Safety of our personal information in the cloud against capricious online marketplace

I used Posterous for disseminating my blog posts to a variety of other services. Three (or more) years ago, they advertised this feature all over as they tried to gain more users. I was one of them. Just a week ago when I posted my previous post I was greeted by this message:

Posterous is now closed. Backups are available until May 31.

Posterous was kind enough to provide help to migrate to other services. Some media companies and individuals also posted their solutions. Many claiming that not all of the data could be transferred to other platforms. I was lucky enough I only had links to my own blog there so I haven’t lost much (except the links in my old Twitter/Wordpress/Tumblr posts don’t work anymore).

I had this conversation on the Twitter about this event with @n0v0id:

@mkljun: Web browsers on Windows OS – comparison of vertical vs. horizontal tabs
@n0v0id: "Posterous Spaces is no longer available"
@mkljun: I know .. I just realised it today … damn cloud :). Company’s gone, personal information’s gone :/.
@n0v0id: Yes, that’s my experience also. My blog is gone, Google Reader quits, … Gonna avoid the cloud in the future. Seriously.

The question that comes to mind is: How safe is to rely entirely on the cloud?

1. Pay for the cloud services? There are services that charge users a few bucks a month and claim they’ll keep going for decades to come. But is there any guarantee? Suppose I pay and there is not enough users? Suppose I pay, there’s enough users but company is not profitable enough in the eyes of stakeholders? Suppose the company is profitable, but a big competitor to some other company which decides to buy it and shut it down.

2. Trust information to a reputable company? Even the giant G has closed a few services in the past. This route has no guarantee either. Remember Buzz and Wave? I used the latter! Gone.

3. Use the cloud but have a local backup? This seems to be the most reasonable path but not an easy-to-implement option for many. My blog for example is hosted at FAMNIT and even if they decide to take it down I still have a copy of my files and my database on my computer. Keep in mind that I keep private things like meeting minutes and research ideas in my blog. So my blog is not only about "how to fix you XY" kind of things.

At the end of the day I like to have a peace of mind. I know my information is platform independent and can be set up anywhere. Even if my web host closes down I can move to another.

There certainly is a need of open standards, portability and greater interoperability on the web. And all this in the light of our privacy and ownership of our personal information.