Cloud storage – The good, the bad and the ugly

During the release of Windows 8.1 public preview last month, Microsoft announced that SkyDrive will be even more pervasive in Windows 8.1, not only being the default save location for users’ documents and pictures, but also storing system settings and user profile.

More recently, Forbes reported on a story that Dropbox is moving beyond the typical cloud storage business model of file sync, to a broader data store API that will allow people to sync contact lists, settings game sales and all other sorts of data.

While I welcome innovation, I will stay away from public cloud storage as much as possible. And here is why.

No, this is not another tirade on the NSA’s PRISM surveillance programme. Sure that PRISM deserve its share of criticism, but my issue here is with something less sinister. I believe the terms of service of such public cloud storage services (e.g.: Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive, etc.) are not compatible with our reality.

Let’s look at SkyDrive for instance. Microsoft states in its end user license agreement that users can’t upload “nudity of any sort, including full or partial human nudity, or nudity in nonhuman forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga” in their SkyDrive account.

Just last week I was sharing with my parents pictures that I took from my baby son, who is seven months old, splashing on his bath with a big smile on his face. That’s the kind of picture that makes any parent (or grandparent) emotional. As I emailed the picture, I could not help but think “what would happen if I have uploaded this picture to my SkyDrive account?”

Rest assured this is a rhetorical question, as we know since 2011 that Microsoft scans user’s files in SkyDrive (regardless if private or shared) to detect violations of their EULA. I reckon the last thing anyone need is to be wrongly accused of being a paedophile by some arrogant EULA.

Now imagine if everything that you save on your computer is now synchronised back to the cloud? This is my concern with Windows 8.1. For the less tech-savvy out there, a picture which you never intended to have uploaded to the cloud could be accidentally uploaded due to the Windows 8.1 tighter integration with SkyDrive.

One important point to bear in mind, though is that whether one chooses Dropbox or Google Drive over SkyDrive, the fact is that one will be always be bound to a company’s terms of use and license agreement and those are subject to change. And this is a principle that I can’t ever accept governing my personal data. Who knows what sort of whim they will come up with next?

For those who need files synced among multiple devices I recommend the use of private cloud solutions. I use Synology’s Coudstation, but one must have a Synology device for it to work.


  • I've been using a distributed cloud through for my storage. They take all the extra space you have in all of your email accounts and recycle it into cloud storage. It is really nice. I have backed up about 500GB of files for free.
    Since they use email accounts for storage, I was able to set up my email accounts through a Swiss provider, and now I'm also safe from the NSA.

    • Thanks for the tip!

      I personally use Synology’s CloudStation since I have a Synology DiskStation device. But there are other interesting solutions out there which are not necessarily bound to a hardware manufacturer, such as <a href="” target=”_blank”> <a href="” target=”_blank”> Cheers, P.

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