For quite some time I was an advocate of boycotting various cloud services. Instead of Gmail, I opted to utilize an old-fashioned, desktop email client and POP server. Instead of DropBox, I went with a variety of file storage solutions that I could host myself (such as SparkleShare).
I had two key motivating factors for this:
- What if the online services went away, or suffered outages? I still wanted access to my data.
- I'm not a huge fan of giving 100% of all my data to marketing and advertising companies (which is how Google earns its living).
Eventually, though, I got lazy. The convenience and functionality of many of these online systems trumped those two points. I mean, let's be honest - how many of use none of these services? Google Drive? Way too handy to pass up! Heck, even your dog probably has a Gmail account.
Flash forward to the present, and my life is firmly embedded in "the cloud."
Everything. Gigs upon gigs of data. Pictures, in-progress books and articles, music, emails, source code, notes... it's all stored on a magical, mystical set of servers that I don't have direct access to. Am I comfortable with that? Not really, but it's so damn convenient!
But now I am beginning to regret embracing these services. It’s not because they're not great – they truly are convenient, feature-filled systems. I'm more concerned with how that data will be used and who can access it. I greatly dislike the idea that federal agencies can obtain this data with so little fight from the companies providing the services (with a few exceptions).
Is there any data in my Google Drive or DropBox that should be of any interest to any government, anywhere on Earth? I really doubt it. I'm a pretty public guy, and I have this weird habit of not starting violent revolutions (I know... crazy, right?). That said, it still makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel violated.
The easy fix for this is obvious: if I'm worried about any of that data being misused, I should simply go back to my old way of doing things. Run my own file backup servers, perhaps with OwnCloud or some other open source system. Host my own email server. Basically, take back control of my data.
Unfortunately, I've made it hard on myself. Within Gmail I've got roughly 2 gigs of email. That's roughly 2,147,483,648 bytes of emails that I need to sort, clean up, back up and import elsewhere. Which sounds hard, because I am, deep down, a very lazy man.
Based on my discussions with friends, I don't seem to be the only nerd facing this dilemma. I'm curious what others, who may be looking to “De-Online-Ify” their data, are planning to do. Go back to an old-school desktop email client? Use SCP or FTP for online file backups? If you've got some good ideas (or thoughts) feel free to leave them in the comments below or toss them to me over on G+.
(I know. Ironic, right? A post about taking things out of the cloud that asks you to leave your thoughts and plans about it right here in the cloud! What can I say? I am a man of contradictions!)