In the wake of cost cutting that has already seen the loss of 600 Yahoo jobs, a leaked internal document from the company earlier last week indicated that Yahoo will be winding down and eventually closing del.icio.us, their cloud based social bookmarking site.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is not a scaremongering article regarding Yahoo’s present and future decisions on the fate of their Del.icio.us proprerty. Instead, this article is a speculation of scenarios in which the financial failure, project dissolution, or other catastrophic event of a cloud service may lead to the jeopardization of user data that is stored within the service. It asks the question of what users must do to prevent themselves from experiencing data corruption or loss that may result.
Del.icio.us allowed users to store their web bookmarks online, allowing for access to them anywhere. Additionally, del.icio.us allowed for the tagging and social discovery of popular web bookmarks.
This announcement comes just a short time after Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, an advocate of free and open source software, warned that Google’s announced Chrome OS and its heavy reliance on storing data within cloud computing technologies was “careless computing.” A major issue of cloud computing is what happens when the companies that run commercial clouds go under or discontinue a cloud service. What happens to all of that stored data?
It begs the question of what will happen to all of that data stored within del.icio.us’ cloud. Will it become stormy and rain out all of that user data onto the barren continent of /dev/null? Fortunately for users of del.icio.us, the site has always provided API methods for retrieving their bookmark data from the service for offline storage.
However, what about other cloud focused services? As more and more of our data is submitted to and subsequently stored on Software as a Service cloud computing systems maintained and operated by private companies, what can we do to protect our data, especially if it is stored in a service that may not permit or take kindly to offline storage of user data?
Granted, some people may see this as a necessary risk for the sake of the convenience of being able to access their data from any physical host. However, the closing of del.icio.us serves as a potent warning. While cloud computing oriented services has brought the convenience of universal data access, it still may be very necessary to keep offline backups. Failure to do so may mean that dev team infighting, property sales, and knee-jerk acceptable use policy changes within the private companies that run SaaS Cloud Services may lead to a hasty and unwarranted destruction of user data.
Update: Further research indicates that Yahoo is not looking to fully shut down the del.icio.us service, but rather their intentions are to sell it. Nonetheless, the same questions regarding the integrity of user data are still valid.