Your Data In Their Cloud

Yesterday Ralph Grabowski wrote this in a blog post titled “The fallacious credit-card-on-the-Web analogy“:

As they tried to promote this murky thing called “SolidWorks on the Web,” Dassault Systemes executives used a number of analogies. One ran something llike this: “Some years ago, nobody would give their credit card number over the Web; today, everyone does.”

Ralph correctly pointed out the gaping hole in that particular analogy. I have absolutely no problem giving my credit card information to whoever asks for it. But I will never ever put my debit card information on the web. In fact, the only way for someone to get my debit card is to mug me. I see to it that people swipe my debit card under my nose only. The instant you or someone else uses your debit card the money is transferred out of your bank account and to get it back is a nightmare, at least here in India.

However, I do not agree with Ralph’s conclusion that if SolidWorks “lost” a user’s data that was stored on the cloud, then he would have to start from scratch. At least I would not have to. I am a firm believer in the saying, “God helps those who help themselves“. That’s the reason I have an elaborate back up system in place.

Take this blog for example. I have set up WordPress to back up all the MySQL tables, zip and email them to me every day. I do not even see that email because a rule in Outlook automatically routes it to an Outlook PST file located on a drive that gets backed up every night. So if the administrator of my dedicated server sends me a sorry-but-your-server-has-been-screwed email one fine morning, I may have lost only one day’s data. I have a similar backup system for the source code and documentation for all of my 200+ products. So if everything that could go wrong did, at the most, I would lose only a day’s work. Under no circumstances would I have to start from scratch.

I have to assume that each and everyone of you reading this has some sort of backup system in place. Why? Because shit happens. And if you haven’t taken the trouble to help yourself, nobody else will.

Google Docs is a good example. All your documents are stored on their servers somewhere on this planet. But you can download them to your hard drive anytime you want (see “Uploading and exporting: Saving to your hard drive“). I do not use Google Docs but it looks like you cannot automatically set it up to back up your documents offline. However, a quick Google search pointed me to GDocBackup, a free utility that does exactly that. The point here is that Google has made it possible for third parties to write such a utility and has not locked away their data.

I just have to assume that our proprietary file format happy CAD vendors going cloudy will do the same. Because if they do not then you have my full permission to extend your middle finger towards their CAD on the Cloud solutions. There is no way in hell any CAD software user doing something worthwhile is going to embrace a cloud solution where he cannot back up his data on his hard drive whenever he wants to. A CAD Manager who agrees to a helpless situation wherein his company will never be able to store a copy of its data at its premises or at a secure location under its control needs to be immediately fired. CAD users are already locked into proprietary file formats. Not being able to have a copy of their data by their side is just not going to fly.

And while I am at it, I would like to say something about some comments made by readers on other blogs. Readers have been asking who will own the data stored on the cloud – the user or the CAD vendor? Is that even a question? Of course data created by a user belongs to the user, whether he created it on his hard drive, on some remote server in the cloud or on a banana leaf. And by the way, if a user can download his data to his hard drive, which I believe unquestionably will be allowed to happen, then the user already has and owns his data. So I really don’t see what the fuss is all about.

Now whether the user takes the trouble of backing up his data or not is his problem. Because, like I said, shit happens and God only helps those who help themselves.