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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.

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

By Matthew Setter

Matthew Setter is a freelance writer, technical editor and proofreader. His mission is to help businesses present their online message in an engaging and compelling way so they’re noticed and remembered.