Cloud Computing for Consumers: The Downsides

If you read much about tech, you've undoubtedly been told by some snarky writer that if you're not headed for the cloud, you're hopelessly unhip, behind the times, and probably overweight. You know -- the cloud, that repository of all things digital contained on giant servers owned by someone else out there in cyberspace.

Well, wait a minute. I'm not saying everything about the cloud is hype and bunk. It's not, particularly for businesses that don't need to own and operate infrastructure. But for us regular consumers, the cloud should be seen as a choice for some functions not an absolute must have, much less a measure of your IQ and sex appeal.

The cloud has some real downsides you should know about. Here are some of them, some suggestions of how to do things down here on terra firma, and a few tips on when the cloud really does make sense.

One of the dirty, not-so-secret secrets in techlandia is that vendors want to lock you into their products. Unlike, say, makers of dishwasher soap, who also want to keep your business, but have no way to force you to stay loyal, tech vendors have a club to beat you with. It's an issue that permeates the fundamental nature of the cloud, and you need to watch out for it.

To understand that club, think about working offline, which is the first and most severe downside of the cloud. If you don't have a live Internet connection, there are lots of things you can't do, like see your email, edit or compose your documents, retrieve a backed up file and so on.