Cloud computing has digital downsides

The Sidekick phone.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: If you're a T-Mobile customer, specifically a user of its popular Sidekick cell phones, the company's got some bad news for you. All those pictures and contact numbers and calendar dates, in fact, virtually all personal information from your phones that had been stored on a central computer operated by Microsoft, quote, "almost certainly has been lost." A lot of companies have been promoting the benefits of what's called cloud computing. It lets you access your data from anywhere you happen to be. But as our senior business correspondent Bob Moon explains, it's not without its downsides.


BOB MOON: I first heard about "cloud computing" early this year. CNET's Dylan McCullagh described it to me as the next big idea behind everything from Facebook, to TurboTax and Twitter.

DYLAN McCULLAGH: This is much, much more common for folks, say, in high school and college now. The folks who are keeping data on their computer will be a dwindling bunch over time.

Unless they have second thoughts, after what's happened to users of T-Mobile's Sidekick phones. Their data was stored by a unit of Microsoft called -- inauspiciously enough -- Danger.

Harry McCracken writes about technology trends at Technologizer.com. He says this raises big questions about trusting your data to outsiders.

HARRY McCRACKEN: People have kind of assumed that great big companies with lots of resources and lots of IT knowledge would be better at protecting our data than we can be ourselves. And this is really the first significant example that I can think of of just massive failure, where people would have been better off backing up their own information.

Marketers of the data-on-a-cloud concept were on the defensive today.

Reuven Cohen is founder of Enomaly, a Toronto-based, cloud-computing firm. He says the T-Mobile-Microsoft data loss could have been easily avoided.

Reuven COHEN: When you're using somebody else's service, you'd expect that they would have some kind of back up of your data. Especially something you're paying for.

Up to now, though, the industry hasn't offered many guarantees. So says analyst Michael Cote.

MICHAEL COTe: All of that fine print and shrink wrap that you read, the software and technology industry has been really good about never being responsible for anything terrible or any bad hair days you might have.

Cote says consumers may now come to expect such promises.

In Los Angeles, I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...