Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When the cloud is broken

Since I have started my consulting practice, I have been busy with a variety of activities. Legal, fiscal, sales, marketing, accounting... When you start your company, you have to do a bit of everything yourself.

The most rewarding and at the same time the most frustrating part of the whole experience has been IT. I consider myself effective in computer use, everything from Microsoft, a little bit of Internet technology as well. I am not a programmer (or even an engineer for that matter) so excel macros are the extent of my efforts when it comes to coding.

This long preamble to introduce my experience of "the cloud" so far. I have used the cloud as a consumer and in enterprise settings. Like most of you, I have been using web based email, intranet technology, crm tools, collaborative software etc... But I want to focus today on my experience as a consumer.

I have been using cloud technology for a long time before it was called the cloud. I am a gamer. Always have been. As many gamers, I have long been acquainted with client-server interactivity and gone through the various thin client/ fat client debates both on pcs and handheld devices.

I was quite happy with myself, setting up my practice in about a week, with a web site, a blog, two published editorials, articles of incorporation and all the paperwork and delightful interactions with the tax administration.

The reason behind my diligence might lie elsewhere than pure motivation, though. 

The PlayStation Network and its well publicized hacking and month-long disconnection have been a very good productivity enhancer for me. Overnight, my PlayStation (PS3) went from being the main media server and gateway in my house to an obsolete gaming console for offline (non connected) games. One of the main success of Sony has been its capacity to create a community of players and online applications "in the cloud". Over 77 million players globally have accounts and play online. Massive online multiplayer games require massive processing power and with 770 millions accounts, Sony has done a good job of turning every PS3 out there into both a client and a server for distributed online applications.

PSN's responsibility is mostly around account management, ranging from IDs, password, prepaid balance, etc...
When PSN got hacked, on April 20th, Sony's engineers had no other choice but to shut down the service and audit every transaction to review where the security breach has occurred and the nature of the stolen information.
For a month, I was not able to use the service and platform I had purchased, not knowing what happened to senders and worse of all for me, not being able to do anything about it (ok, the worse was not being able to play online).The idea that the problem affected not only me but also millions of others does not make it better but worse.

Another dissatisfying experience was on this blog, when after working on the last posts series (mobile video 101102 and 103).

I had all drafts ready and setup for publishing. On May 5th, Blogger had an unfortunate incident, resulting all blog contributions being suspended and wiped out for 24 hours. Eventually, the service came back online and all contributions were restored, but it made me feel again very powerless to do anything about the situation. I did not know if my contributions were lost, whether they would be restored or whether I would have to rewrite them.
The team at Blogger did an amazing job to restore the situation, but from now on, I keep a copy of my blogs on my hard drive before and after I publish them, just in case.

Now, when I look at my experience and the launch of Google's laptop, which is essentially a browser with access to the cloud, I am not sure I am ready to get into that storm just yet.

When my computer has a virus or runs out of memory or has corrupted files, I might not be able to do very much about it, but at least I feel that I can investigate, trouble shoot or even in some cases solve the issue. I can buy software, bring my computer to a nerd doctor or buy a new one. In any case, I have control over the issue identification, its progress and resolution.

These two anecdotal  issues here gave me none of that and while the services have been restored, my account did not have any sensitive information and I will probably receive free games or services or compensation, the lack of control over the situation is probably what left me the most dissatisfied as a user.

What is your experience of cloud computing as a consumer?

No comments: