There Is No Cloud

..there is just someone else’s computer.

I’ve touched on this before, here. Devices and software we buy can give us great things: we can stream films or music rather than shipping physical media (move bits, not atoms), and deliver amazing connectivity, but when these services depend on someone else’s computer (and if you can’t touch it, it isn’t yours), you can’t rely on them being there.

A very small illustration. I have a bus time app. It is was great. I’d look at a bus stop on the map it grabbed from Google Maps, and it shows me destinations, routes, and more. The data is publicly available, and indeed, Google Maps itself uses the data built into maps- essentially, all the app does is glue together some bits of data, and present it nicely.

Suddenly it stopped working, with a typical error message for phone apps, saying it couldn’t connect and to check my data connection- which was fine. I assumed a temporary problem.

A month or so later, it’ still not working. I email support, and remove the app, re-install it. Clear the data and cache, then eventually wipe the phone. Still no good, so I install on a different phone. Still no good, and still no answer from support.

At this point I can only assume the company is no longer maintaining it, and whatever server it calls home to on the Internet is no longer operational.

For 3-4 quid of app, this is not a problem, but it might piss you off a little if you’ve bought some IoT hardware (Hive, or Ring, for example) and they decide to pull the plug. If you’ve just migrated a huge datacentre into cloud, it could be a disaster.

Remember: if you can’t touch it, you don’t own it, and even if you can touch it and do own it, unless you control every service it needs, it can be taken away from you.

Anyway, not all bad, I ended up with a better app 🙂

[Edit 14/03/2018]

I’ve now had a reply from the app’s author:

Fixed about half an hour ago.
Sorry for the outage and not replying sooner. I have moved suppliers and the problem should not recur.

Which is kind of a shame, as I’ve given up and moved to something else now.

3 Responses to “There Is No Cloud”

  1. Willenhall_Lad Says:

    Well said and an argument I’ve had with a developer of late.

  2. species5619 Says:

    The Rail planner live app went the way of the DoDo in the same way.
    I had just done reset on my phone (forcibly changed the provider config to get WiFi calling to work, which to my annoyance trigger a factory reset) and the app appeared to stop working.

    For me the clue was in the fact I when I in installed it, I could not reinstall it, (it would appear Samsung Backup and restore, can restore app no longer the play store)

    Took me a good few days to get to the bottom of it.

    Turns out the developer had held the contract for network rail IT systems, when it lost the contract, it pulled it own app, as it no longer had access to the data.

    But the worst one I have heard of was NEST V1, (revolv) smart home hub resulting in $300 paper weight

    All of my home automation is if running over MQTT and home assistant , with no decency on external services for day to day operation, except amazon echo for voice control…

  3. species5618 Says:

    DOH TYPO !