Last month (January 2011) a photo blogger, by accounts named Mirco Wilhelm from Zurich logged on to his Flickr account to find that his entire library of nearly 4000 photos from the past five years had been deleted!
The back story is that Mirco had apparently noticed that someone appeared to be "stealing" his photos i.e. copying them and using them without his permission. He was understandably upset at this. So he complained to Flickr over such copyright infringements in manner designated by Flickr. If Marco was upset before, it's true to say he became incandescent at the subsequent actions of Flickr. Marco's colourful (possibly offensive to some) blog (link at the end of this blog) covers the details.
So what is the small print when using the cloud e.g. Flickr, Google Mail, Google apps, Facebook etc as far as them protecting your cherished (in some cases vital) work, data, pictures etc?
Clearly the actual wording and specific rights for storing and maintaining data may and does vary across cloud hosts, cloud applications and cloud applications account types. It's not very far from the truth to say that it always boils down to the word "sorry".
Put simply your free service does not include a free backup service. Even your low cost "Pro" account does not include a free backup service. If your data goes missing through hardware failure in the cloud or (as it appears in this case) operator error, your comeback is nothing, rien, nichts, ziltch, niente, nada, whichever language you choose.
Why is this? Well storage is cheap and becoming cheaper, however backing up may double (at least) the cost, eating into profit margins. Even the storage costs of a recycle bin will increase operating costs at a time when margins may be pushed and buyer's decisions (for paid for services) are heavily driven by the lowest cost offering.
So let us be clear, in these situations, the term "Pro" is just part of the marketing men's way of swinging a paid premium. "Pro" does not mean a "professional" approach. Even though "Pro" may in your mind, the mind of the paying customer, be associated with a "proper" approach. In many ways it is similar to "comprehensive" in insurance where there are five pages of exclusions for act of God etc....
So if you are looking at basing you business on a cloud offering then it is essential that you factor in backup costs of that cloud data (if possible). Even in a small commercial environment: it may be preferable to have your company data on your own computers in your own offices and backups at your own home.
Marco's colourful (possibly offensive to some) blog here.
Another take on the story here.
Mirco Wilhelm photo bloghere.
Flickr's efforts ironically in amongst the thankfully restored photoshere.