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Cloud Computing is an Adjunct, Not a Replacement

June 11, 2009 by Kohan Ikin


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This entry has been updated on June 30 - see below.

The makers of the popular cloud computing ToDo service Toodledo are having a rough day today. There was an issue at their datacenter, and now everything is down. Thousands of people worldwide are without access to their daily To-Do list. The GTD faithful are sweating anxiously today, suffering withdrawal from their daily productivity fix.

So is this a sign that cloud computing is doomed to failure? That the cloud will never replace the desktop? I mean, Toodledo isn't the only cloud computing company to experience an outage:

But cloud computing is a great idea - being able to access your data from any device, anywhere in the world, having your data in sync across all machines... terrific! Problem is, the cloud doesn't solve the problem on its own. Failures do happen. Websites go offline, even for maintenance, and the developers of apps on the cloud need to consider that.

Solving the Cloud Computing problem

The cloud is only an adjunct to a wider solution. A part of the puzzle. A full solution needs to embrace all of these features:

Toodledo already had some of this in place, like the iPhone app with a local data cache. So I was still able to access and edit my to-do list on my iPod during the outage. But there's no desktop Mac client, and no easy way to export data from the iPhone.

But don't get me wrong - I'm still a fan of Toodledo. Their software is great, they've got the best to-do app available. Being able to access my to-dos on the web and keep them in sync is awesome. Oh, and they've finally come back online as I type this... a quick sync of the Toodledo app on my iPod Touch, and yep, my data is all back to normal. Good job, folks.

But the lesson for cloud companies remains: all Toodledo needs now are good Mac/Windows desktop clients & a way to export the cached data from the desktop & mobile clients... then Toodledo will be the perfect ToDo list solution.


Updated June 30: Toodledo has gone offline again, possible due to a problem that occurred simultaneously at Rackspace (see their latest tweet). It's really terrible timing for Toodledo, and highlights that even if cloud computing companies get their own software right, they're still at the mercy of their hosting providers. As mentioned above, even Google is not immune to such failures.

I feel really bad for the Toodledo team... I love their to-do apps, both on the iPhone and the website, and will continue to use them... but I know there's a lot of people who are unhappy about it today on Twitter. Unfortunately, I bet the team there (and at Rackspace) are feeling just as stressed today as they were 2 weeks ago.


Updated June 30: Toodledo is back online - the outage was roughly 30 minutes or so. Good to see them back in action relatively quickly!