Written by Misc, Technology

The Dangers of the Cloud

Putting all your worldly goods into the “cloud” is brilliant isn’t it?
You simply upload, documents, music, files, pictures, movies, whatever… onto one of the many cloud based hosting sites. After all, it’s fiddly, time-consuming, and often expensive to sort out your own hosting solutions. And putting your documents in the cloud brings with it safe backups. So why wouldn’t you upload your files to a business in the cloud, whether they operate on a fee-based system or an ad funded model?
Excellent. Problem solved.
But then there’s always the little concern that perhaps the company you’re entrusting your data might not last the long haul. At this point you can go one of two ways. You can either keep a local back-up – which let’s face it, is the safe thing to do (even though the cloud is there to essentially solve this issue); or you can entrust your data to a large corporation. A corporation that’s surely going nowhere.
If you decided that using Google Video was a good solution for video hosting, an email in your inbox rudely disabuses you of that notion. Google has let users know that they have 28 days to get their videos off their service before their videos are deleted. Google Video was Google’s forerunner to YouTube when they didn’t own a video hosting service. While it was never really developed, it did have at least one thing going for it – you could upload long videos to the site.
I only have eight videos on Google Video. Most are incidental, and have been viewed less than 100 times. But one has been viewed over 19,000 times. That’s a documentary from the late eighties which is unlikely to ever see the light of day again. I captured if from a VHS copy. It’s also over 15 minutes. (Yes – it’s copyright. But the copyright owner has never approached me, and in the absence of it being available anywhere else, it seems to have lived happily on Google Video for the last three years).
And – after a couple of days when some videos weren’t available to download – I am able to download them all. Well all except one.
I shot a short timelapse video and put a music track on it. Yes – I broke copyright again. Google blocked it. The video is not viewable. But it’s also not downloadable. I certainly own the rights to the pictures, but I can’t get that video back at all. I also don’t know the details of the copyright claim. In less than 28 days, that video will be gone.
I do have local copies of this, and all my other videos, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.
Obviously anywhere where these videos have been embedded will shortly result in a broken page. I can fix my own pages, but not anyone else’s.
What I find odd is that Google has felt the need to do this at all. Mothball the site, but leave live videos live – indeed that’s been the case for the last couple of years. At the very least there should have been a one-button feature to move videos across to the Google owned YouTube.
Instead, Google suggests downloading the videos and then reuploading them to YouTube. That’s a ridiculously messy solution.
Meanwhile Archive.org is offering some space for the videos.
While it might seem unthinkable today that Google or YouTube would ever cease to exist, are you certain? How many users have bought cameras with direct-to-YouTube upload capability that means that YouTube is the only place those videos are stored. Will YouTube be around for time immemorial?
If you’d asked someone in the sixties or the seventies who the biggest airlines in the world were, they might have said Pan-Am or TWA. The airline industry still exists – it’s bigger than ever. But those two behemoths are long gone.
There’s regularly great excitement when in some dusty cupboard or attic a reel of film is uncovered with song long lost footage. We are horrified that the BBC deleted early Doctor Who tapes or film companies dumped negatives of films that weren’t successful at the time. But today we’re willfully deleting our own historical remnants. While it’s true we live in a time when more photographs, videos and pieces of text are produced than ever before, I’m not sure that we’re looking after our records any better than in times gone by. Indeed, when the collected “letters” of some important character of the early twenty-first century are gathered, they’re going to be nigh-impossible to collate. Facebook updates, Tweets, YouTube comments, LinkedIn updates, and so on.
In the meantime, do use the cloud for your data. But only as a backup. Nothing is forever. Or even for more than a handful of years.
[Update]
Google listened! I wouldn’t say that they listened to specifically to me, but they listened to their customers. The previous deadline has been removed, and they’ve vastly simplified the procedure for getting the videos onto YouTube. Now you simply press a button and it does it automatically. Indeed seemingly previous links (and embeds?) of the videos will continue to work. Interestingly, even my 48 minute video is now on YouTube (here if you’re interested).