Most companies and individuals now host a majority of their data and applications “in the cloud”. There’s no easy way back. It’s easier, even if more costly. And it’s even harder for individuals, as most services are “free”. Of course, most are anything BUT free, but we don’t have to take our credit cards out, so it feels okay to use those.
The cloud is elastic, transparent, easy to use, and pervasive. We’ve got Internet access pretty much everywhere (at least in the Western world). We’ve traded our CD/MP3/FLAC collections for Spotify, our DVDs and Blu-rays for Netflix/Disney+/Amazon Prime etc. We store our documents on OneDrive or Google Drive, put our applications on Amazon AWS, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure. We build applications on top of invisible hardware, make use of high-level abstractions like serverless functions, etc.
For security and privacy-conscious people, this is a real nightmare ala 1984. No more privacy, and scary trust boundaries everywhere. How far are we really willing to go for the sake of convenience and (mostly needless) scalability possibilities?.
Yet here we are, happily sending all of our precious data to the clouds. Unfortunately, those clouds are not always trustworthy (see all data breaches of recent years), nor “stable” over time.
Online services and cloud providers come and go. Of course, the big ones remain, but their service catalog evolves faster than the weather. And when services go away or change drastically (feature-wise or price-wise), all we can do is take what we can and move away. Before the cloud, the main reason to move our stuff was when moving from one house to another. Now that our data is scattered all over the Web, there are many more reasons for us to be on the move. And it’s boring, tiresome, time-consuming, and costly!
Let’s take a concrete example. A while ago, I migrated my newsletter away from Mailchimp because of the horrendous UX (I sincerely hope they managed to fix that by now) to Revue, a free newsletter service now owned by Twitter. I was glad about the move, even though it took me a while.
Now that Elon has finally bought Twitter, he has decided to make drastic changes over there. He fired the CEO, fired half of the employees, introduce a subscription model to get the “verified” checkmark, and way more. But apparently, he also decided to get rid of Revue, the newsletter service that I’ve been using since last year… Bummer!
Now that I have almost a hundred editions of this newsletter, moving away is not so simple. But I won’t have a choice. Revue will apparently be gone by the end of the year! So I have to:
- Choose a new service provider
- Export/migrate the existing content somehow
- Try and maintain the existing URLs so that I don’t end up with broken links everywhere
- Find another way to collect interesting links to share with you
- Migrate my list of subscribers, making sure that you are all okay with the move, and probably leading to the loss of some members along the way
- Migrate paid subscribers to a new solution as well
- Integrate the new service with my Website so that people can continue to subscribe
That’s actually a lot of work that I would have preferred to avoid. But that’s one of the risks with the cloud. We cannot trust it all that much. We have to have backup plans, be agile, and find time to deal with changes and decommissions. Those are “hidden” costs that we all have to deal with, no matter what.