How To Protect Yourself From Online Services Shutting Down

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shutterstock 73514458   How To Protect Yourself From Online Services Shutting DownGoogle’s unfortunate decision to shut down its RSS reader service, Google Reader, is an important reminder of just how unreliable the cloud can be. When using free online services, and in some cases even some paid ones, you can never be too sure what is going to happen to your content, and whether or not the service will be available a year from now.

Apps and services are bought, companies develop their strategy, and a lot of times, that means moving away from the one service or feature that you love the most. Google Reader’s popularity, and a pretty vociferous outcry following Google’s decision to pull the plug, has done little to convince the tech giant to go back on its decision, forcing people to look for alternatives. And Google is certainly not alone. Blogging platform Posterous similarly announced its shutdown last February, having been acquired by Twitter, and gave users two months to look for alternatives.

The old saying goes, if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product, has never rung more true than at these times when a company decides it no longer needs you, or has been acquired by a bigger outfit. Here are a few ways you can at least prepare yourself for the inevitable.

Only Choose Services That Provide a Backup Feature

backup   How To Protect Yourself From Online Services Shutting Down

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This is the golden rule of protecting yourself from an ultimate shutdown. Always choose services that provide a backup feature. Better yet, if you can, choose a service that allows you to backup your data to a common format that will likely be compatible with other services such as XML or CSV files. This way you can be sure your content can easily end up somewhere else.

If you can also backup your content from the service to a readable format on your computer, that’s always great too. Either way, if a free cloud-based service doesn’t give its users the basic courtesy of exporting their own content, it’s difficult to trust them with your data.

Perform Regular Backups

Now that you know the service can provide you with backups, to stay on the safe side, perform regular backups, even if there’s been no talk from the service itself of an impending shutdown. With the finicky and unreliable of the Internet, you simply never know what could happen, so you might as well run a backup at least once a month, particularly if you’re extremely active on that service.

Do you tend to be forgetful when it comes to backups? Set up a reminder on your calendar, phone or computer.

Always Keep An Eye Out For Alternatives

While you might love the service you’re using, it’s always good to keep an eye out for alternatives. You never know when you might have to make the switch, and rather than scramble to find an alternative that you might end up not liking, always be aware of the competition and their features so if you need to make a quick switch, you can do so while well informed of what to expect.

Monitor Social Media Accounts Or Blogs For Announcements

The chances are that if a site or service is shutting down, they’ll send you an email telling you as much, and doing so at least a few months in advance to give you a chance to find an alternative. At least that is what they should give you the courtesy of doing.  Just in case you’ve got filters set up in your email inbox, or you just happen to not check your email too often, it might also be a good idea to monitor any available Twitter, Facebook or Google+ accounts, or alternatively an official blog, where you can expect to find announcements.

This way you’ll always know about any worrying downtime, will get a better sense of how often the service is affected by glitches, or in the worst case scenario, when it is shutting down.

Find Out More About The Developers

Crunchbase   How To Protect Yourself From Online Services Shutting Down

If possible, try to find out more about the developers behind the app or service. Do they have a track record for launching services and abandoning them or shutting them down? It’s always good to know who you’re dealing with, and knowing a developer or company’s history can be a great way to get a bit of peace of mind.

Crunchbase is a great resource for finding out everything you need to know about the companies you’re trusting with your data.

Choose Services With Offline Features

Services like Evernote offer you offline or desktop access to your content. Even Google, awful track record aside, provides Google Drive which you can access using a desktop app. Choosing services that come with desktop features or automatic sync are a great way to not have to worry about the very first rule – remembering to backup your content – since it’s all automated for you anyway.

Choose a Paid Service

If you’re really worried about losing access to your content, a paid service is another route to consider. With the Posterous shutdown, Posthaven came to the forefront as a viable alternative, promising it would never shut down, but offering users the service at the cost of $5 a month.

Posthaven homepage   How To Protect Yourself From Online Services Shutting Down

Stay Off The Cloud

At the end of the day, if you’re really worried about your content, there’s no better tip than staying off the cloud. The minute you choose to use a third party cloud-based service, you’re putting your trust in someone else’s hands and that’s something you simply have to come to terms with.

We certainly don’t recommend staying off the cloud – there’s a lot of convenience and handy features that come with cloud-based services, but if you really want to protect yourself – as the old adage goes – nothing beats abstinence.

Do you have any tips on protect yourself from a service shutdown? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: Shutterstock, Shutterstock

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27 Comments - Write a Comment

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Mahesh Kay

It’s just not about cloud but some of the services that google and others offer for free are getting shut down. If we think avoid cloud, then that would mean like avoid internet. Only thing I learned in 2012 and 2013 is that avoid relying on google services, they can close or raise prices any time (refering to apps and positini).

dragonmouth

“If we think avoid cloud, then that would mean like avoid internet.”

Not really. I have stayed away from the cloud and my Internet experience has not suffered one bit. So far nobody appropriated my images, I still control all of my data, none of my files have been held for ransom.

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null

Well, in regards of being off the cloud, you can always get a network HDD for less than $200 and this way, you can always access your data at home remotely and securely via internet… No T&C or letting other people do whatever they want with your own personal data.

Steve Tanner

Thats just what I do – with my old desk-tops
My own little cloud

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Nevzat A

Fortunately for every service that is shut down, there are some alternatives (better or worse) :)

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Scott M

I attempt to use an external hard drive as much as I am able.There are some programs where everything is cloud and I worry about privacy,shutdown of service and an ability to work offline.

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macwitty

Well you can protect your own stuff – the problem is with stuff shared on websites, forum and so on. Skicht was a loved screen shots and upload service. When they closed their site disappeared all images disappeared from blogs and forums where they often was a part of tutorials.

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achyut reddy

Good to know there are many popular alternatives

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David Moreira

I just hope that CrashPlan never goes off, lol.

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techguyknows

Hmm… Staying off the cloud?

David Moreira

That’s almost impossible I know. But the trick is to try to balance things.

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romajaga

It’s good to know, thanks!

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dragonmouth

Advocating staying out of the clouds? Apostate! :-)

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Steve Tanner

I use the “Cloud” all the time for the convenience of working in different locations
BUT back-up to my HDD AND flash drives
I use my old desktops in a LAN as back-up drives

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null

Good Advice!

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Victor Fred

If it is really all that important, and you are worried about security, I would suggest an external solid state drive for the storage of info, fotos, data, etc. Easily moved from one site to another, one PC or Laptop to another and no worries about some one else (in the cloud) gaining access. And True Crypt (a freeby) will afford even more security by encrypting the entire drive.

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Clive Richards

” try to find out more about the developers behind the app or service. Do they have a track record for launching services and abandoning them or shutting them down?” – This definitely suggests to avoid Google completely. A service being depracated because of a buy out or company failure is one thing, but surely Google have a much higher record of keeping things in beta indefinitely and of dropping multiple services while they are making a fortune. In my view all companies who operate any kind of portfolio should support unprofitable but useful parts of their portfolio from the ones that generate mega bucks. If they do want to only chase the money then they should at least admit this and not make up some cock and bull story that the service is no longer popular. I would imagine that google feeds (they dont even have to retain the reader if they dont want to) are far more popular than Google Plus – how long does that have I wonder?
Google do not care about their users any more than Microsoft or Apple – we are just pawns in their game and one day they may rue these decisions

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pixelriffic

I hardly see this as something comparable to loosing actual data. Worst case, here is that you have to subscribe again to the same feeds with another reader. You can read everything that was posted, so nothing was really lost.

I think Google no dobt decided to move away from their own reader, due to the fact that a plethora of better solutions exist now. Just two off the top of my head, Feedly for desktop, and the gorgeous Flipbook for tablets. Both are very elegant solutions I recommend highly. Feedly can actually import your Google reader stuff (for now anwyay).

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Jonathan Blaine

CrashPlan, with its option to backup not just to the cloud but to another machine on your LAN or a relative’s house in the next state makes it pretty safe. I’d have to check to see if the application would willingly restore w/o Internet access (i.e. if CrashPlan.com were offline, but your data was on the local ‘net.)
LastPass is another good option, as they provide a local application to decrypt your database, providing you have the password :-)

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Dave

So what do you think about on-line backup services? I use Mozy, but should I do my own local backups as well?

darrennie

Yes, at least 2 different backups on at least 2 different media types and store in different locations (your house/home/business counts as 1 location).

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null

I use the “cloud” (an extremely misused term) more as a replication intermediary. I use Dropbox, for example, to keep files I want available on multiple machines, yet automatically updated on all of them (such as my resume and other job-search reference material). But even with that I do periodic backups of that data; not only to avoid disappearing services, but also to recover from a file deletion or corruption replicating itself across systems.

Other than that, the cloud is merely a handy place to back up critical reconfiguration files, so that I can pull them *from* any location. If I lose those, it’s likely not a problem.

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Clive Richards

It seems to me that a lot of people seem to think that the cloud refers only to file storage. It is much bigger really and includes software and services which are provided on line. That includes software like Office 365, and the new delivery of Adobe products – in fact almost anything you do online.

Storage is probably fairly protected in that most of the file storage apps like Dropbox store your files on your main computer and, if you choose on other computers that you use regularly. If Dropbox went bust tomorrow I still have access to my files in two places. The added advantage it gives is that you can access the files from anywhere i the world with an internet connection, and on mobile devices. It is easy to transfer your files in minutes from one provider to another.

The more concerning are things like photo sites where they do not do this, Since usually your files on a sharing site like flickr and facebook get reduced in quality, most people would keep the original hi res files on their PC (or maybe not!). The Likes of Dropbox and Skydrive allow you to share photos anyway so these are better solutions for storing them. Consider the ones you put on facebook and flickr as simply web pages that display your pictures rather than store them.

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Stephanie Staker

Nancy, what about these software giants such as Adobe, who is one of many I hear, that are no longer going to offer new software but rather a “pay to use” cloud service? I have always been of the opinion that Adobe charges entirely too much for Photoshop but to now have to pay to use it rather than having the program on my computer? No way, Jose! Do you know of other software programs considering this move? Very good points here in your article. Thanks.

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null

You have firmed my thoughts about saving important information online.

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null

Backupify or self-hosted open source apps (ie: sourceforge, github) offer backup / portability extensions for online services. Good find / reminder on crunchbase. Regards, TFM.

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John S

Stay off the cloud? Three of my five PCs don’t have Internet access. And, of course, anything you put in the”cloud” is backed up on NSA servers.

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