App Outages and File Lockouts, In The Cloud And On The Ground
If you had no trouble reaching this post and never worried that you would, the first half of today's column -- in which I decry the unreliability of some Web-based applications -- may not quite resonate with you.
So in the second half of the piece, I compared that risk to an older problem caused by some of the most widely used desktop applications: proprietary file formats that can't easily be opened in competing programs.
On reflection, I decided that the second problem is worse. Companies that don't have death wishes usually get their Web services back up after an outage pretty quickly, but some of the closed formats I mention in the story have been around for a decade or more and show no signs of being opened.
And yes, I use some of them myself -- more than I thought I did when I began writing the column. On the Mac I'm typing this on, I've got Intuit's Quicken and Apple's Numbers, Pages and Mail (although at least that least program doesn't take that much effort to convert its mail files into ones readable in other e-mail applications).
On the other hand, I'm actually doing well compared to many users. For example, the calendar and contacts applications on this computer use standard, open file formats that require no special conversion to be used elsewhere.
How much of your data is held in some company's proprietary format? And how much does that bug you? Or are you more worried about the risk of your data falling out of your reach when a Web-based service has an outage at the wrong time?
(When you're done discussing these somewhat depressing topics, click over to this week's podcast. Unlike most, it features actual musical talent, courtesy of this week's guest: singer-songwriter and generally smart Web guy Jonathan Coulton.)
May 22, 2009; 10:05 AM ET
Categories: Digital culture
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