by Adam Brett

You Can't Trust "The Cloud"

Yesterday marked the final day of Google Reader1. I was an avid Google Reader user for many, many years (too many to remember), but I was unaffected by the recent shutdown, because I stopped using it about 6 months ago, about 3 months before Google announced they were shutting it down.

At the start of last month, The Guardian broke the news that the NSA and GCHQ had been spying on us all2, but I was unaffected because I stopped using Facebook, Gmail, and a host of other services years ago.

I don't keep anything I don't want other people to see in the cloud, and never have.

The vast majority of people I see switching to new feed readers on twitter are switching to different hosted solutions. Very very few are switching to self-hosted options like feedafever3, the reader I switched to at the end of last year.

That means they're just as locked in as they were with Google Reader, but these new companies may not be as gracious if or when they decide to shut the service down. Imagine if Google hadn't given you 3 months notice and had just shut Reader down.

What does this have to do with coding? Isn't this a coding blog? Well, yes. 3 years ago when I co-founded my company, Voreti Ltd we faced a choice. We planned to build web-based software, that much we knew, but we had a choice:

  • SaaS?
  • Self Hosted?
  • Vertical Market?
  • Black Box?

For most start-ups, this is a no-brainer. The lure of recurring income, the vendor lock-in, and a whole host of other awesome reasons mean they don't even think about this, and just run straight to SaaS.

At the time we were considering the pros and cons of each, we'd just had the all the PSN issues. The downtime, hacks, leaks, and weeks of not knowing anything and Sony keeping quiet. Dan (my business partner) and I, had one of our long philosophical tech conversations where we were discussing the cyclical nature of I.T. Specifically, how companies have been outsourcing and then bringing things back in-house (desktop vs server, centralised vs de-centralised, it's all the same thing) on a cycle for a long, long time, and that "The Cloud" was just a slightly more persistent outsourcing cycle.

Our conclusion was that eventually, maybe not that year, the year after, or even in the next 5 years, but eventually something would happen - large outages - massive hacks - data leaks - lost data - something - and that companies would once again lose faith in outsourcing and bring their data and services back in house, where they could control them.

It was this conversation that lead us to go down the black-box route. Ultimately, being in control of your own software and data is something that is very easy to sell to companies, and anyone that doesn't understand that isn't a company that we want to work with anyway.

Next time you're building a product, stop and think. Is SaaS the best thing for your customers? How does it solve their problem rather than yours? And How easy is it going to be to sell "The Cloud" to them after the next big data-breach or high profile shutdown?

Lately, rather than working on new black-box software for companies, I've been working on a couple of self-hosted products for developers and web-site owners, specifically, the one which will be released soon is a self-hosted feedburner replacement, because let's face it, how long before Google cans that too? If that sounds like something you'd like to beta test or get early (free) access to before I release and charge for it, sign up to my mailing list below.

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