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.

  • Sylvain MARIE

    Check out http://www.3dvia.com/software/3dvia-shape/ : you can ONLY save to the(ir) cloud…

    (from http://www.3dvia.com/software/3dvia-shape/faqs/ ) :
    Q. Can I save models to disk?

    No, you cannot save models to disk. The publish command of 3DVIA Shape stores the model in your account online only.

    Well well. 3DVia Shape was the Guinea pig, will SolidWorks be their full scale tryout ? 😉

  • Deelip, I think CAD/PLM industry is digesting what I’d call “cloud revolution”. It takes time, but we’ll come there. What we’ve seen until now from SolidWorks, Autodesk and others are just first experience. Some of my thoughts about “cloud” are here – http://plmtwine.com/2010/02/12/plm-in-the-cloud-opportunity-or-threat/. Best, Oleg

  • It is true that Google Docs allows you to make downlaoded backups of your docs stored in the cloud, but this is a recent innovation driven by a group within Google that campaigns against jailed data.

    We don’t know whether CAD vendors will be as willing to “Do No Evil.”

  • matt

    What about if you want to remove your data from the cloud, along with all backups. Not just copy it so you have a local copy, but remove it. How do you do that, and how do you know that all backups have been removed as well?

  • It is true that Google Docs allows you to make downlaoded backups of your docs stored in the cloud, but this is a recent innovation driven by a group within Google that campaigns against jailed data.

    We don't know whether CAD vendors will be as willing to “Do No Evil.”

  • My philosophy on data is this: If you have only one copy, you don't really have that data safe no matter where it is stored. The original file, a local backup, and an off site is the way I handle my data and if SW hosted the content, great! I will still have a local copy as well as a backup. Since so many of these details are not yet defined, it is hard to say what options we will have. I am a Google Apps user and enjoy the flexibility but important documents I have a copy in two places.
    I would love to find out that SW is going to have a Data Freedom Team like Google but my thoughts are that might not be the case. Since the data belongs to the user, I would imagine they will have a legal obligation to have a way to get your data out. If not, That will be a HUGE stopping point for every user I know.

  • This is not very different from when you send SolidWorks Support your data when they need to take a look at it in order to solve a problem that you may be facing with their software. How do you know that they have deleted it after they are done with their analysis?

    The honor system applies to CAD vendors as well. If you do not trust them don’t use their software.

  • Like I said, you have my permission to extend your middle finger to 3D VIA Shape. The way it stands, I doubt anybody doing any serious work is going to use it.

  • matt

    I don't send them stuff, because I used to work for resellers, and know that they keep what you send them, especially if it is a substantial model, and use it from time to time for various purposes. They don't have policies in place to protect customer data. So if what we can expect is more of the same, that's not good news.

  • Wow! That is just crazy. Customers and prospects send us data every day. We store it on a special drive meant solely for that purpose. Even if we are not made to sign NDA's we delete the files on that drive once we are done with them. If I want to use a customer's data I specifically get their permission to do so.

    Keeping and using user's data is nothing short of software piracy. That's why I said that the honor system works both ways.

  • Stan Przybylinski

    Doing computing on your desktop? Why would you ever want to do that?

    No one will ever need more than 684 KB of RAM.

    There is only a market for 5 xerography machines in the world. (Might be misquoting here.)

    Every evolution of technology causes pushback. Maybe we don't have it all figured out. I admit that there are issues, but the sky is NOT falling.

    One analogy that I use: what is more valuable to a company that sells products and services than their sales pipeline? Clearly many companies think nothing of putting this lifeblood in the cloud with salesforce.com. If this can work for many, then other types of IP can work out.

    Deelpi's multi-layered protection scheme is in the right direction. As for data protection, the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) need to be right and, perhaps, some third party, trusted evaluation of data cleansing on request could be a route.

  • Stan,

    I guess maybe the right person to put this question to.

    Unlike what you do in 3D VIA Shape, will SolidWorks/CATIA on the cloud allow users to download a copy of their online data for backup purposes?

  • I'm always surprised that other vendors haven't followed what PTC has been doing with Adobe's LiveCycle technology that lets you time bomb, deactivate data on request. basically, you just grant a 'receiever' permission to work with that data (even to open and view) it. If you then want to remove that right, it's executed and the data is rendered unusable. Seems like a good solution to me.

    Like Matt says, data goes everywhere. From a personal point of view, I've seen RP models built by various vendors on tradeshow stands, in press release kits (z corp and objet are prime culprits), on websites that have been built on data that I specifically told them was confidential and not to be reused at all for any other purpose than to assist a machine evaluation..

    Al