As teenagers and young adults, we are very comfortable
with the prospect of dealing with a website to arrange any
of the myriad activities we conduct daily, from buying movie
or concert tickets, to checking bank statements, to finding
directions, to posting and sharing pictures with family and
friends. Furthermore, we have no qualms about embracing
new, shiny web 2.0 applications as soon as they become
available, nor about quickly filling up their recently developed
databases with tidbits of our personal information.
We undeniably are internet’s early adopters.
However, the trend surpasses mere use and disclosure of
private information. Most of us are completely immersed
and dependent upon several popular sites that we chiefly
use to handle our calendars, e-mail accounts and documents.
If we are not cautious, the negative aspect of this tendency
can quickly manifest itself. No, I’m not talking about privacy
issues. Let me explain.
We are used to thinking that internet applications are always
and everlasting. If it’s online, it’s going to be there forever.
Period. What if, all of the sudden, your favored site goes
offline indefinitely? Do you have a backup strategy? Oh, you
think that’s nonsensical? Jocular perhaps? Not for the many
people who tried to access Gmail a few weeks ago, just to
realize Google’s famous free mail service was unavailable.
The downtime lasted several hours. As one would expect,
the public outcry was rampant and merciless. How is it
possible that Google, arguably one of the most powerful
IT companies in the world, experienced such an abnormal,
incredibly long downtime? Alas, they are not alone in this
A similar situation unfolded when Amazon’s S3, an online
storage service utilized primarily by small startups and freelance
software engineers, became inaccessible for several
hours. More than one new-generation entrepreneur went
ballistic, and the irate statements are still reverberating in
the blogosphere and in online forums.
In spite of the complexity of web applications and concepts
such as availability and scalability, this situation is perfectly
understandable given the status quo. Technology is not the
problem. Web applications are not the problem. The culprit
here is our stance on the internet.
Our desire and ability to use the cloud, an en vogue term
used to describe the new generation of online services and
web applications, as a bona fide replacement for desktop
programs is not deplorable per se. Nevertheless, believing
that online apps are impervious to downtimes and technical
glitches is utterly sinful. A good friend of mine used to say,
“Web apps are like hard disks. They will fail whenever you
least expect it.”
I can practically hear your clamor now. ”Then what do you
suggest we do, Elvis? How can we conceivably act in order to
ameliorate the deleterious effects of a nefarious downtime?”
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer here. If you don’t
want to fall prey to unexpected internet malfunctions, then
you’ll have to do a little bit of research, depending on the web
application you’re dealing with. For instance, online calendars
such as Google Calendar and Yahoo! Calendar allow you
to export your events in different formats so that you’re able
to synchronize them with local programs. Other web tools
provide comparable options. Ultimately, it’s all contingent
on the services you use and the amount of data you have
In spite of everything, it would be unwise not to have a
strategy when your preferred online tool is not available.
Reflect on the consequences for just a moment. You don’t like
that vision, do you? Now, you’ll have to excuse yours truly.
I need to go and ponder how on Earth I’m going to save this
4.2 GB Gmail account onto my laptop.