The Limits of the Cloud

Microsoft’s FolderShare, a folder synchronizing tool that I’ve recommended in previous columns, is going off the air for up to three days in the middle of the week “for server upgrades”:

FolderShare will be offline for a little while (48-72 hours) next week for some server upgrades.

  • The outage begins Tuesday, June 17, at 6 PM Pacific Times (UTC-7).
  • We hope to be back online by 6 PM Friday at the latest.

I share some of the disbelief of commenters to the blog post and ZDNet’s Michael Krigsman:

Users are attracted to services such as FolderShare for two reasons: useful features and the promise of always-on reliability. Remove reliability from the equation and the service’s value plummets.

(Zoliblog also points to some odd, unexplained changes in the way FolderShare works, whereby the index of files you’re syncing between two computers appears to now be stored on Microsoft’s servers. Whether this is important remains to be seen.)

The bigger point is this: If we are genuinely going to shift computing to the cloud—move our stuff online, think in terms of being able to compute from anywhere, anytime—then we need to have reliable access to our files and accounts.

That Microsoft, of all people, can switch off such access for up to three days in the middle of the week highlights the inadequacies of that thinking. In the longer run it may be that we are in error for considering relying on cloud computing, and Microsoft, for access to our stuff.

(The arguments that it’s free, and in beta, don’t wash. Imagine if Google took Gmail or Google Docs down for three days: beta no longer means broken, at least not for the majority of a working week.)

Windows Live FolderShare Team Blog: Planned system outage starting June 17

The “Sharing Files Thing” Gets Cheaper

It’s a growing space, as the marketing types call it, and it’s not surprising that Laplink, best known for their linking of laps (shurely “laptops”? – ed), have decided to make the basic edition of their file sharing applications, ShareDirect, free. Previously available online for $40, the program can now be downloaded for nothing. It’s not a bad application — you just invite trusted contacts to view and download them from the folders you designate. “The files never leave the safety of your hard drive until you invite someone to download them from you directly. All files are protected by 128-bit encryption, and can securely travel through existing firewall settings,” as the blurb would have it.

The free version will allow unlimited ordinary transfers and 500 MB per month of what Laplink calls ’Premium Transfers’. These are transfers that pass through Laplink’s own servers without any need for altering your firewall and other connection settings. The Plus version, costing $70, lets you make 5 GB a month worth of Premium Transfers.

It doesn’t surprise me because Microsoft recently bought FolderShare and made that available for nothing. I’m working on a review of these various services so watch this space. Well, actually, this space.