The Downside to Cloud-Based Products

The Downside to Cloud-Based Products(It’s not much, but it’s an important set of records for me!)

In my previous running life (a few years ago) I kept a simple composition notebook to list my runs. It was low-tech, and I mostly used it because I was tracking my weight lifting and other cross training for rugby. After I hurt my knee, became quite the sloth for a few years and returned to running I began using a log at Running Ahead. After this weekend, though, I’m starting to think that strategy needs a tweak or two.

I reviewed Running Ahead and it’s companion program for Android, Handy Runner, a few months ago.  At the time of my review I said:

I have started and abandoned several written running logs, and tried and failed to keep updated on other online logs. The key for me is the automatic sync, since I won’t remember to manually enter each run. The RunningAHEAD log is easy to use and the site is fast and stable. Add that to the accuracy of HandyRunner, and it’s a winning combination.

Now I’m starting to rethink some of that conclusion. The biggest issue is that RunningAHEAD has been down most of today. All sites have downtime, and it’s a free site. But they had issues the other day as well, and there was no indication when it came back what happened or why. On top of that, I only discovered RA was down when Handy Runner failed to download my log post-run, though it assured me the data had been transmitted. It wasn’t, and I lost today’s tracked run. Luckily I already time my runs with a cheap wristwatch so I have an idea of my speed on the go, so I can recreate it. But it was still frustrating and I lost some important information, like elevation, where I sped up and slowed down, etc.

My last 4 months of runs, however, are still there (whew!) I also feel like I should contribute to RA and hopefully help to keep the site from having an issue like that in the future. It’s an important lesson though, and it made me realize I rely entirely on this site to keep the lights on. If RA goes down, or if they have another hiccup, all my logs are gone. I do the same thing on other sites. I don’t have a copy of my contacts that aren’t with Google, or my calendar for that matter. Important data in emails live in Gmail, or Facebook messaging. And there’s really no good reason for it since almost everywhere I store important data offers export options to save information offline and locally.

So while I hesitate to call this a “new year’s resolution”, even if it does start right at the start of a new year, I have a goal for 2011. I’m going to set aside five minutes each Sunday to download my running log to an excel spreadsheet, and once a month or so I’ll do the same with contacts, calendar, emails, Evernote notes, etc. I’m a huge evangelist of cloud computing, but that doesn’t mean it’s my only option for important data. Hopefully, none of my data ever permanently whisks away into the ether, but just in case it’s a good idea to be prepared!

Edit- Eric from Running Ahead reached out to me with an email explaining some of the wonkiness with RA. I’m still using Running Ahead, and this just cements why, hiccups aside, it’s a great service:

Hi Carly,
I just came upon your post.  The RA server was having sporadic connectivity problems.  It happened about once a week or two and was something that I was not able to reproduce in my test environment.  The symptom was the web server not accepting page requests.  During this time, the database reported it was not receiving any requests from the web server.

I think I finally found the cause of the problem, which was related to the web server going into a limbo state if the database took too long to return the results.  Since it happens occasionally, I cannot be sure that is indeed fixed.  However, I uploaded the fix two weeks ago and the server seems to be stable ever since, except this morning but that was related to a bug that always existed but surfaced when I cleaned up some old code.

RA currently runs on a single server.  It has redundant disks to avoid data loss due to hardware failure.  The data is backed up every night and is stored remotely.  All my training data is on RA and I do not make backups of my personal data because I am confident the data is safe.

If you have any concerns or comments, feel free to contact me directly.

eric 🙂

Have you ever lost data or files because a site had a hiccup? Share your horror story below!

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

2 Comments on "The Downside to Cloud-Based Products"

  1. Christopher Gavula | December 27, 2010 at 11:29 am |

    I’ll repeat something I’ve said many times online before: I’m NOT a big fan of cloud computing – yet. Two reasons – 1 – like you mention – the reliability isn’t always there. Even major services like Yahoo and Google have had major outages over the past couple of years. Even Skype suffered major problems this holiday season. 2 – the Internet is NOT ubiquitous (yet). This means that if you are using a cloud-based GPS service (like Google Maps) and you happen to go out of net coverage (which happens, even on the Interstates – believe me!) then you are basically screwed until your coverage comes back. Until these 2 issues are improved/resolved, I will remain unconvinced about cloud computing.

    Having said that, I don’t expect these things to be improved dramatically anytime soon because of one big reason – MONEY! Redundancy to prevent outages costs money. Filling in the gaps and improving signal strength in weak areas costs money. You hear about carriers adding services or moving to 4G, but not much about improving their existing services like 3G or even the older GPRS/CDMA networks. The cloud is getting faster, but it’s overall footprint remains mostly unchanged (at least in the U.S).

    And I haven’t even touched on the security concerns about having all sorts of personal data out there in the cloud and the massive data thefts and breaches that have already occurred. Nothing you put out into the cloud can ever truly be considered private or secure.

    So, for now, I will do what many people do, I will dabble in some services in the cloud, but I will NOT put any real trust in them or their availability and I will mostly retain local copies of things until I see some real concrete evidence that things have improved or changed dramatically!

  2. RT @geardiarysite: The Downside to Cloud-Based Products

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