If it were any other company, an executive going on the record with an unfavorable comment regarding the cloud when his or her company was a major player in that space would have been met with swift punishment. But this is Apple and the executive in question is Steve Wozniak, the outspoken tech activist and everyone’s favorite geek who doesn’t shy away from criticizing anything and anyone, even the company he co-founded.

Following a special performance of Mike Daisey’s monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”, the Woz took the stage for a Q&A session with the audience. His take on the cloud (and consequentially Apple’s iCloud)?

It’s a ticking privacy bomb waiting to explode and nuke our digital selves from orbit. We cannot even begin to wrap our heads around such a security nightmare because most of us haven’t been through a mass-scale cloud disruption (yet). Those BlackBerry email server outages and T-Mobile’s Danger incident? Just timely warning signs of things to come.

TIMELY: Conveniently, AT&T just suffered what one blog described as a “massive outage”.

Robert MacPherson, reporting for Agence France-Presse, writes that Woz is losing sleep over the cloud’s potential to seriously disrupt our lives should anything go terribly wrong:

I really worry about everything going to the cloud. think it’s going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years.

He’s right.

Case in point: two separate iCloud incidents in June and July briefly knocked off popular services like instant messages and email on the millions upon millions of iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Apple did resolve service interruption in a matter of hours, but customers were nevertheless enraged and disgruntled even if their data was kept intact.

But what if it was a longer disruption and you were unable to access your iCloud contacts, calendars and photos for weeks or months?

And what happens if data gets wiped out as a result of poor cloud maintenance?

Who’s responsible? Who do I sue?

And things can always get worse and beyond repair.

It seems these questions are on Woz’s mind, too.

With the cloud, you don’t own anything. You already signed it away through the legalistic terms of service with a cloud provider that computer users must agree to.

True that.

Cloud providers confuse customers with pages of legal mumbo jumbo that people just glance over briefly before hitting the “I Agree” button. In case of an incident, the legalities we all easily agreed to usually absolve a cloud provider of any serious repercussions related to loss of data.

The legalities also help these monopolies change service terms per their whim. For example, I found out a couple times that the apps and movies I had previously bought were no longer available on iTunes.

No, I wasn’t backing up anything back then.

I know, my fault.

I want to feel that I own things. A lot of people feel, ‘Oh, everything is really on my computer,’ but I say the more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we’re going to have control over it.

He nailed it.

I don’t own much these days.

Apple’s iCloud facility in North Carolina that holds all your digital stuff.

I tend to rent as much as I can in order to free myself from the burden and stress that comes with owning things.

I pay for my music through Spotify.

My iCoud keeps my iOS devices backed up and in sync.

Dropbox has my important documents the Google cloud stores my digital life from Android devices.

Yeah, I also back up my Mac to a 3TB Time Capsule with Time Machine, but not everything that is synced wirelessly via iCloud (or some other cloud) gets stored on my Mac.

If anything goes south with the cloud, my digital life will take a hit.

That’s why I don’t feel 100 percent safe all the time and it’s not like I haven’t invested in backup strategies.

I want to believe that Apple is on top of things and well prepared for a major data loss incident.

Perhaps that’s what an upcoming tactical data center is for?

I’m not even remotely prepared for anything like the 2009 Sidekick data loss.

How about you?

Do share your great backup strategies and tips with others down in the comments.

  • Will >> never >> happen

    • Good luck with that. I think the Cloud is the downfall of society the Mayans were predicting.

    • dracoslife


  • Well since Woz’s comments, I am now re-thinking my whole back-up strategy here. It’s tough because it is so convenient (iCloud) but I may go back to manual back-ups for major data such as photos and many of my documents. I have two external drives in addition to Time Capsule but I use these drives for media. Now, I will use it for documents and more.

  • ExRoot

    I use clouds but this Article has also encouraged me to pull out my external drives again.

  • Alec Vanek

    i only keep vacation pictures in the cloud. i will never use icloud. only google drive.

  • I’ve had my Photo Stream randomly delete photos before, but I back up every thing to an external 1TB drive. I put every file on there manually, so I know for sure that it’s there. I only use the cloud for stuff I know I can miss if it goes missing. It’s not mature enough yet.

    • The photo stream is only supposed to show your pictures from the last 30 days…

      • I know that, but I’m saying that in course of a photo only being on there for a few days, it’s been deleted. It’s happened a few times.

  • I’ve always felt like the Woz in that I could never trust a foreign entity with my personal life, especially on the level that iCloud encourages. Reason being, “your” life then becomes dependent on “them”. All personal info (contacts, music, backups, etc) are stored on my drives only. I think it’s worth “burdening” myself to truly be secure. I only use Dropbox and that’s for seamless use of photos and miscellaneous files anywhere. However, even those are backed up on DVDs just in case. I’m probably more anal than your average personal but in the end, I always have peace of mind.

  • Johnnytucats

    My contacts, email, dropbox, google drive, etc are in my computer and are backed up daily. What’s Woz got that’s in the cloud-only?

  • i use iclouds only for keeping my iphone settings intact, plus cydia preferences. It saves me time when i restore iphone and dont need to set each tweak all over again. Other than this, i find I icloud kinda useless and rather go to google drive, dropbox, sugar sync and box which offers more space and it is free.

    • Dan

      what’s the name of the tweak that saves the cydia settings?

      • basically when you do backup on your itunes, Most cydia tweak preferences should save in this backup. Simple as that. However, there is an app in cydia PKGBackup which cost 10 bucks. It is very advanced and can do backup of anything you want. There are some free or cheeper alternatives on cydia such as xBackup, AptBackup and more.

  • everyone should have a local backup and a cloud backup…

  • That’s why I own a Pogoplug device. It allows me to attach an external hard drive and create my own cloud. All my documents, pictures, videos are easily accessible without having to pay for a monthly cloud service. Best of all, they actually let me stream most audio and video files. My hard drive, my files, my cloud.

  • It’s good that Woz is reminding us that computers can fail but it’s really no different than having a hard drive crash or the electric go out. I don’t think it’s going to be the end of civilization if iCloud or Google have a hiccup or two. Most cloud technologies are optional. Database technologies such a MongoDB are making it easier for devs to implement their own clouds and in many ways the new scalability actually makes the data more durable than it ever was with relational database.

  • Woz is starting to annoy me. He is good at knowing how everything can be wrong, yet I havent seen any of those being improved by him. Hating much?

    • i guess he tries to show public where to improve, or maybe enlighten public of imminent alien invasion.

  • The idea of ​​leaving all my data confidential and not in the hands of a company that leases its servers do not like. I think Woz is right and there are the Murphy’s law.

  • ridiculous5

    No cloud for me. Local backups only. I really don’t like that little tid bit about once it’s in the cloud it’s no longer yours. F’ that.

  • 4rcane

    Woz reminds me of the back seat driver who constantly criticizes the driver.