When Clouds go Bad

Victoria Dock

I’ve been a fan of Dropbox and Live Mesh for a few years now. I pride myself that I can work anywhere, and if my computer breaks or I get a new one I can just attach to the shared directories out there on the network and carry on. No worries about backups or version control, just messages every now and then that files have been updated. Live Mesh is better because you get more storage. Dropbox is better because it keeps track of versions. Both seem to coexist on the same machine with no problems and life has been good. Until now. We have been keeping all our content for the Mango Jump Start (sign up – you’ll love it) up in the cloud. This has been great for collaboration and instant access to the latest versions.

But then weird things stated happening. Files would vanish and older versions reappear. Worse yet, and this happened this morning, both the Live Mesh and the Dropbox versions of some files completely disappeared. Wah. It reached the point where I had to go home, find my desktop machine, unplug it from the network, start it up, and make backup copies of the missing files before they were “synchronised” into oblivion. I’ve no idea why any of this happened or what is to blame. All I know is that, like anything else, if you rely on something to be there all the time, sometimes it won’t be. This means that the sad message is that while cloud storage is wonderful and lets you work anywhere, you can’t beat a good backup. I’m now going to copy from my synchronised folders to another place on the disk (or perhaps a different disk) every now and then. Just because nothing is perfect.

Oh, and a note to students. The line “The cloud ate my homework”, while more original than one involving a dog, will still not get you an extension.