Friday, February 27, 2009

Why I (sometimes) hate cloud computing

Cloud computing offers a lot of positive benefits, namely access to data from anywhere.

But today I hate it.

I realize "hate" is a strong word, and I rarely break it out, but today I must.

I decided to write my first Knol yesterday. Google's Knol system uses an online editor and saves your data in their systems (i.e., in the cloud). After working on my article for some time, the system started having problems saving, but a warning message at the top of the screen warned that Knol would be down for about an hour. So after waiting the hour, I returned to the system and was able to make a lot of progress.

Or so I thought.

This morning when I returned to my article, only the first two paragraphs remained. I accessed the revision system to see if there were previous versions that contained my complete article, but every revision was the same: just two paragraphs. This really jolted me because I had repeatedly saved every so often just so something like this wouldn't happen. I never received a single error message after pressing Save.

Thankfully I had been smart and saved a copy of my article in Microsoft Word... my previous experience with cloud computing told me such a move would be smart. So I didn't loose my cool too much... I just copy and pasted my stuff back into Knol and then worked on some formatting issues.

About 10 minutes after I started editing, I got this error message warning me that my session had expired:


The message suggested I refresh the page. Knowing what I know, this is usually not a good way to repair an "expired" session. But there was nothing else I could do. Sure enough, after refreshing the page, my content was all gone. Back to two paragraphs.

Now I'm hot.

After taking a little walk to calm down, I returned to my office and decided to persist. I think I'm almost done with my Knol now, but I'm still feeling raw. If this is what cloud computing is going to be like, I'd rather stay on the ground. I've never had Word lose my document because my session expired.

Now you may be thinking this is an isolated issue with Knol, but I have had similar losses with Blogger (losing entire blog posts when their system was temporarily inaccessible) and Google Calendar (losing a number of appointments I had typed in but were apparently never saved). Maybe this is more a Google problem than a cloud problem, but if Google can't seem to get it right, who will?