Now playing: ♫ Set Me on Fire — Pendulum

I was recently emailed an article from the Telegraph about the forthcoming cloud services from Apple, iCloud.  The subject read “Is it safe?” and the portion of the article I’m going to respond to is quoted here for convenience.

With iCloud, Apple has cut the cord. It’s not a company that sells computers, or even mobile phones. It’s a company that wants to be so helpful for every single aspect of your personal life, your work, your entertainment, and your memories, that whatever it sells, it’s simply indispensable.

They make iCloud, and the related enhancements in iOS 5, sound almost altruistic with this paragraph.  It isn’t.

What it is, however, is solving something that the Android/Google people have been whining about since day one: You basically need a Mac to own an iPhone.  Now, you don’t.

You can sync your media wirelessly with any computer, if you want.  You set a passcode in your iPhone/iPod/iPad (I’ll call them iDevice from here on out for simplicity).  When you’re within range to a computer with iTunes, you can tell iTunes to “Wirelessly sync to a device”.  It will then prompt you for the passcode, and if you enter it correctly, iTunes will upload all your music to iDevice.  This part is fairly safe.  You just have to trust the wireless hotspots you are connecting to.  You can temporarily disable wireless syncing, too, if you’re at a public place (say Starbucks).  The nice thing is, you can activate your iDevice and receive software updates without requiring a computer with iTunes installed.  This is good for people without PCs, good for people who don’t run Mac OS X, and good for people who have computers that break down frequently.  *Ahem*Mac mini*ahem*

Now.  iCloud is taking that to the next level.  Your music is stored on Apple’s servers.  Your data is stored on Apple’s servers.  Your notes, your preferences, your apps, your iBooks, your digital magazines…stored on Apple’s servers.  Of course they have 256-bit SSL (like HTTPS).  And they claim it to be very secure and robust.  But as the article you sent points out, Sony just lost the trust of about 80 million people when crackers broke in and quite easily retrieved personal information — including passwords — about every last person that was signed up to their cloud gaming service.

I’m not saying the cloud is a bad idea per se.  But when you think about the Sony incident, or the Amazon Web Services incident a few months ago — that took popular sites like Reddit and Foursquare completely down, and left thousands of business up a creek — well, you start to realise that the cloud isn’t all it’s touted.

Now, Apple has other cloud services, and they have millions of users and they’ve never been cracked or broken in to.  If that is your definition of “Safe”, then yes, by all means.  You can only secure a computer network so much, and Apple seems to be at least half decent at that.  (See the built-in firewall in Mac OS X.  And it’s getting a lot more powerful in Lion.)

But if you want to define “Safe” as “Will I be able to access this data all the time for the next 10 years”…I’m not so sure.