In the past month or so, a couple of cloud applications announced they were pulling the plug: Google Reader and Astrid (a cloud-based task management application, which was purchased by Yahoo). Luckily, both of these gave plenty of lead time to their users and provide ways to export their data for migration to other services.
But what if your cloud app disappeared without any warning?
What are some things that can help you if a cloud application disappears out from under you? Here are some things I thought of - if you have others, please leave them in the comments.
- Openness: Applications that use open standards or output formats make it easier to move from one service to another.
For example, Google reader supports OPML (for input and output), making it easy to import and export feed lists from one program or service to another. In many cases, data can be exported to CSV (Comma-Separated Value) format - not a fancy format, but very broadly supported.
The main thing? Figure out how you would move out before you move in.
- Backups: It's OK to rely on a cloud application, but don't be too trusting. Periodically make copies of your data and store it in a safe place outside the cloud application. The frequency, number of versions, etc. should be driven by the value of the data you're storing in the cloud app - the more valuable (or the harder to recreate), the more you need to increase the backup frequency, number of backup locations, and version depth.
- Look for offline / "permanent" options, or hybrid solutions: Some cloud applications have local clients that cache / synch data locally. Often, this feature is present to allow offline access to the data, but it also provides security if the cloud app is unavailable, or goes out of existence.
- Backups, backups, backups: I mentioned backups before, but I'm serious - having a backup is your best bet in case the unexpected happens. You may even want to go as far as printing out some of the data (or printing it to a PDF) as an extra precaution.
- Pay for your service: These days, I am more open to paying for a service that I like under the naïve assumption that if I pay the vendor for their service, they are more likely to keep providing the service. Even if there is a free option, I often pay for services that I find to be "indispensable" - Evernote is one such example.
Of course, that isn't always a guarantee - I had a paid Premium subscription to Astrid, and they're still shutting down the service due to the Yahoo acquisition. Of course, they'll be giving me a refund for the unused portion of the subscription, but I'd rather have the service.
Those are just a few tips that come to mind - any other lessons learned that you care to share? If so, leave a comment.