Many tech gurus have sung the praises of “Cloud Computing,” a web-based approach to getting things done that is OS-independent and provides  access to data from anywhere (thus making collaboration easier) because the information is stored on an Internet server.  Companies like Google (Google Apps) offer computing staples like word processing and spreadsheets, while Apple (MobileMe) helps to synchronize e-mail, contacts, calendar, and the like on all devices connected to it.  My biggest concern with online apps has been confidentiality (I don’t like letting this type of information out of my control).  However, there is another risk as well.

What if the “cloud” dissipates?  What if the company goes under or no longer supports that product?  What happens then?   An interesting post on PCWorld Online talks about a recent event that makes this concern all the more real.   It turns out that Google is discontinuing or killing some of its online services.  For example, there is Notebook.  I have been using this little gem to take notes on interesting information I find on the web.  I can access these notes from any computer where I have the plug-in installed.   Google, however, says,

“Active development for Google Notebook will be stopped . . . No more features will be added and no new users will be accepted. However, already registered users will be able to maintain their online notes using the service’s web interface.”

Hmmmm…..  Notebook’s features will be absorbed into other Google Apps, but now they are no longer in one place.  Even if I can still use it, what if Google later decides to get rid of it altogether?

Certainly Google Apps aren’t going anywhere in the near future.  However, other companies like Microsoft will be competing in this area, and if there is an industry shake-up on this (and those of us who have been around long enough have seen a few and know what I am talking about), the losers’ apps may well disappear from the computing landscape.  If this happened to an app on your PC, you would still have the data (although you may have to go through a file format change).  But what about data in the cloud?  I’m not trying to be Chicken Little here by saying that the clouds/sky are falling, but this announcement by Google is just an example of the risk that may be out there for this data management strategy.  This incident should have you thinking about a Plan B should something happen.