atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#7758: The cloud is for the birds

By now all four readers should know who Pixy Misa is, and I'm feeling lazy, so I'm just going to quote what he said:
* Chromebook sales grew 75% in Q2. (

I understand the appeal, but you're handing complete control of your data to crazy people.
The main appeal of the Chromebook is support costs. Because the OS is designed to store everything in the cloud, local storage is not the default and the user has to take special steps to store anything locally. Because of that, if there's some kind of problem with the device (like X locks up all the time or Y isn't working right) you can do a hard reset of the stupid thing by running a "powerwash" on it. Then the user needs only to log in again; his apps reload and his data is still there in the cloud. The only thing missing is whatever he stored locally, if anything.

For enterprise, there are some initial setup costs, and cutting over from PCs to Chromebooks is not entirely painless--but once you've done it, instead of paying a high-priced technician to keep everyone's PC running right, you can pay a Geek Squad counter monkey minimum wage to handle setting up new users and handling the occasional powerwash.

(Don't get all bent out of shape over "counter monkey". Remember, I did that job for nearly two years, although I was way overqualified for it.)

The problem stems from the fact that if you want to do serious work on a Chromebook, it has to have a serious configuration. Chromebooks were originally sold on not having to be as high-performing (and therefore as expensive) as full-blown laptops, but they do in order to be useful for business.

A lot of people--not unfairly, I think--regard Chromebooks as inferior to laptops. I agree. One of my peers remarked the other day that his kid, who is in school, vastly prefers to use the computer to the Chromebook given to her by her school.

But as Pixy notes, "You're handing complete control of your data to crazy people." Everything you create, everything you store, everything you modify--it's all stored on a Google server. It's not just hanging magically out there in the ether, but it's stored on systems owned and operated by a specific entity, and that "specific entity" has demonstrated that it is not above punishing people--or businesses--for their opinions.

Besides that? Googe's position in the internet world looks entirely unassailable, but what if their fortunes change and they start needing money, desperately? Or suppose their management simply has a change of heart and decides to monetize the services they currently offer for free? I can envision a scenario where Googe decides that it's time for people to start ponying up cash for using their cloud services. There's a myriad of reasons why they might make this decision but really it all comes down to the fact that it costs money to host cloud storage, and to develop and serve all those applications.

If Googe were to go all Harlan Ellison ("Fuck you. Pay me.") on the people who use their services, what choices would they have?

I have always opposed the subscription model for personal computers. I've always opposed the idea of "software as a service". I don't like having to enter a password to get into my own computer, which then has to be checked against a server in Redmond or Seattle or San Francisco, which is why my systems are always set up with local accounts.

I've said it a million times: if you have to get permission to access your own data, you don't own it. If you have to get permission to run a piece of software, you don't own it. If you have to get permission to get into your own PC, you don't own it. To me, the question of whether I'm entrusting it to people who are crazy or sane is entirely secondary to the question of why am I entrusting it to anyone else in the first place?

That's the real craziness here. If you run a business, and you use cloud storage? If you give everyone Chromebooks and expect them to handle everything with them? I have one question: What happens when the Internet goes down?

And the question is "when", not "if". The Internet is extremely fault-tolerant but over the past half-dozen years we've experienced a plethora of incidents where complete access to this or that or the other service was completely unavailable. How happy do you think the users of Office were when they were unable to get into it for a day?

Chromebooks update automatically. Did you know that Googe recently pushed an update to Chromebooks which prevented all users from logging in? The bug was not widely reported because there were a specific set of circumstances where a user would be locked out, but until the patch for the update was pushed, the affected units were bricks. It was a mistake made by one programmer, accidentally omitting one character. How would your business function if all your Chromebooks were bricked?

Not to mention that some businesses--many--most--have intellectual property they do not care to share with the world. Formulas, procedures, what-have-you. Why do you entrust that to anyone? Suppose some programmer like the one who goofed up the Chromebook login does something to the file security that results in anyone being able to access it? Even if it were just for twenty-four hours (as the Chromebook login bug was) there are people who are constantly trying to get access to that stuff, and they'd have a field day with it.

But of course Chromebooks are cheaper. You don't pay for the software (other than what you pay for enterprise services from Googe) and they don't require as much technical expertise to maintain. I'm sure that the Googe salesmen swear up one side and down the other that of course your company's access to its data will never be called into question, and naturally no one else will look at it.

Sure. And just let your CEO say something disparaging about [welshmen] and see how long it takes before Googe decides to drop you, regardless of the penalties they have to pay, contractually.

That's what Pixy means by "crazy".

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