Private Personal Clouds: Fact or Fiction?


Private Personal Clouds: Fact or Fiction?

By TMCnet Special Guest
Hal Steger, CMO at Funambol.
  |  April 30, 2012

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Cloud Computing Magazine.

The recent forced closure of the popular Megaupload cloud file sharing service has left many people wondering about the security and overall wisdom of storing data and content in the cloud.

Megaupload was shut down because it facilitated the illegal sharing of copyrighted material such as music, movies and TV shows. At the same time, Megaupload was used by many people as a free and convenient way to store legitimate data and content in the cloud. Many innocent “bystanders” lost their data and content because it was intermixed in a cloud with other content that was illegally shared.The Megaupload situation raises several critical questions, such as:

·         How concerned are people, really, about the security and privacy of data and content in the cloud?
·         What’s to prevent closure of other cloud digital locker services such as Apple iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive and Dropbox (News - Alert) that could also be used to illegally share copyrighted material?
·         How can a user, whether a consumer or business, reap the benefit of storing data and content in the cloud, while protecting against inadvertent loss?

These questions are particularly relevant in light of a new industry survey that points to the high level of interest in personal clouds. The survey* of mobile users in 48 countries found that:89 percent said their digital content was rapidly growing out of control due to the proliferation of mobile and computing devices for work and personal use, and the increasing number of apps and services to access and create data and content.

Clearly, there is significant interest in personal clouds for storing digital content and data, but also substantial concern about privacy and security.

What is the likelihood that another personal cloud service to shut down, causing other people to lose data? Not likely, for several reasons.

First, other cloud services have license agreements that prohibit the illegal file sharing that caused Megaupload’s downfall. These companies have invested significantly in their brands and reputations and are united in their pursuit against illegal sharing, whether it be of their own software or other's copyrighted material. These companies are motivated to police and enforce the terms of use that prohibits behavior that leads to the loss of many innocent peoples' data.

They also tend to employ industry best practices such as repeatedly reminding people about the terms of use to not distribute content illegally. Some companies allow users to report abuse, while others employ automated methods to identify copyrighted material and warn people about suspected unauthorized use.

Beyond this, though there remains the question of how secure is your data in a personal cloud service. Technology can make it very difficult for intruders to access your cloud data. This includes using https when transmitting data over the internet from mobile devices, and encrypting data in databases and file systems, such that only the true owner can view their data and content. Many service providers have stringent policies regarding which employees can access user data, to prevent unauthorized access.

At the same time, if a government agency came knocking on a service provider's door with a warrant to search for information for an individual or group, and the choices were to shut down the service, go to jail and pay a huge fine, or just look the other way, what do you think a service provider would do? It’s one thing if a service is operated in a country which has a legal system based on due process, but if you reside in another country, or the cloud service you use operates in another one, how can you be sure your data would not be accessed inappropriately?

To get the benefits of a private cloud, do your homework. How does a provider discourage and prevent illegal sharing of copyrighted material? What methods do they use to safeguard data? Which employees are allowed to access it? Where are their servers and what laws govern their use? It's like reading the fine print in a financial transaction; if it’s really important take the time to eliminate surprises.

Hal Steger is chief marketing officer at Funambol (News - Alert).

* The entire survey report can be downloaded for free at

Edited by Stefania Viscusi