One product affected by the outage was Dropbox, a file-synchronization and -backup service for Macs and PCs. “Syncing and Web access to files was offline during the S3 outage,” says Dropbox founder Drew Houston. “But Dropbox stores all files locally, so users could still access and change their files, and queued changes synced immediately after S3 returned.”
Dropbox’s ability to respond to the outage highlights a difference between services that exist only in the cloud and those that use the cloud to keep devices current. “Sync-based solutions are somewhat more tolerant of minor outages, whereas online-only applications are completely sensitive to downtime,” says John McCrea, vice president of marketing for Plaxo.
This point is not lost on Google, which is developing a product–Google Gears–that brings the resiliency of synchronization to its suite of Web-based applications. “Where Google is moving with Gears, which provides the ability to work locally and sync and update the cloud when there is connection, is a viable way forward,” says InfoCloud’s Vander Wal.
Regardless of how much redundancy developers can build into their applications, the question remains: are users ready to trust their data to the cloud? Vander Wal is skeptical. “A lot of the conceptual models just aren’t there in people’s heads,” he says.
The trick, says Dropbox’s Houston, is to make the transition as familiar and seamless as possible. “The cloud will make a lot of things easier, but it’s less useful if you have to change your behavior or can’t use the apps you need,” he says. What people need, Houston says, is a solution that “just works.”