Cloud computing. It’s great. I’ve been a long time supporter of the concept that you can host your files and your applications on the web, accessing your email, documents and photos where you want so long as you have access to a computer. It has helped me shift work between the office and home without the need for physical media, has helped me show holiday photos to relatives without the need to send a CD or get the images developed, and it’s allowed me to work collaboratively on projects without having to leave my house. It’s really, really great.
But it does have one very big caveat; what happens when it all goes wrong? This is an age old argument that has just come to life again in the last five days. A bit of background; Al Smith from Newcastle DC came to use Twitter last Friday, only to discover that his account had been suspended (@alncl). No reason was given and he certainly hadn’t been abusing his acount. Simon Wakeman blogged a great interview with Al, discussing the background of this. On the surface this may seem trivial; a glitch in the system that led to someone being inadvertanaly banned. But it’s the lack of communications from Twitter Support and the length of time it’s taken to get any kind of resolution for Al (at the time of writing, @alncl is still banned!)
What would happen if this was an orgnisations Twitter account? Not only is there the issue of faith in these new forms of communication that the web is currently heralding in, there is also the issue of reputation. Why was this organisations account banned? Had they been doing something dodgy? And not only the reputation of the organisation, but the reputation of Twitter as a service.
Earlier this year, GMail had some major outage problems. These were resolved fairly quickly and Google were incredibly informative both during the outage and afterwards. Many businesses were affected by this; downtime does happen in this unpredictable world of computing. What retains faith for the end user is how well the manufacturer handles this downtime.
Twitter is quickly becoming the “It” service of the web; everyone wants in on it and corporations are starting to include it in their communications strategy. I can’t help but think that Twitter, as a company, would benefit a buyout – something they’ve always shirked away from. People have high expectations from their online service providers and I personally don’t think that Twitter is currently in a position to provide this level of service. Under the wing of a company like Google, however, this should be a different matter…
But there is still the underlying question; should we put our faith in the clouds?