Trust in the Internet god, but…

The definition of “essential” is essentially transitory.

When I was growing up in a medium-sized city in India, ours was one of the few homes with a personal telephone connection. Neighbours used to come and receive urgent phone calls in our house. Sometimes we would receive messages to pass them on to people. Neither of this was always pleasant because invariably the phone did ring just as we sat down to dinner. But somehow not many thought of the phone as essential.

Now all of us have mobile phones. Telling somebody our minute by minute progress, as we stand in the vestibule on a crowded train, is now essential, I suppose, as is filling every moment of our time with activity and productivity. Ubiquitous access to the web and all our work files, photos and the like are also deemed essential now.

So what do we do? We back-up everything. Online. On a server owned by someone else, who gives us a login and a password to access our own stuff, but we believe it is to keep our stuff safe from prying eyes.

Besides the presumption of web access, the real “essential” here is trust. The kind of trust one places in a bank before one hands over all of one’s jewellery to them in a safe-box. This was a common practice in India, during my childhood, although I couldn’t say what happens nowadays even as Indians continue to have amongst them a few Fort Knoxes worth of gold.

What happens when that trust is broken? When the company goes bust overnight? When they suddenly ask you to sign up with changed terms and conditions, and a fee, holding your files and photos to ransom in the meanwhile, as Poonam found out? Or when their service is poor, their sense of responsibility abysmal and you find that despite paying up in the beta, you cannot retrieve your own files and photo, as Jason found out?

The essential truth here is that the web cannot be ubiquitous until trustworthiness of web service providers is ubiquitous.

And until such a miracle happens, please trust in the Internet god, but please also take backups on a portable, removable hard disk that you have in your possession.

Related reading:

Putting Things Off – the laid back productivity blog

How to procrastinate

Do you have a backup?

Learning from the woes of third world web workers

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