Can You Trust Your Blog to the Cloud – The Pros and Cons

This is a guest post by Matthew Setter.

cloud-computing

The Cloud – It’s everywhere! Microsoft, Apple, Rackspace, Starbucks, McDonalds, IBM and even Amazon offer it. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in a small seaside town – you’d think that that’s all there is to know about these days and that if you’re not quick – you’ll miss out.

But just because everybody’s “doing it,” does that mean you should? I can understand how you may feel that way, it’s a lot like wanting to fit in with the “cool crowd” at school, because you don’t want to look like you don’t get it – even though, honestly, you may not.

As bloggers, writers, authors, artists, photographers (and more) our terms of reference and professional focus is not on the tech-side of the blogging equation. More often than not, we sit firmly opposite it. We want to be great writers, be great artists, take amazing photographs and build an engaging community.

So how can we be sure if the cloud’s right for us? How do we know if it should be a part of our strategy? Well, today I want to help guide you through the raft of marketing, advertising and self-promotion and help you be better informed, based on 5 key metrics and let you in on a dirty little secret – you’re already doing it, you just don’t know it yet.

The Cloud’s Already Here

That’s right, without you knowing it, like an insidious thief in the night, the cloud’s already inside and you’re likely using it day in and day out. No? Don’t believe me? Then tell me, honestly, do you use any of the following:

  • Dropbox
  • iCloud
  • iPhone, iPod, iOS
  • Android Phones or Tablet devices
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Google Docs, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail
  • Flickr

If you use any of these services, then you using “The Cloud”. That’s right, you’re using it. But this begs the question, what is the cloud? It has many definitions, many forms, many styles. A lot like a Lernaean Hydra from Greek Myth, marketing people have gone mad applying the term to just about anything that isn’t the drive in your desktop PC or laptop.

But What Is It?

A simple way is to see that anywhere you store your images, videos, documents, spreadsheets and presentations – your data – anywhere that you don’t physically have access to it, something physical in your home or business location. If it’s outside of these confines, then it’s in the cloud.

Now that you know it, how do you exercise wise judgement in your approach to it? In this post, I’ll take you through 5 aspects that will help you do just this. By the end, you’ll be armed with better insight and understanding so that irrespective of your background or business, you’ll be able to make informed decisions.

1. Ownership

When you put your data in the hands of others, who owns it? Unless you’ve read the fine print, you may not any longer. Not sure? Have a look at the controversy that briefly raged over Google Drive’s privacy policy wording as a result of what appeared to be Google claiming to take ownership of users data.

It was summed up by one user who wrote:

…while Google might not sell or disclose data without a user’s permission, “they can, however, use that data in anyway shape or form the like internally”

Now according to Google, this was taken out of context. How about Facebook? Do you remember the controversy, during its short life so far, regarding it’s attitude to content ownership?

Now maybe you don’t care, but it’s an important point to raise – have you checked the agreements that you’re entering in to? Are they legally binding? They affect you and they could affect the future of your blog.

2. Backups

Let’s say that you’ve decided to store your blog data in the cloud, let’s say you’ve gone with Amazon S3 and you’ve integrated and configured the WordPress plugin appropriately.

Everything’s going smashingly well, your site has amazing uptime backed by one of the world’s biggest retailers and your tribe is loving it. Do you just blindly trust them, despite how big they are, despite how many data centres they have around the world, despite their market size?

What happens if something goes wrong? Unless you’re Brian Clark at Copyblogger, or Darren Rowse at ProBlogger, maybe not even then, if something goes wrong and they don’t want to help you – you could be in a very sad position indeed; No data, no backup and your tribe packing up and walking away.

3. Availability

How available is the service that you’ve chosen? Do they provide you with an SLA. For the money you pay to the service, do they have a guarantee of how much uptime and availability you can expect? If something goes wrong, do you have any of the following?

  • A contact phone number.
  • An account manager.
  • An email address.
  • A FAQ to reference.
  • A support forum.

It’s one thing to have all this cool tech, but it needs to work – right?

4. Security

How secure is your data? Let’s say that you’re not just storing your blog media files, but you’re also storing your planning and branding documents, say with Dropbox. In it is your content preparation schedule, content guidelines, details of your blogging network, private email addresses, phone numbers – more.

What if they get hacked and all that data is distributed to all and sundry? What do you do then? Everyone has all your best secrets, your key strategies and the lowdown on who you know and how to contact them. Do you remember the voicemail hacking scandal that erupted in the UK late last year as a result of the News of the World newspaper? Would you feel comfortable if you felt so exposed?

So have you spent some time and done due diligence checking out your provider? Do they have a good reputation? How do people review and talk about them online, on Twitter, on Facebook and in the news?

5. Privacy

Not wanting to appear as though I’m bashing Facebook, honestly I’m not. I happily use the site, probably daily. But for years they were hated in equal measure as they were loved, or liked for the, arguably flagrant or dismissive attitude they took to our privacy. It wasn’t really until late in 2011 that they overhauled their approach.

So do you know where you stand in respect to the information you store with your provider? Do you know just how far you can go in restricting who sees what? Do you know that the company has a good track record for protecting your privacy and the privacy of the information that they store? Do they regularly let you know of their initiatives or changes in their terms and conditions, like both Twitter and PayPal do?

Exercise Wise Judgement

If I appear to come across as being a cloud-basher, I’m not, honestly. It may seem that way, but it’s not the case. In this inter-connected 24/7/365 world that we find ourselves living in, it’s essential to know what’s going on, know your options and know where you stand.

Only then can you make an informed decision and exercise wise judgement. Despite our best efforts, things can and do go wrong from time to time. It’s a fact of life. But you can be better prepared should these things happen and in the meantime, get back to enjoying the benefits that the Cloud can and regularly does bring us in running our successful blogs and sites.

Now It’s Over To You?

Do you have your blog or other data in the Cloud? Who do you use and what’s their history? Have you checked them out? Tell us your story.

Photo Credit: UK Ministry of Defense





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Comments

    • says

      Ron,

      I hear what you’re saying. I’m a big fan of DropBox and would like to be more for iCloud, given I have so much Apple hardware. Maybe when they’ve gotten their network security practices sorted out better. I believe that Cloud has a lot to offer. But it will take time to really come to fruition.

      Matt

    • says

      Nik,

      I hope that I haven’t scared you off. My intent was only to cover some of the key concerns so that we can all make informed decisions. I don’t mind Rackspace Cloud Servers, but have also been using cloudcontrol.com that I really like as well. Can I give you a hand in some way?

      Matt

      • says

        Hi Matt,

        Just had a look at cloud control and that looks even more complex. I only got 10K uniq a month but on a shared server it just falls flat and on a VPS most of the resources are used by the basic server install so I have been having memory issues. Not that my site is particularly large or anything. Due to the issues my host has given me a few months free but I just dread it when the site goes down. Unfortunately the next step up seems to be well over a $100 which is a lot for just a wordpress site but maybe it is not? I know a lot of people are recommending services but as soon as their affiliate code follows I just can’t take that review serious.
        Nik just posted Blog

        • says

          Nik,

          I appreciate that cloudControl is a bit intense, more for the developer. So sorry if it was a bit much for what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a new host, I might be able to help you out. I don’t do it personally, but am quite satisfied with my current provider.

          Matt

  1. says

    I use the cloud all the time but I like to use duplicate services – e.g. I keep my files at two different online locations, my bookmarks synced with two services etc. If one fails I will have my data at the other location. But I am not sure if I would trust a blog to the cloud. In this case it is probably better to keep things in your own hands and make backups to hard drives.

    • says

      Samuel,

      I completely agree. Whilst I’m a massive advocate of Cloud Computing, almost an evangelist I’d say, it’s still very essential to do due diligence before signing up to any vendor. They have your data, physically. So you need to know you can count on them and get a copy of it at any time. I think you have the right approach.

      Matt

  2. says

    To be honest I probably trust way too much to the Cloud, but I just can’t help myself as I love the efficiency of it all. I’ve got little ties here and there to various services with my blogs and other websites but I really should go around and clean things up.

    I need to try and limit the loose ends that are possible security risks while still having the advantages of Cloud technology. It’s too good to give up, so finding a nice middle ground is what I need to do.
    Garrett just posted The Three Trade Types of Elite Range Bar Trading

    • says

      Larry,

      I appreciate what you’re saying, I really do. Cloud’s suffering in part from an unbelievable amount of marketing hype. The funny thing is, a lot of the purchasing decisions are being pushed by CFO’s it’s said, more than the company IT heads. It’s just gained so much traction, maybe because of an easy name, that it seems to be everywhere. But if you feel it’s not right for you, then don’t feel pushed to enter in to it.

      I’m definitely for it and hope that it lives up to it’s potential. But as always it needs to be treated with a sense of caution and due diligence. All the best with whether you go with it or not.

      Matt

  3. says

    I do think cloud based services and hosting are something we will see more of in the future. I have messed with Dropbox over the past couple of weeks. There are somethings that I think are good, but other things about it could use a little improving. I am not sure I would pay too much for it yet. But, the free ones like Dropbox I really can’t complain too much about. After all free is a very good price.
    Ray just posted Do We Need Social Buttons Everywhere

  4. says

    Amazon S3 is the most confusing place you can ever be, and support? NILL!! You have to pay for support and even then they often just don’t know, it’s really confusing for them when you contact them as an Amazon Associate because Associates uses that services, but the people on Amazon S3 know nothing about it.

    Cloud hosting is certainly becoming more popular, I tried it once, was not impressed and went back to Hostgator.
    http://getinternetmarketingstrategies.com just posted SEO Strategies To Keep & Avoid In The Post Penguin Google World