In July of 2013, electronics giant Samsung acquired Internet television startup Boxee, which had seen moderate market success with its Boxee Box, two-sided remote control and cloud-based DVR service. Boxee also launched a strange little service last June, known as Cloudee, which let users upload and share videos on the cloud using a type of semi-private sharing.
Reviews of the service were mixed, and unfortunately Cloudee shut down at the end of September, with Boxee penning a email to users telling them it was time to get their video content or forever lose it. While not really a surprise that this niche player didn’t have much luck with cloud video sharing, what does this kind of shutdown mean for users of cloud storage services at large?
Time to Download
When the Cloudee shutdown was announced on September 18, Boxee gave customers less than two weeks to download their content to a mobile device or desktop before servers were turned off and the data disappeared forever. A similar closeout happened with the company’s beta cloud DVR system in early July, which was initially the focus of Samsung’s attentions. Again, the company offered heartfelt apologies that Cloudee shut down, but told users that after July 10, all of their saved recordings would be gone. What, exactly, Samsung plans to do with Boxee is anyone’s guess, but by all accounts Boxee might be better off — the company’s original plan was to provide Internet television platforms, not design or ship hardware.
Back Up, Always Back Up
Cloudee might not have been the most popular cloud storage service on the market, but its closure offers a valuable lesson to consumers: Any cloud, at any time, can vanish. It might happen because of a total server meltdown, or it could happen because the company offering the service gets bought out or decides the service no longer has value.
Kodak is another good example, here — the company stopped making acetate film, cameras, ink jet printers, and digital photo frames all within the last few years, but still offers its Kodak Pulse cloud photo sharing service, which lets users send photos to wireless-enabled Kodak frames, each with its own email address. So far, the company has continued to provide support for this service, but isn’t obligated to do so, since customers don’t pay storage or transmission fees. Just like Cloudee, the service could disappear in a week or month’s time, forcing users to quickly download any stored photos.
The lesson here? Cloud photo, video, and other sharing services are convenient, cheap (or free), and often bundled with retail products, as is Apple’s iCloud. But there’s no warranty on the cloud, no guarantee that service will last a year, a decade, or forever. Using cloud storage and sharing only makes sense for sending videos to relatives or keeping photos easily accessible, but a desktop backup — and ideally a USB or portable hard drive as well — are recommended in case a company suddenly goes under, deletes its data, and shuts down servers.
Use the cloud. It’s accessible and agile. Just don’t get caught in the rain.