[ExI] Backing up the Cloud

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Wed Oct 1 05:43:21 UTC 2008

First of all, I retch a bit when I hear "The Cloud", but that will
pass, you all know it will. Remember the gut reactions to "surfing the
web" back in the early nineties? Oh actually I still hate that, but
the internal screaming has quieted a little.

Secondly, and actually on the topic of the post, people are raising
the obvious questions about "Cloud Computing" - isn't it bad to have
all your precious data and kitty cat photos in the hands of an
unaccountable commercial entity? Well, yeah.

Many technical people just hate the idea period, eg: all of slashdot
(hey you kids get off my server) and RMS:

I love it, I've loved it for years and years. Well before it was
fashionable, I was a fan of having other people look after as many of
my computing needs as possible, because I'm efficient. Not lazy. Nooo!

But this stuff is relevant. These services do lock up your data, and
it does all disappear when they go broke. Should see a bit more of
that shortly, I'd think, given the state of the economy.

So, surely there is a space for a web 2.0 (*kaff*) business whose aim
is to back up the data of other web 2.0 businesses? It could solve
problems like:

- I have a hotmail account but my friends said its dag, I should be
using gmail. How do I move my mail over?
- I have videos on youtube but I'm worried I'll get hacked by griefers
and lose my precious emo vlog
- My blog is hosted on X and I want to move it to Y
- My music is all stored at ... and I want to ...

etc, you get the picture.

It's got good web 2.0 ingredients; it's just a bit of programming
savvy wrapped around the cheapest processing and storage resources you
can get your hands on. Some stuff already exists (eg: moving mail
around using standard protocols) but doesn't exist in a shiny web 2.0,
unified interface.

It's actually a service rather than a product because the "cloud" is a
moving target. Technically you'd need to talk to stuff using a grab
bag of techniques, from "webscraping" to reverse engineered protocols
to bonafide APIs. It'd be under constant development, just keeping
everything working even as commercial services changed under you.

I have a feeling you could make it really social & viral, by eg:
creating plugin versions for the Space Book et al.

You could even possibly capture users for your own services from the
existing services by offering a "why don't you just move all your crap
in here" option.

It'd be a good option also for the Open Cloud people (eg:
http://autonomo.us/), because while providing backups and escape
options, you could promote the open alternatives (eg: wordpress not
blogger, identi.ca not twitter, etc). People using this service would
likely have experienced (and be experiencing!) the problems with the
closed commercial cloud that the open people warn of, and so would be
more receptive to solutions.

It's got incrementality (<- not an actual word). You could start this
small and grow it. Providing escape routes for webmail users would be
a good place to start. Just keep adding services.

With the backup options, you could actually backup some services into
competitors, eg: flickr <-> picasa <-> photobucket, youtube <-> google
video <-> photobucket. Probably that violates the terms of service in
many cases... . Or you could backup into various cloud storage
options, or whatever.

It might fly really well as a starting point for people's services
too; a place to coordinate your use of flikr + youtube + wordpress +
facebook + twitter etc etc. Not a horrible portal thing, but maybe
some kind of dashboard?

Anyway, I think it's an idea that could work, commercially even.


http://emlynoregan.com - my home
http://point7.wordpress.com - downshifting and ranting
http://speakingoffreedom.blogspot.com - video link feed of great talks
on eCulture

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