Cloud Computing for Consumers: The Downsides


Nonsense, you say. Didn't Google just announce that ? Not exactly. Google has an app that lets you look at your Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs offline -- but not change them. Not so much a problem with calendar, but a big drawback with Docs. What's more, even that limited offline capability is limited to users of Google's Chrome browser. Want to use Firefox or IE? Too bad. That's what I mean by lock-in.

At some point, Google says it will introduce offline editing. However, when it does, you'll still face the lock-in problem because Google Docs is all that will work. Me, I use Microsoft Office, Open Office and Google Docs, depending on the preference of my clients. I want to work on them when I want to work on them, and I don't want to be locked in to any of them.

There's a somewhat different issue that's related to the offline problem: outages. And that means exactly what it sounds like it means; the service is down for some reason that has nothing to do with you. And since Google offers no support for its free apps, all you can do if there is an outage is troll the online forums and hope it gets fixed before it causes you a significant problem. Telling your boss that you can't give her the report because Google Docs is down is only a cut above the classic "the dog ate my homework" excuse.

Outages really do happen. Google and Microsoft were both hit by cloud outages last week, with and Microsoft Hotmail, Office 365 and SkyDrive . All of those services have had longer failures in the past. That's not to say they are inherently unreliable, but if it's in the cloud, you have to assume that sooner or later there will be an outage.