I'm well known for being a PC minimalist. I even make a bit of a fuss about this in my book, Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out, that if you want to have to keep repairing problems in Windows one of the best ways to achieve this goal is to keep installing software into it. There's also the issue I highlight that it's fairly pointless installing software into an OS that duplicates features that are already there (notable exceptions being iTunes and Zune).
Then there is the issue of who you host your email and other services with such as online document editing. The argument here is exactly the same however this is less about clutter and more about interoperability. It's great when things just work well together, and bringing all these things together with a single service provider can often achieve that.
So it might come as no surprise to hear that I also believe in sticking with a single cloud-services backup provider if at all possible. More so, I'd recommend that this cloud backup provider should be the very same company that you host your email, documents and everything else online with.
So why you might ask am I being so stupid? Only this week Amazon became the latest company to experience huge issues with its cloud services. Also if you wanted everything hosted with Google what about the privacy concerns over services such as Streetview and Buzz, and the repeated hacking of GMail by the Chinese government. After all, if the Chinese can hack Google's email service, surely so can any other determined group.
It stands to reason, quite logically then, that if you store everything with a single provider that if something were to go wrong the potential impact could be astonomical, and I agree that under a worst case scenario (the worst case obviously being a very, very worst thing that could ever happen, ever) this would indeed be the case.
However... Online backups are supposed to be just that, backups. I am hearing from an increasing number of people who are looking for a good service online to store their digital photographs. Be this Flickr, Google, Facebook or another service this is a terrible approach. We should not be looking to move our lives wholesale into the cloud, rather we should just be looking at the cloud as a way to back it all up with the added convenience of then being able to access those files from anywhere we like.
This is where services such as Dropbox and Mozy win out. They'll automatically and invisibly synchronise the files on your PC with those in the cloud. The only problem with these services, and others such as Amazon's S3 cloud backup, is that the companies that offer these don't also offer all the other cloud services that we need and use on a day to day basis.
In truth, nobody else does either with the possible exception of Microsoft, and even there it's complete online storage solution of 25Gb is not yet available to Windows users due to the technical limitations of having to merge two different online storage solutions, Live Mesh and Live Sync, into a single entity. It'll happen and will no doubt be in place by the time Windows 8 comes around, but it's far from available yet.
Google is even worse, not offering any kind of online backup at all (unless you count the Picasa online photo albums) and neither does Yahoo! and yet here we're talking about three of the world's largest email, online document and life management cloud providers. These are the companies we need to be storing everything with, surely.
Okay, I talked a little while ago about how disastrous things could turn out if your put all your eggs in one basket, so by this point you should be heaving a huge sigh of relief that you can't actually do this yet. I would argue the opposite. Let's set aside for a moment that simple fact that it is much easier to be able to actually do things with your files and data in the cloud when its all stored in the same place, that's obvious. There are also important security and privacy pros to consider.
This being that it is very unlikely that anything more complex than username and password stealing will ever happen. There might be the odd occasional piece of annoying data loss, I myself lost some emails when Hotmail crashed recently, but there's none of the annoying interconnectedness that you get when you have multiple services.
The upshot of this is that should there be a security breach you only have to go into a single service and change a single password. But! I hear you cry, this is exactly what I'd do if one of my many services were compromised! I'd beg to differ, for the simple reason that the more services we use in our lives, the more likely it will be that we'll use the same usernames and passwords across them.
If you find that one of the cloud service providers you use has been compromised then you could have to change your Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay and other password because they're all the same.
If you have your main online life in a single place then this, arguably most important, part of your life can be kept separate because it would be much easier to remember a different username and password if you only have to remember one for this and another for everything else.
Let's not forget that if eBay, PayPal, Amazon or the like are hacked, much in the way Ashampoo was only this week, you only have to worry about how long it will take your bank to refund any fraudulent payments that are made. If your life in the clouds is hacked things will get far messier.
But! And you're starting to get angry now I can feel, "if my Amazon password is exposed I will also have to change the password on eBay, PayPal etc you doofus!" This is exactly the point I wanted to make. While you will most likely have to change your password for these sites, firstly the impact will almost immediately be greatly minimised as you'll most likely be using only one or two bank cards across all of them, and secondly your personal files and email will still be secure.
In creating your life in the clouds by putting all of the important things in a single place you are effectively minimising the damage that can be done elsewhere because that single place can have a seperate, very secure password. There can be no sending of spam from your email address (we all get spoofed from time to time), there can be no searching your online documents for sensitive financial information and you can rest much more pleasantly at night.
I firmly believe therefore that there's a very strong case to be made for Google, Microsoft, Apple and the like to pull their finger out and provide a holistic cloud-based service for us all. We can then rely on Facebook to get us logging into shopping websites (which again helps minimise any damage as there's less surface area for a hacker to attack) and the ultimate upshot is that we're not only happier and more secure, but we'll suddenly find that we have a better online life with it too.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.