Is it time to store your data in the "cloud?" Lenovo certainly took a big step towards that end not too long ago by introducing our Online Data Backup service. While not strictly a cloud application, it is a big step towards achieving that end and worth spending a few minutes discussing - not just for the product aspect of it, but also for the broader implications of where we're heading as an industry. If you're a smallish business, (below 250 seats) you probably don't have an offsite backup strategy. According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, D.C., 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. Of those companies, 50% filed for bankruptcy immediately. A Price Waterhouse Coopers survey calculated that a single incident of data loss costs businesses an average of $10,000. Even if you are a home user, almost one third of you have lost all of your files due to circumstances beyond your control, like a hard disk drive crash. If you then tried to get a quote from a data recovery service, you likely gasped at the price. An estimate of $2,000 or more is quite common. Why? Because desperate people pay lots of money. We all know we should backup our data, but most of us continue to put it off for a variety of reasons. It takes too long. We hate shuffling DVDs/CDs in and out. We're too busy scheduling root canals at our respective dentists. Even if you're vigilant about copying your data to a second storage location, how many of you, home or business user, can say that you have an off-site backup that will protect you in case of a fire or other natural disaster? I'll bet good money that the answer is "not many." Online data backup programs are nothing new. They've been around since the days of dial up modem access. In the heady days of the Internet bubble, you could get a GB or two of free space just for agreeing to look at advertisements. Eventually all of the offerings went out of business and the data people stored on their servers went POOF. Lenovo's offering was built from the ground with the principle of "Your data is yours to do with as you like. We just protect it and make it accessible to you and only you." We use EMC as our provider. All of your data is encrypted locally on your own machine before it gets sent to the cloud. The backup servers are under lock and key at a secure data facility. We've posted a FAQ document, which is actually pretty good at answering most questions. And I'd say that even if I didn't work for Lenovo. Yes, Lenovo's offering is a paid service, but your data is not the place where you want to go the cheap (read: free) route. Yes, you can hack your gmail account as a storage repository, but speaking from a security perspective, that's unacceptable. Any company that puts customer data on a free service that indexes and uses that content for marketing purposes is being irresponsible. And you may not give a darn about whether pictures of grandma help sell more dish soap, but she might. (Yes, I know that you can encrypt your data before you store it, but that kind of defeats the purpose of why you put it there in the first place, doesn't it?) Per some of the comments on my previous post, I did check out DropBox. It does look cool, and it does have some neat features, but it is also a pay service, incidentally, still in beta. I'm not willing to trust my data files to a beta application. Plus, there's still one other big problem... The Internet world seems fixated on the idea of cloud computing, but we're still very far away from the realizing the dream of everything being stored in the cloud. "Store it all in the cloud!" "The cloud will make the end user device irrelevant. The PC is dead." "Even Jesus stores his iTunes library in the cloud!" (Okay, so I made that one up.) I think they're all wrong - at least for the foreseeable future. It's not that I don't believe in the idea. It's just that all of these Pollyannas forget that cloud computing relies on the holy triangle of cheap devices, pervasive connectivity, and copious bandwidth. With the creation of the netbook category, we now have a lot of cheap devices. We still lack the other two pieces of the puzzle and won't solve those issues for some time. I look at my own personal work/non-work life. At the office, things are good. I mean, they're really, really GOOD. We have a gigabit connection to everyone's desk. Just last week I downloaded the latest Windows 7 beta build from Microsoft in about ten minutes. That's wicked fast. Most importantly, I have a symmetric connection. My upload speed is as fast as my download speed. I can blast bits around almost like they're on my local disk drive. At home, things are okay. My download speed is fair. My ISP (cable modem) loves to tout how they've just increased from 6Mb/s to 8Mb/s. No offense to their marketing department, but that increase is about as useful as a left handed smoke shifter or a bucket of warm spit. (Worthless monopolistic communist money grubbing ##&$&^@ cable company) My upload speed - the speed at which I post my 5MB digital photos, the speed at which I send my 20MB YouTube clips, the speed at which I regularly email 10MB files - is barely usable. I cuss and scream at my worthless ISP every time I have to upload anything bigger than 1MB in size. I am jealous that my out of state in-laws have fiber optic Verizon FiOS. Even my grandmother, living in her house built in 1929 in a depressed Pittsburgh suburb has FiOS, but it's wasted on her. (But boy do those 20kb emails she sends just FLY). I hate that we live in such a technologically advanced area in the Raleigh area yet are saddled with 3rd rate broadband service. Many of you are faced with the same issue I am And it gets worse. When I'm on the road and try to connect, public Wi-Fi hotspots are spotty alternatives at best. First, you have to find one. Then, you have to spend 5 minutes putting in credit card information whilst praying that there aren't 50 simultaneous users trying to share a measly 1.5Mb pipe. I'm lucky to get modem speeds, especially when uploading. Worst of all is my WWAN broadband card. It takes forever to handshake and establish a connection. Latency is terrible. And again, I'd get better upload speeds with two tin cans and a spool of yarn. In other words, connecting to the cloud, if it is ever going to be useful needs to be like instant on technologies - three seconds or less is about all I can take, and it cannot take forever to shuffle data to and fro. There are certain members, even of this company, who like to crow that they want nothing stored locally. Then they can use their BlackPad/iBerry/ThinkPhone/whatever and switch at will. They claim massive productivity gains. What they don't tell you is that for every hour of productivity they gain, they lose three in technical doodling in order to fix something that broke with the latest security update or policy change. They also don't tell you that for every document that they have stored in the cloud, there are two more that they would like to have access to that they haven't yet uploaded or sync'd. I get it. I truly do. I want it to succeed, but we're still nowhere close to it being a workable reality. Speaking from a PC vendor perspective though, I wonder if it is in our best interest for the idea of cloud computing to work? After all, if your Google Docs runs just as well in a browser on any old netbook on the market, why would you want to buy a Lenovo ThinkPad any longer? It's a scary proposition for a PC vendor. Having said all of this, I think our online backup service is a great step in the right direction and something that is viable immediately. It has user controllable bandwidth throttling so that it minimizes the impact on your day to day work. As it updates your backup set, it only copies the data blocks that have actually changed, so updating does not take much time at all. No, it is not flashy, but it is reliable, which is exactly what we wanted it to be. You get business grade performance. Your data is secure. And most importantly, your data is your own. Your corporate security department will not get heartburn. No fly-by-night company is going to change licensing terms on you and decide to delete your data after it closes up shop or cannot get venture capital funding. And you can sleep soundly at night knowing that in the worst case, your data is locked away in some mountain in the clouds surviving all but a direct nuclear hit or your failure to pay your bill. (And we've even built in a grace period for that too.) If that's not peace of mind, I'm not sure what is. You can find out more about Lenovo's Online Data Backup Service here.