .0001% of downtime (inevitably) happens.

As we come to rely on services that are outside our control - we need to realize that sometimes digital sh*t happens - and it's all technology that's based on a text-based rendering engine that didn't even exist 15 years ago.

It will get better and more reliable, but in the mean time - just remember that these services are not like the (hardwired) telephone service, not like an electric utility, and they will go down, merge, un-merge, go broke and in innovate like hell in the wild west that is the digital communication age.

And if you don't like it - dust off your 78's, and buy a pad of paper, a pencil and some stamps.

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