Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
The Almighty Buck

Who Owns The Data/Apps? 116

A reader writes: "There's an interesting Dan Gillmor column about the whole ASP/online storage thing. What happens when these places go away? What happens when they change? "
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Who Owns The Data/Apps?

Comments Filter:
  • Well, I don't know about the sites hosted on sourceforge, but I do happen to know what Taco and Hemos will do [angelfire.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:02AM (#157798)
    Call me an old fuddy duddy, but I like my cars fast, my women skinny, and my apps on my hard-drive.
  • It's lack of knowlege on the part of legislators. Wise and meaningful legislation can not be expected to come from ill-informed and less than technically astute legislators.

    You think they pass laws like UCITA because they're ignorant?

    What incentive do they have to make informed decisions rather than sell our rights down the river?
  • Here's a good one for ya!

    See that little icon up at the upper right?

    Saving to your i-drive...

    "Stand up to service providers"

    First Time Users

    i-drive is your FREE personal space on the Web. Access your files from anywhere or share them with friends.

    About i-drive

    Registered Users
    User Name:
    Password:

    Where did you get your i-drive?

    idrive.com
    berkeley.edu
    calstatela.edu
    cwru.edu
    drexel.edu
    ecu.edu
    gmu.edu
    hamptonu.edu
    london.edu
    lsu.edu
    manhattan.edu
    pitt.edu
    richmond.edu
    stanford.edu
    syr.edu
    tulane.edu
    ucdavis.edu
    uci.edu
    uiowa.edu
    uncc.edu
    vt.edu
    weber.edu
    wfu.edu

    Forgot your password? Need help logging in?

    Sooo.. you can save this very story on *your* own personal piece of cyber-space!

    But what if they change something without telling you?

    Then what?

    Huh?

    Then who ya gonna call?

    t_t_b
    --
    I think not; therefore I ain't®

  • "And I can see little reason why anyone should use it for their business. Having your HR, email, accounting run by complete strangers leaves your company wide open to all sorts of disasters"

    Organizations have been outsourcing these computerized services for nigh on 40 years now. And probably for 10,000 years before that, in non-electronic form. I would guess that 90% of the paychecks issued in North America are handled on an outsourced basis by ADP, Ceridian, or PayChex. Same with HR and e-mail. Where do you think IBM has been making all its money in the last 5 years?

    High volume, low value transactions are always going to be a candidate for outsourcing. The keys to doing it successfully are due diligance, a good contract lawyer, and auditing.

    sPh
  • As an ASP employee, you are of course entitled to your idea of how the relationship should work.

    As a person who has negotiated such contracts for large corporate purchasers, however, I can report that the customer is _entitled_ to what the contract says he is entitled to. And anyone who signs such a contract that doesn't say the customer is entitled to a copy of the application configuration (e.g. the SAP config tables) ... well, that customer will get what it deserves. (In fact I had meant to say "application config" in my original post, but I was pounding it in quick at lunch).

    Luckily, these contracts are usually negotiated by the sales force, and if you catch them at the end of their quarter and let them know you have two alternatives in your back pocket, they will browbeat their own lawyers and management into agreeing to just about anything you need!

    By the way, I have also worked on ore processing contracts. And it isn't unusual to include a clause that says if you are unable to deliver the refined product, I am in fact entitled to an amount of your natural gas equivalent to what I need to smelt it myself.

    sPh
  • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:25AM (#157803)
    If you are getting involved with outsourced storage or apps, you absolutely need the assistance of a lawyer who has worked with this type of contract before. Contrary to current hype, neither the ASP model nor outsourced storage is new, so there should be good examples around (can you say "service bureau"? If not, that tells me how young you are).

    At a _minimum_, your contract must absolutely specify that the applications, data, and backups belong to you and only you, that you can recover them at any time, that such rights survive change of control and bankruptcy, that you will receive a copy of your backup tapes at a meaningful interval (daily, weekly, hourly?), and that the vendor will sign the necessary contracts with insurance companies and bonding agencies to ensure that these things happen.

    That's a MINIMUM from a non-lawyer. Before you take chances with your company's future, you absolutely must get good legal advice and assistance. Otherwise you might be finding out what happens to a person with "C" in their title when your employer makes a claim against their D&O insurance.

    sPh
  • The only defense users will have is contracts. Contracts spelling out what the ASP is to provide and what the liabilities of the ASP are. They contract should also spell out monetary penalties to be applied to the ASP payed to the service user for deficiencies in service.

    Pay for service, get payed for lack of service. No buisness should sign with an ASP without getting guarantees on data access, data retrevial and data security. The process should be insured by a third party and audited by a fourth party.

    Right now places like MSN have a "we can screw with your data all we like contract" that is designed to protect their asses. No buisness in its right mind should trust that service. Buisnesses need a contract that protects their asses. For the ASP buisness to work both parties need their asses covered by contracts. ASPs need to provide support and protection to the service users as much as the ASPs need protection for their actions. This support needs to be contractual and financial to ensure that it is legitimate.

    Until ASPs put their cash on the line no buisness should really commit heavily to their use. If I pay for a critical service level I want $$$ back if that service level is not provided.
  • A funny story along these lines. Years ago, I was an assistant manager for a local autoparts store. Occasionally (couple times a year) some idiot would abandon his car in the lot, take the plates, and never return. One saturday this happened, and I phoned the police. The following conversation took place:

    Me: Hi, someone abandoned a car in our lot

    Cop: Well, the police aren't allowed to tow abandoned cars from private property.

    Me: Oh

    Cop: But, you know, if that car was, say, blocking a lane on Route 9 (4 lane local highway the store was on), we'd have to tow it as a nuisance.

    Me: Er...

    Cop: And its quite a windy day out, sometimes wind moves stuff about...

    Me: Right [Click]

    - few minutes later -

    Me: Hello? you never guess what happened....

    Car was gone in 15 minutes... :)

  • Anyone stupid enough not to have local copies of their current source tree deserves to lose their project.

    I won't argue with that, but what is more important, is that SourceForge is a center for all this information, which make it convenient for users. If SourceForge was to go down, half of todays opensource-projects would temporarily be down, and all links broken.

    Most projects don't have alternative download-sites. When SourceForge is down or unreachable from your connection, you will not only be stopped from downloading many opensource-projects, but sometimes even all of the working projects that you are looking for.

    It has happened to me before.

    This post is licensed with GPL [gnu.org] ;)

  • That's why ASP's will never control the market.

    Welcome to capitolism.

    Ben
  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:06AM (#157808) Homepage
    They own the disk drives, not the data stored on those drives. If I park my car in a free parking lot, the owner of the lot does not have the right to sell or scrap my car.
  • No one really cares that you won't use .NET. However you're making a jackass of yourself by somehow equating thin clients with ASPs. For the past decade business schools have been preaching like some kinda jerks about out sourcing services and trimming out the middle tiers of your company's pyramid. The aspects of a company not related to actual production of your product are black holes which you have to throw money into. So the outsourcing model was envisioned, you hire a company to provide service for you and be your infrastructure. ASPs are the next step in that concept by being your contracted high tech grunt workers. Ergo they've got nothing at all to do with thin clients. It's about out sourcing a service you need for a much lower price than it would cost you to build your own department to provide said service. It's up to you as a business person to have a good contract with your ASP which will make sure your data will be protected if the ASP ends up out of business. I don't feel sorry for people who should have known better in the first place.
  • Surely, when making a decision to outsource your data, you're making a trade off in management and maintenance costs, response and scalability issues etc.

    What you must do, however, is ensure that the arrangements you make with a company hosting your data provide a means for you to recover the data in the event of them winding operations down, and ensuring that any "upgrades" that may interfere with your operations are notified to you well in advance. If they're worth their salt, they'd have a decent SLA to cover such things.

    If they're not happy providing such a thing, avoid them like the plague, but the likes of Storage Networks [storagenetworks.com] seem to be doing rather well off the back of large ISP's/Co-Lo's where they claim to offer a very flexible, low-cost storage solution.

    It's a trade off, pure and simple. If you can afford to have your own EMC [emc.com] or sun [sun.com] storage array(s) (and scale them when you need to), then do it. If you want the services of an SSP, without the hefty outlay to buy storage, fine, but be careful, and keep your eye on them, and the fine print.

  • > ...who would volunteer to run a forum at MSN!!!!!

    Probably the people you pissed off with your elitist attitude...

  • I applaud the "no overkill" philosophy and am encouraged to hear of sensible, successful companies in this space.

    Now in the interests of "no overkill", could you get the company's web designers to change the font size on the home page to something in points, not pixels? The current "12px" setting comes out at about a 6 point size on many high-resolution, high-pixel-density screens. Print it out on a laser printer and see what it looks like... Now where did I put that magnifying glass???

    Just a pet peeve of mine...

  • The corporate world has already found a solution to this.

    For custom software, the contract should cover the bankruptcy of the developer. If they go under, you get the source. A similar arrangement could be made for ASPs. If one goes under, you get the DAT tapes.

  • Thats the problem. You probably don't have the resources to do so -- SourceForge is losing money for the company, and has become so overgrown that to rehouse the data on it would ultimately amount to breaking it all down into little pieces anyway. History's going to show that it wasnt M$ that killed Linux, it was VA.

    VA thought that changing the inherently anarchaic order of the Linux community could be profitable to a company. It isn't. They thought that housing everything under one umbrella was a good idea--Turns out they couldn't afford to hold their umbrella up.


  • Why could anyone be expected to pay money for A) what they got for free for so long, and B) what they helped build to begin with?
    Cheers,
  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:05AM (#157816) Homepage


    Perhaps a more poigniant question:

    VA continues to slip steadilly towards bankruptcy. Most analysts give the company a TTL of ~6 months. That means, if your project is housed on SourceForge, you and your project are going to have to find a new placew to live within the next 6 months. The pipe that VA leases (yes, they pay money for it. No pay, no play.) will dry up leaving you without access and more than likely without adequate warning as well. Thats been the cast with most of the .com's... That doesn't bode well for people who have invested alot of time in centralizing resources.

    Maybe now you see my point for all the yelling and screaming I did about how it was a mistake to centralize development at one location--Youre assuming that location is going to survive, when the evidence says it won't.

    Lets further examine our mess for a moment--The resources that VA owns that you visit frequently, ala Slashdot, Freshmeat, and others--What's going to happen to them? Is there a plan in place that describes what to do when your parent company hits the skids? If Themes.org can be taken down for several weeks over something as simple as a security breach, it tells me they're largely unprepared for these sorts of events. Everyones got too much sunshine going up their ass to sit down and think about what to do when the party's over.

    Don't go tell me "Oh, VA's a good company, they'll find a way to rescue us!" because thats total horseshit. You and I both know that business doesn't work that way. Rob and Jeff can't exactly go back to their dorms..So where's our beloved Slashdot going to move to? If they cant remain profitable on their own, or under the management of a parent company, who's to suggest they can be profitable at all?

    Cheers,
  • How about a peer-to-peer system? Automatic mirroring like FreeNet, but without encryption or anonymity. Plus the possibility of permanence.

    --

  • by WNight ( 23683 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @08:36AM (#157819) Homepage
    If you don't have any cash on you, you're hooped when the ATMs are down. Very few people I know rely completely on the banks.

    In the ASP world, this is like saying that everyone keeps local copies of current projects, but uses the ASP for non-critical data, backups of old projects, etc.

    I doubt that this will be widely used though, security is too hard to get perfect which for most businesses, is a requirement.

    Think of the banking analogy, if someone transfers $100,000 out of your account (if either of us had that to begin with...) it'll leave an audit trail. It's pretty easy to prove that you didn't do that and get your money back.

    The thief might have gotten the $100k, but it's a generic $100k...

    Now imagine that your data was stolen and deleted. Even if the ASP has decent backups and can restore it, your non-generic data is out there, in the hands of your competitors perhaps.

    On a related note, ATM transactions only require a second or so of network time, can you imagine the problems of having to be connected the whole time you're using MS Word (for instance) in order to save your document?

    I can see the ASP model offering some benefits, when used with standard systems, but in the diskless workstations that people predict...

    I think it says something that many bank employees (higher-level security types) (two of my friends) do keep their money in their matress, or rather, do keep enough cash on hand to deal with a week-long bank outage. It's good enough to rely on for the little things, but you want to be able to buy food when it inevitably dies.
  • thanks, but I had already checked it. That's where I learned that the cd can't be properly checked.

    The problem is that I shouldn't even have to do that. gamecopyworld.com is a workaround to a broken system. It just alleviates the pain, but doen't cure the problem.

  • No one has ever, in this country, had the right to make any kind of reproduction of anything produced by anyone else without the permission of the creator. Rights are granted by the government; permissions are granted by other people.

    I have to say I really don't understand why in the world I'm not allowed to duplicate, exclusively for my own use, something which is inherently non-physical (like the text on a book, or the contents of an Age of Empires cd), without the permission from the publisher. Haven't I already given my money in order to obtain access to the data such products contain? Why should I need to pay twice if something happens and I lose access it? Didn't I pay for it?

    The equivalent situation is, suppose you buy a book. Unless the publisher explicitly grants you permission, you do not have the right to photocopy every page just in case something happens to your original copy; nor do you have the right to photocopy every page and use the copied material to prevent wear and tear on the original. The only permission that you have with the book that you don't necessarily have with software is the right to give it away. (That is a cause for concern, yes, but it's not "scary.")

    You mention the book example: in a way, I think the situation is similar. I just don't photocopy it because a book is something much more robust than a cd, and I need not have as much concern with the way it's treated as I do with a cd.

  • (Sorry, I accidentally hit the 'post' button when I meant 'preview'.)

    The only permission that you have with the book that you don't necessarily have with software is the right to give it away. (That is a cause for concern, yes, but it's not "scary.")

    Suppose, I give you money for something. And you say, "you can't lend it, give it away, sell it, copy it for your own use, etc, etc". So you're in fact controlling what I do with what I bought from you, even after I already gave you money for it. You are allowed to dictate what I am to do or not to do, even after I paid you for what I bought from you. Is this logical? I don't think it is, and I also find it scary, because you are giving up something that you should not allow to be taken from you in the first place and that is your freedom. Even morally, you aren't doing anything wrong (is it wrong to make backup copies?).

    If you want to obey the law and maintain ethical correctness, and also want to have backups of all your software, the only available path is to not buy software that you're not permitted to copy for backup purposes.

    I fully agree with this. That's what I try to do whenever I see something with which I don't agree (in the case of AoE, I didn't knew it was that way, and I also had been using it so I had to buy it).

    The problem is people are getting obnoxiously greedy. Please take a look at the software world. Some software houses charge by the cpu (if you have one cpu you pay x, if you have 2 cpus you pay 2x, and so on) for the same piece of data! Do you honestly think this is acceptable or legitimate? I don't think this kind of business practices should be allowed to prevail. What happens in a situation where everybody practices the same thing? You retire and live as a hermit?

  • I admit, I browse at +3. I am amazed, however, at the number of people failing to see the point (translated by the comments and their respective moderations).

    The real issue is not if you trust your data to a free host, of if you use free forums. The real issue is that it seems to me that people are seeing rights being taken from them everyday and they seem to allow it for the sake of comfort. The cases mentioned were but examples of what may happen, even in a non-free (beer) world. I find it amazing how people here bitch about RIAA's, MPAA's and those of their ilk while still buying their products! I mean, how hypocritical is that?

    The big problem is that abuses are being commited and people don't do anything against it.

    An example: I'm a big fan of Age of Empires II. I usually play with some coworkers of mine after work-hours and this has been going on for some time. Since the copy I had was a cracked one (it was installed on the pc with a no-cd executable) I decided to buy the game, since (even though it's Microsoft and I don't like giving money to them) I think the money was deserved for the long hours of enjoyment it has given me. When it arrived, I decided to make a backup copy of it, since, given the use I give it, I was afraid I'd end up ruining it. To my surprise I found out that the cd's have some kind of copy protection that prevents them from being copied correctly (some serial number recorded in a non-accessible part of the cd so that the cd-recorder won't record it). The only way of using the new copy is by using a cracked executable with the copied cd. I think this kind of things shouldn't be allowed. Backup copying is a legitimate action and shouldn't be taken away from me.

    Moves like the one I just related are getting more and more common. A business sees a way of making more money, even though it will completely screw up their customers. What's their decision? Well, "go for it, of course! Screw the customers, they're only human beings and our welfare and profits are far more important that any rights they may think they have!". The weird thing is that, more and more, the customers are agreeing with them. And that's scary. Really scary.

  • What if your internal IT department didn't have proper backups? The average company is not in business to run e-mail servers and such, and while many companies have excellent IT, in many others it's an afterthought. If it's tax time, do you think the accountants have any more *control* over getting a crashed server back up internally than they do if it's an ASP? The ASP's entire existence is dependent on doing these things well... a failure like this could kill their reputation, trust, and therefore business. If it's an IT department, oh well, someone gets fired. Trust me- ASPs are *incented* not to have this kind of thing happen.

    Yahoo and Hotmail are NOT indicative of services designed for businesses. You're right that anyone using them for mission-critical business data is an idiot. You get what you pay for.
  • In most cases, ASPs are not cheaper than doing it yourself. Check out a few major ASP websites- www.usi.net, www.corio.com, etc.... You'll find that there's very little mention of cost.

    What you'll find is all about reliability and assurance. The premise is that an ASP can build out a first-class data center, backup systems, network infrastructure, etc... and split the costs over a large number of customers, offering a highly reliable service for a comparable cost to doing it yourself. If you're a really huge business, you can afford this stuff yourself, but if you're a small or mid-size business, the startup investment of building out a really good infrastructure (from generator-backed UPS to SAN systems) for yourself won't be justified.

    Smart ASPs allow their customer to scrutinize their operations- they provide detailed reports on their perfmance, and grant customers the right to audit their own systems to ensure that they are complying with their contractual obligations.

    In a lot of ways, working with an ASP can actually reduce risk because there's a contract that specifies precisely what service will be delivered (which is usually heavily negotiated).
  • Anyone who doesn't do financial due diligence on their key suppliers is an idiot... this is true for ASPs, just as it is for manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, and other key functions companies often have someone else take care of.

    Besides, it's usually only the fly-by-night companies that disappear completely when they go bankrupt... most established companies keep operations going for a least a few rounds while they attempt to restructure debt, etc... Plenty of time to get data back. Keeping the lights on is often a LOT cheaper than trying to sell / grow a business.

    In any case, financial strength should be a considerable factor in choosing an ASP. If you choose some two-bit operation that could disappear suddenly, that's your own fault. I'm not saying that there aren't risks or that ASPs are some sort of magical panacea... but there are risks in running your own stuff too.
  • by RebornData ( 25811 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:38AM (#157827)
    This may be an issue for free / cheap consumer services, but I've seen the contracts the corporations sign with ASPs, and data ownership (including what happens to the data in the circumstance of contract or service termination) is ALWAYS in there and favorable to the corporation.

    A key difference of using an ASP (compared to internal IT) is that contract. It spells out expectations and committments explicitly, and if they are not met, penalties. In my experience, corporate lawyers have a full understanding of the implications of that, and the contracts are long and detailed, covering everything from traditional IT SLAs to intellectual property, business continuity, and privacy / confidentiality.

    In some ways, a corporation can have *more* "business" control over data and such with an ASP because the contract puts it all on the table.

    Again, this does not apply to the bogus unnegotiated click-through agreements on consumer services, but you get what you pay for.
  • but to tap into the large corporations, ASP's have to either guarantee backups or allow companies to do their own.

    Or a combination of both. I prefer to have an ASP that does the backups, and ships me tapes on a weekly basis. I don't want to hassle with the huge bandwidth required, but I want to be able to maintain a locally updated server with pretty recent data in the event of a disaster. I know that kind of takes some of the benefits out of the whole ASP thing (after all, they're supposed to be better at disaster recovery than I am).
  • Anyone who cries when a free website is changed and they are not notified is an idiot

    Well, on one hand, I think it's only fair to try to maintain a good relationship with the community, even when you're going out of business. If you know your customers will be screwed by your deletion of data, you have the responsibility to your customers (as well as your advertisers and investors) to at least notify the community 72 hours beforehand. If I was one of their advertisers, and the service just died, I'd be pissed because my name was associated with such poor service.

    On the other hand, if I ran a free data storage, and I knew that notifying the public would result in massive bandwidth use (suddenly everyone logs on to get their stuff), then I might not tell them after all. That would be low and underhanded, but sometimes that's how you get through business.
  • I think you just hit on the point here. IF Myspace.com had been charging for its services, it would probably still be in business. Nothing is free. Just because I might be able to access content for free, SOMEONE has to pay for those resources. It might be venture capital, IPO funding, advertising, or out of the back pocket of whoever is sponsoring it. For a small project,
    this loss is not significant enough to warrant a
    change. I can host a few free webpages indefinitely on my servers, as I'm not even using all the bandwidth I have available.

    However, if a site of mine suddenly exploded to the popularity level of slashdot.org, I'd suddenly be in trouble. I couldn't afford to increase the bandwidth without some type of revenue stream. When banner ads were all the rage, this was rather simple. However, banner ads seem to be waning in economic usefulness, so what other revenue source is available?

    I could charge people to access my site, but as fun as slashdot is, how many of you would accept being forced to pay to access it? Its a wonderful novelty site, but I seriously doubt they would garner much support in this department.

    From the point of view of the consumer, the only price they're really willing to pay is to the ISP for their bloodstream to the internet. In a way, this makes sense too. The more bandwidth they have available, the more bandwidth they'll probably actually use. If somehow some of the connection costs could be funneled to the servers that are getting accessed, this could solve a great deal of the problems, however this would be a micropayment nightmare.

    Ultimately, we need a two teir system. We need e-commerce sites that sell ACTUAL PRODUCTS. You know.. those things that I pay REAL money for and when I have it, I can hold it in my hand and call it my very own. Then those sites need to advertise on the other sites that are just trying to pay for their bandwidth. The biggest problem with advertising right now, is that the limited funds available for it are being spread out too thin on sites that don't need it (like for companies that are just using their webpages as a form of advertising)

    -Restil
  • And no gay pr0n either please...you guys should put a disclaimer for those of us surfing at work(unless that falls under the heading of 'interesting discussion').

  • ASPs and Data Hostaging could be the .com boom-bust of 2001/2002.
  • I dunno.. I'm not sure any site with advertising is "free". There are different ways to pay for things, and one of them is to fill your eyeballs with banner-ads. Not that I disagree with your point, I think that if anything, this asks the question - Why would you pay for someone else to 'hold onto' your data, and lose that much control?

    Because Microsoft said it was the wave of the future! .NET! Cool! Oh, wait, this doesn't look like CIO.com...Where am I exactly?
    --

  • "oh this food is terrible! and the portions are too small!!" .... sheesh....its free....as I've said to my users...double your money back if not completely satisfied.

    SuperID
    Free Database Hosting For Developers [freesql.org]

  • I don't understand what the problem with coughin up a few pesos for a site like Sourceforge or Freshmeat is. Slashdot I doubt I'd pay money for now, there's lots of good alternatives [kuro5hin.org] available currently. Lots more starting up all the time, too. Themes.org being down does indeed suck, and it does worry me that all these (companies??) run under on corporate flag.

    That said, I also find it hard to believe you couldn't run a sourceforge-like project on considerably less dollars than LNUX-Q is spending. What do I know though :).

    • It's not an issue of the bank's employees closely examine your money
    • There's no standard (currency) that can be transfered to another bank when your current one closes

    --
  • If I were starting an ASP (and I've got a business plan to do just that around here somewhere) I would accept liability for lost data. That liability would be limited, certainly, but giving performance-level guarantees is about the only way that you're going to get people to trust the service.

    I would also specify the means by which people would get their data back in the event of the business going under or being sold. Again, this is essential part of the ASP business because what an ASP is really selling is security and selling security requires that people trust you.


  • Is data any different than money?


    Absolutely. The banking business model is largely built upon the banks being able to use your money while you leave it with them. Do you really want ASPs using your data while you store it with them?
  • And all this makes me think about is how interesting it would be to write software that correctly and simultaneously handles n versions of the same code.

    Mmmmm. Configuration Management.

    :)

  • Back in the olden days, people thought that giving your money to someone else to hold was risky. And sure enough, many banks did fail and took their depositor's funds with them. But over time, controls and standards were put in place. Now it's the people who keep their money at home in a mattress are the ones considered crazy.

    Bank are trusted in large part because of a huge legal and regulatory structure that restricts their operations. In the States, there are disclosure rules, minimum financial reserves, etc., backed up by the FDIC and the the Federal Reserve Board, etc. Analogous rules for ASP's would require government audited off-site backups with independent access in the event of failure and so forth.

    Without such rules, if you pick an ASP you are picking a 19th-century bank that could easily go bankrupt and leave you high and dry.

  • Did you note the 'public' lot part? Public lot requires the police to lawfully remove it, as an abandoned vehicle. Even in private lots, it may very well take the police to move it in order to be 100% clear.

    As for manipulating the data, it surely is. As well as a number of torte offenses, peeking at or manipulating the data can be construed as anything from copyright infringement to unlawful disclosure of trade secret to industrial espionage.
  • Standard storage contract reads like thus;

    'You pay us [x]. We agree to store your data, not to exceed [x] limit, for a period of [x]. We provide a guaranteed avalibility of [x], and bandwidth of [x]. We will provide [x] number of backups on [x] schedule. No transfer of ownership, nor any license is created, in respest to but not limited completly to protection of law such as copyright. Access to client data will be limited to the extent required to ensure its safety. This includes integrity checks, file system scans, and backups.'

    There is usally a disclaimer of consequental damages due to loss, etc, but you get the idea.
  • Yeah, but if they go bankrupt and are forced to sell the parking lot, they can have your car towed somewhere else if you don't show up to retrieve it after they give you notice.

    You're responding to a nonexistent argument; Slashdot mental cases aside, I don't think anyone is seriously making the argument that by storing data on a free server you assign copyright and ownership of that data to the owner of the server. And there's almost certainly an ass-covering clause in each and every ASP's click-through TOS releasing them from even the hypothetical parking-lot owner's level of responsibility.

  • Back in the olden days, people thought that giving your money to someone else to hold was risky. And sure enough, many banks did fail and took their depositor's funds with them. But over time, controls and standards were put in place. Now it's the people who keep their money at home in a mattress are the ones considered crazy...I think it's just because the ASP industry is like the banking industry before a lot of standards were developed.
    So are you advocating an FDIC (Federal Data Insurance Corporation) and Federal Data Reserve? If so, you'll be up against most of the Valley and ALL of Redmond (including Nintendo America). THEY want the government to stay out of the way.

    If you're advocating standards as spec'd by the IETF, the W3C, SAGE, etc., they don't work and are (so far) unenforceable in court (witness the sorry state of browser compatibility, XML 'standards,' and 'standards' in the commercial Web and Internet spaces).

    The ONLY thing that will work to prevent this (until the G does decide to step in to 'protect' commerce on the Net, and incidentally, charge fees and taxes and mandate bureaucracy) is a reasonable ironclad contract, drawn up by a knowledgeable and competent Corporate Counsel or other attorney, directed by a clueful CTO or Purchasing Manager (few and far between).

  • This is just getting back to the basics-- Do you have a good backup strategy in place?

    Right now, ASP's are not geared towards users doing their own backups. However, as the market shakes out and there is growing distrust of the ASP market, I'm sure that the ASP's will start allowing admin's to connect with whatever software and backup the company directory.

    After all, ASP's have some appeal with small to medium sized businesses, but to tap into the large corporations, ASP's have to either guarantee backups or allow companies to do their own.

  • You get no more then you pay for. In most states there are low limits on the liability of free services. If you depend on a free service try to use open source. That way it will only really die when something better comes around.

    The .com implosion will continue. When half of the customer base unable to pay their bills the providers start having problems too. The capital markets allowed for great experimentation with many business models and corporate structure. Now with so many out there now it is time to find out which models will survive. Only the strong will survive. But, they will survive.

    As a group, people over estimate the short term effects and under estimate the long term effects of any new technology. The ASP model has its merits and niches. The short term predictions will not reached. In the long term it will be even greater then predicted.

    The early predictions for the computer were something like there would be a need 8 to solve all the worlds problems. I bet in the very short term, the companies who wanted to sell and service those 8 computers were sorely disappointed that there were not 8 buyers to be found. Most of those early companies probably went under. But, we know how that ended up. The same thing happened with lasers, cars, railroads, airplanes and fiber optics. We do not have the laser ray guns but we do have bar-code readers, cd/dvd players and the basis of our long distance commutation network.

    ASP's are still in their early stages. They are still looking for the killer app. ASP's are not the answer to all of our problems like the marketing would suggest. But, they ASP model does help to solve many real problems.

    Right now if you find a ASP that is a good fit for you, go for it. Read your contract. Have a contingency plan. Read the SEC filings of possible providers. Calculate the cash burn rate. Are they going to be around much longer?

    I happen to work for verio [verio.net] on the hosted oracle product [verio.net]. With verio having been bought by NTT, I have the resources to do things in the way that makes the most sense in the long term. Even if someone already has an in house oracle shop they still could use the product to store their recovery catalog, to push out data to share with a partner or cache data for their co-loc / hosted web server etc...

    The market is still very young and most oracle people simply do not believe that it is possible for us to offer what we do. Everybody thinks that it is too cheap. There are some great gains to be had with economies of scale. The fundamental issue is that specialization and scaling do provide economic advantage. That concept is the foundation of the free market. If somebody has found a better cheaper way to do things then you do what you are good at and pay somebody else to do what they are good at.

    The fundamental idea for ASP's is sound. Change always is slower and more sweeping then we think.

    Ross

  • "People are suckered in by their greed."

    Actually, I'd say people are drawn to the promise of something they want but can't have. Seriously, when you're running a business, you can't just say "Oh, I'll just train someone to perform IS duties for our company."

    Simply deciding who to trust is something that most business owners, large and small, spend an amazing amount of time at. If you don't have expertise in something, how can you judge the qualities of someone who supposedly is an expert?

    You're making the assumption that businesses that chose ASPs were doing so because they were greedy. Most likely, they were concerned with survival, pure and simple. Reducing the bottom line isn't a luxury for companies, it's a necessity in a very competitive environment.

    You seem to have an axe to grind against management types, which is understandable, but I think you're using a pretty broad brush to characterize all users of ASPs as stupid.

  • Sure, it's easy to say "what a bunch of dumbasses! They shouldn't have let someone else store their data," etc., etc.

    But think of this from the business point of view. Many companies have a very hard time attracting and maintaining competent technical staff. Like any service, ASPs were really offering their expertise more than anything.

    Sure, I could buy a few RAID drives down at Fry's and hook them up to my LAN, but if I were the average "computer guy" that most companies have, I wouldn't really know what I was doing.

    People in some businesses were willing to put their bets on ASPs because they finally found someone who seemed to know what they were doing.

    Of course, the ASP industry is just like most tech industries - there are a few geniuses, a good number of smart people, and then the lumpen proletariat who are just along for the ride.

    As for free website services, you're right. You do get what you pay for. But before you hammer people for believing the hype, remember these "next great things" some of us believed in:

    - Linux for the desktop will topple M$!

    - Java applets will topple M$!

    - The Web will overthrow big, bloated corporations!

    - ICANN!

    Businesspeople may not be technically savvy most of the time, and they may make stupid decisions, but that doesn't mean that they're all idiots. And they're certainly not alone in wanting to believe things that are too good to be true.

  • There's no way that ASP services are going to accept liability for anyone who wants to store their source code, data files, documents, or whatever on their servers. On all of them, you agree (passively) not to hold them accountable if they go out business and simply shut down their servers without warning. Check SourceForge -- what happens to your source if they go out of business?

    It's a cruel reality of the way the Internet works; People like to "innovate", but not to be held accountable for those innovations. That's why ASPs will never take the place of in-house solutions.

  • Anyone stupid enough not to have local copies of their current source tree deserves to lose their project.

    That is exactly the attitude of most ASP managers, and that's why ASP will never become a viable medium. They're cute, they're trendy, they're a buzzword, but they will never be a vital part of any substantial project.

  • And I can see little reason why anyone should use it for their business.

    Well, my mother does some consulting for architechture firms. She has to go to various firms throughout the day. Its much easier for her to upload data to a ASP then download it when she gets to her client.

    Since the clients accept only certain types of media (ie: someplaces won't take zips) it makes it difficult to save it locally. So ASPs definately have their uses.

  • "Save Page to i-drive!"
    Wiwi
    "I trust in my abilities,
  • What are the real costs of running an ASP anyway? Not much. Why are all these ASPs going under? Because of all the salaries that are supported in "professional" corporations.

    Let's be plain. An ASP doesn't need a team of marketers, much less a VP or a CEO that's making $7M a year.

    The death of dotcoms will be the best thing that has ever happened to open source. Why? Because we can successfully offer services that dotcoms can't afford to run anymore. We might even be able to make a living off of it...

    LiveJournal is an open source ASP and we're able to deliver a free, open source service to 175,000 users at a profit, with actual paid staff. There is absolutely no reason that someone couldn't do the same thing with other ASPs.

    When was the last time that a dotcom really solved your problem anyways? They're all about profit and rarely about innovation anyways; the sooner that the bad ones go away, the better off we'll all be. Stop relying on these f*cked companies to solve all your problems for you.

  • I can only speak for us, but I know that LiveJournal, for one, would gladly host open source projects and offer them free online communities. I'm sure that others would do the same.
  • They own the disk drives, not the data stored on those drives. If I park my car in a free parking lot, the owner of the lot does not have the right to sell or scrap my car.

    Here I gleefully purloin the knee-jerk criticism made by the anti-IP slashdot crowd and remind you that data is not a physical object.

    Basically, it comes down to what you mean by "own" and "data". The owner of the storage medium owns the storage medium, and can do whatever she wants to the medium, including destroy it. (note: this applies only to the U.S.; many European countries have stronger "moral rights" protections that I haven't studied in sufficient depth to comment upon.) What she can't do is use the stored data in a way contrary to IP law (e.g., infringing copyright or patent).

    If you want to make sure your data is protected, store it yourself. If you must use alternative storage, stipulate in the contract that they can't delete the data without your authorization.

  • Thank the demons for Pessimists! They may speak of gloom and doom, but without them we would be ignorant and fucked.
  • http://www.capybara.org/amiga/literature/poagpage. html ROFL

    --
  • My biggest concern is if I allow my apps/data/content to be stored on a remote server what happens when the EUA changes? Can anyone on Slashdot even guess at how many stories have appeared where we've seen personal user information sold or traded after the EUA quietly changes? fsck that. I will not be a user of Microsoft's .NET.

    Apps and data should be local. Thin clients are a creature for local LANs, not the internet.

  • This is true, but the flipside is that placing some of your day-to-day data in the hands of an outside company seems penny-wise and pound-foolish. And renting out your office suite is just flat out stupid.

    /Brian
  • by connorbd ( 151811 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:07AM (#157860) Homepage
    For the most part, I don't think ASPs are worth the risk. I was offered equity but no pay in an ASP company a while back for doing some Palm development for them; it would have looked good on my resume, but as I told the guy making the offer, "I can't eat equity."

    ASPs have a certain attraction for business managers because they cut costs, but I still don't see how the risk is worthwile when critical data is on the line. I had a discussion with someone who was talking about "minimizing risk" -- seems to me that outsourcing things like desktop application isn't doing that.

    /Brian
  • of the link right next to Dan Gillmor's headline made me smile, in a sad sort of way.

    "Save this link to idrive."

    Anyone care to guess which free online storage provider emailed me last week to say they are shutting down the service? -at least they gave _two months_ notice, mind you.
  • Check SourceForge -- what happens to your source if they go out of business?

    Anyone stupid enough not to have local copies of their current source tree deserves to lose their project.

  • I dunno.. I'm not sure any site with advertising is "free". There are different ways to pay for things, and one of them is to fill your eyeballs with banner-ads. Not that I disagree with your point, I think that if anything, this asks the question - Why would you pay for someone else to 'hold onto' your data, and lose that much control?
  • on the information superhighway:

    With a subscription model, the incentive for your ASP to improve and upgrade their app is extremely low compared to their incentives to squeeze more money out of you.

    In the shrink wrap business, they've got to come up with good reasons for you to shell out more bucks on an upgrade. = more improvement required than for you to not cancel service.

    Your .Net services will have more and more ads creep into them over time, or require more companion services. Upgrades are more likely to be marketed as extras (additional cost) rather than upgrades.
  • Money and mission-critical data are two very different things.

    If the bank screwed up the safe, or "my money" get robbed, the bank can just give other bills that are equivalent in value to what I've deposited.

    You can replace my data, buddy. If the ASP screwed up my data, it's gone, and gone forever. Who will be able to make up my data again? It's not replaceable. It's not like the green-backs or some gold pieces, as long as they are equivalent in value, I will happily accept them.

    No equivalent for my data!

  • Many large corporations have had their primary systems outsourced since the 1960s. Heard of EDS? Got it's start essentially as an ASP for the government.

    Yes, it's a risk. But so is doing your own hosting. Really, which decision is "penny-wise and pound-foolish" depends on running the numbers and seeing how they turn out.
  • apparentely no one has heard of the new fad. you know. deleting your data when you first hear about the company shutting down? or is that too easy?
  • I actually like that idea. Wanna start a business on that? ;)
  • Bandwidth is expensive. Local hard disks (and CD-Rs and Zips and DATs etc.) are cheap. Third-party startups are unreliable. YOUR computer is as reliable as YOU make it, which is potentially a lot.

    I can only see one reason why people would use remote storage: "because it's cool! See, I have a drive letter mapped to a server in Hong Kong! 133t!"

    And the control thing. The Powers That Be see the PC as an object that gives people much more power than they'd like it to. So they push "solutions" that put users back in a state of dependency. Evil.

  • by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @08:17AM (#157870)
    Now it's the people who keep their money at home in a mattress are the ones considered crazy.

    Even though they who keep their money in mattresses are a bit strange, because the banks do not provide the money, they are still free to do this. Imagine if all the software in the world was ASP-ed.

    I agree that ASPs have a ways to go and that someday they may be more viable, but the worry is that software providers will switch to an ASP system before its ready and force their customers to move or be left behind.

    Using your comparison, it would be like the banks owning the currency, leaving people who don't use them to barter with goods.

  • I used to work for an ASP, and your could not be more wrong. The applications and backups do not belong to you. When you contract for a service through an ASP, you get exactly that, a SERVICE. Yes, some of the data belongs to you, but not all of it. If you want to buy an application from me, and then pay me to host it for you, that is much different than contracting into the standard ASP(service) model.

    As for data, not all of the data would have any meaning to you anyway. Think of how much data is needed to run most applications, independant of the data its actually doing work upon. You are entitled to any data you sent to your ASP (You should have backed it up when you sent it anyway), and you are entitled to all data which was contracted to be sent back to you on a timely basis. A non-technical example of this would be if you contract me to smelt iron ore for you. You are entitled to any ore I didn't smelt, along with all the iron I did derive from your ore. You are not entitled to the supply of natural gas I have on hand to melt your ore down.

  • They changed already, but they told, This is the text of a mail I got from them:
    Dear kilroy_hau:

    As a registered i-drive account holder, you are receiving this email to inform you that your i-drive account, kilroy_hau, will no longer be accessible after June 18, 2001.

    After June 18th, the i-drive online file storage service will no longer be available through our Web site - www.idrive.com. Instead, i-drive is licensing the software that powers i-drive.com to telecommunications carriers and Internet Service Providers worldwide, so that they can provide their customers with storage services that are fully integrated with their other offerings.

    You will have until June 18th to remove your files from your i-drive. After June 18th, you will no longer be able to access your i-drive account or retrieve your files.



  • In fact, many proprietary, closed-source products suffer from the same sort of problems that ASPs have. Look at the binary incompatibility issues with pre-PPC mac to Mac OS 8.# and 9 to Mac OS X. Look at the binary incompatibility of RedHat 6.2 to 7.0-- on the same chips no less. And somewhere along the way, I'm sure there are products that did not manage to migrate from DOS to Windows to Win2k. My point being not to denigrate any of these but to demonstrate that binary-only has its dangers.

    If I select an application for one archictecture, and the company making the application is out of business or unwilling to port to the next platform, I am hostage to the platform that I'm started on.
  • I have to wonder about anyone who stores important data using one of these free online storage services like idrive.com... sure they are nice, for free, but you're nuts if you put critical data on them.

    I know the end of the "free web" is going to hurt for a lot of people that take advantage of such services, but with a pay service you will hopefully get a more stable, workable service. One positive point about having to PAY for web services is that consumers will have more recourse when something goes wrong. Obviously, that's no guarantee the company won't go out of business, but it helps.

    I'd feel much more confident about using a service if they charged $3.95 a month rather than free.

  • I think the more appropriate acronym these days is ANAL (Always Need A Lawyer).
  • And a little before that it was the other way around. Take a look at flappers, or the earliest Miss America winners -- in a dimly-lit bar they could have passed for boys (what exactly that says about American men in the singles scene I don't want to know).

    Maybe each generation alternates, so that girlfriends don't look too much like Mom.

    Of course, most of us just remember that all cats are grey in the dark.

  • IANAL.

    I figured one of these days one of these online storage servers would go down, after all, the highlights of their storage often include nothing but kiddie porn and warez.

    The way I look at it, one should be very cautious about where they place important data. Do the captialism check.

    Are you paying for storage? No? Then the data, while owned by you, is of no particular concern to the people storing it.

    Yes? Then you've got legitimate firepower and can contact others for a class-action lawsuit.

    I guess the main thing to consider here is that if the service is free, you're going to have a hard time winning a case on legality issues alone.

    If you've paid money, that changes the story entirely, and you'll be able to get action immediately.

    Once again, IANAL but this is what I have found to be the case. Just look at Iomega's class action lawsuit for the "click-of-death". They shipped faulty drives that would corrupt disks. Where I work we've lost probably a few thousand dollars to paying to retrieve the data off these disks.

    So even if you pay for the storage devices you use, a smart company can get around having to worry about what you claim to be *your* data.

    Actually, now that I think about it, this story has nothing to do about who owns the data, but whether or not the free hosting companies should be "responsible" for it.

  • Idrive [idrive.com] is shutting down its free service June 18 and licensing the software to telcos and ISPs so they can resell it. Or you can sign up for something called Xdrive for $4.95/mo.

    Or you can just say the hell with all that crap I've got stored and let it go and be really free.
  • I am a Director for a company http://www.ntwks.com [ntwks.com] that designs, constructs and manages all the e-business systems for a Fortune 500 company. We get about 500 million hits, 5 million unique users, and over 300 million in revenue.

    What's the secret? No overkill. Most ASPs try and build the biggest, bestest infrastructure possible. In doing so they forget what really provides value in the space: "Solutions".

    An ASP is not a technical fix, it is a consulting company with a hosting company partner and a maintainence agreement. If more ASPs focused on doing quick, lighter weight work without all the huge upfront investments this industry would be more successful. If you focus on client value...the rest is easy.

  • You think they pass laws like UCITA because they're ignorant?
    I think they pass such laws because they are lobbied to do so by large corporations AND they fail to understand the ramifications of the legislation - not that they fail to understand the wording or legal impacts in treditional contexts, but rather that they entirely miss the potential risks they are introducing with respect to online access to services and online business transactions; this due primarily to lack of information rather than lack of inteligence.

    --CTH


    ---
  • The article says:
    New laws should restore the balance between corporations and customers, not tilt things further toward the ever-more-powerful corporations. But the reality is that money brings clout in Congress and legislatures.
    This kind of misses the point. It's not lack of attentiveness on the part of users and congressional constituants that is allowing companies to get away with questionable license agreements, and thatis allowing the 'Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act' to even be considered (and passed in some states). It's lack of knowlege on the part of legislators. Wise and meaningful legislation can not be expected to come from ill-informed and less than technically astute legislators. We need to begin to educate our representitives on the technologies of today and tomorrow, rather than expect them to apply treditional concepts of IP, and ownership to information in the modern world.

    It's our responsibility as citizens to insure that our legislators are making informed decisions rather than selling our rights down the river for decades to come...

    --CTH


    ---
  • Even though they who keep their money in mattresses are a bit strange, because the banks do not provide the money, they are still free to do this. Imagine if all the software in the world was ASP-ed.

    I can't imagine a world where all software is ASP-ed, because there exist things like the the BSD license.

    Now, I can easily imagine a world where most major commercial applications are available via ASP only. This is the company's perogative, and they'll do as they see fit.

    Even if every single commercially-produced, closed source application in the entire world were only available via ASPs, you could still get your hands on a stunning array of software without using an ASP. Your suggesting that the rise of ASPs would somehow quelch the very right of software developers to distribute through non-ASP channels is alarmist, at best.

    A world where ASPs are king would no more strip you of your right to distribute/download binaries than a world where banks are king strips you of your right to hoard cash beneath your mattress. Sure, you may not be able to get Microsoft Word XXXP(tm) for download, but then again, you can't exactly open a checking account with your mattress, either...

  • Well, I'll not argue that hiring an ASP with a well writen contract is a Good Idea(tm) for a company.

    Back in the old days when computer were big and expensive, it was usual for small and medium sized companies to rely on service bureaus to procces their data. At that time data was collected by terminals and proccessed on mainframes.

    In the '80s micro and mini-computers became small and cheap enough for small and medium companies to afford, and the proccessing started to take place in the local.

    But now the size of files grown significantly, and outsorcing storage and proccessing is a Good Idea(tm) again. But the same thing thing that makes ans ASP good to a business make it a not-so-good idea to a home user: the size of the files.

    Have you ever tried to upload/download a 45 megs mpeg file ?

    Even with cable modem, downloading from a fast server it can take 1 hour. Now imagine this with dial-up.

    A compny (even a small one) has more chances to afford a dedicated high speed frame-relay or T1 to upload/dowload the data to the ASP than a home user.

    I would hate to upload a 2 meg Word doc to Hailstorm with a V.90 modem, and this can be .Net's achiles heel...

    --
  • by stonewolf ( 234392 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @09:42AM (#157886) Homepage
    There are many great business reasons to use ASPs.

    The simplest is that using an ASP turns capital investment dollars into expense dollars. Capital investment has to be depreciated on taxes over a period of several years. Which in the case of software is long past its usable life span. Exepense dollars come off of your taxes this year.

    Also, sharing the services of a set of experts whose only business is providing a specific service is much cheaper than trying to duplicate those experts inside your company. This is especially true for small businesses. Very few small businesses print their own pay checks. That service has been contracted out for decades. ASPs make it possible to subcontract out even more services. WONDERFUL!

    Of course, if you bet your business on a free service, well... you deserve whatever happens to you. You get what you pay for. Trust is an absolute requirement in an ASP relationship. That is one reason why the telecos have been getting into the ASP business. They have such a reputation of trust with customers (hard to believe, but true) that they have a big edge over other ASPs. Not to mention, they are big enough (10s of billions in revenue per year) and have been around long enough (100 years or so) that people beleive them when they say they'll be around to continue providing the service.

    StoneWolf

  • Then you've got legitimate firepower and can contact others for a class-action lawsuit.

    True, but the point is that if the business dies, there's nobody to sue. A corporation is legally an entity, and when it files for bankruptcy, it's up to the court to distribute the rest of it's assets. It's like a will when somebody dies. Whether or not you get anything (like compensation for your lost data) is up to the courts. Once the business is gone, there's nobody you can sue. That entity is 'dead'. Every try to sue a cadaver in court?

  • I think it's just because the ASP industry is like the banking industry before a lot of standards were developed

    No, the reason that you don't have to worry about money in the bank is because it's insured by the FDIC for you. Regulations help to a degree, but banks still do go out of business. The only difference is that the FDIC gives you back whatever you had in that bank.
    Any reasonably run business should have insurance to cover their own asses, so if, say, your ASP goes under and takes all of your data with them, you still have insurance to at least help you close up your business and pay off your debts, or try to recover in some way from that compensation. Or, you can look for an ASP that's independently insured and you and hope that'll cover you in case anything happens.

  • by omega_rob ( 246153 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:18AM (#157890)
    When the site hosting all your precious data goes kaput, you can always just offer to buy it all back from the 13 year-old h4X0Rs who've undoubtedly broken in and copied it all anyway. I predict that in the 21st century extortion costs will become just another accepted business expense.

    robp

  • by gentlewizard ( 300741 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:26AM (#157893)
    Back in the olden days, people thought that giving your money to someone else to hold was risky. And sure enough, many banks did fail and took their depositor's funds with them. But over time, controls and standards were put in place. Now it's the people who keep their money at home in a mattress are the ones considered crazy.

    Is data any different than money? Right now, keeping your data at an ASP is risky and everyone says that in-house hosting is the only way to go. I think it's just because the ASP industry is like the banking industry before a lot of standards were developed. In 10 years, will we look at people who keep their own servers and infrastructure as the crazy ones? Why are they taking the risk of uptime, backup/recovery, non-redundant net connection, power failure, correct server configuration/patches upon themselves?

    Current problems, like being involuntarily upgraded, will find solutions even as the banks found solutions to the problems of bank robbers and (later) interstate branch banking. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • If you've paid money, that changes the story entirely, and you'll be able to get action immediately. Most of these companies ensure that you've somehow agreed to a contract that completely covers their rear and leave you no right to sue for anything. A smart businessman would insist on changes in that contract, but if your account is too small to be worthwhile bringing in lawyers, it's probably going to be "take it or leave it."

    Iomega didn't get away clean because this concerned hardware sold to consumers. Judges understand hardware (at least that it is a tangible item, which is sold, not licensed). And when hardware is sold to consumers, the manufacturer cannot disavow the "implied warranty of merchantability", including "incidental and consequential damages." (Note that when a business buys the hardware, it is presumed that they are capable of understanding and agreeing to the warranty, which in most cases severely limits the recourses available.) I forget which is "incidental" and which is "consequential", but in the Iomega case one would have been the damage from loss of data, the other the time you'd spend trying to get the problem fixed. [Begin off-topic rant] However, IMO Iomega got off extremely lightly: they paid the lawyers millions, and gave the consumers coupons good for a few $ off on Iomega products. The coupons were worthless unless you spent _more_ money on Iomega, and why would anyone burned by the click of death do that? It's like a tobacco company settling a lung-cancer suit with 25% off on a truckload of cigarettes -- wait, I know people dumb enough to fall for that!

    But for software and other computer-related intangibles, the industry has so far managed to hoodwink the courts into treating what definitely looks like a "sale" as a sort of indefinite rental instead. You try to sue Microsoft because Windows crashed on your home computer, you spent 10 hours re-installing it, and you lost the pictures of your wedding, and they will point you at that EULA which says (1) you don't own your copy of Windows, you just "licensed" it, and (2) they aren't responsible for incidental and consequential damages or anything else beyond supplying a disk with the object code properly written on it. That the object code is obviously defective doesn't matter -- until some judge decides that if it looks like a sale, it is a sale, and the UCC's implied warranty does apply. Once again note that this only applies to consumers, not businesses.
    [End off-topic rant]

    Anyway, with an ASP, you get a service agreement, which is a contract between you and the ASP, and among other things it says what rights you have when something goes wrong and the ASP can't deliver the agreed-upon service. If you let the ASP's lawyers write this, you probably don't even get your money back. If your lawyer writes it, then they'll owe you plenty. Of course, if the service fails because the power and comm lines were shut off when they ran out of money to pay their bills, they might owe you plenty but you aren't going to get it! So you need to send in both a lawyer and a geek who knows how to specify backups that will enable you to re-build the services you need even if the entire ASP is unavailable. Then you need to keep that geek around to verify that the backups are really being made, along with negotiating other issues that come up during implementation. Of course, you might start wondering why you pay someone who's capable of doing the job himself just to check up on whether someone else is doing it properly...
  • Actually, most banks in 1800 were reasonably reliable, because most people lived in small towns and their banker was someone they knew from childhood and had good reason to trust. Also, in a small town you rip off one customer and soon you'll have no customers. But there were enough fools who couldn't figure out who to trust to make a few crooked bankers enormously rich, even if they had to leave town immediately afterwards, and there were many more bankers that were honest but stupid and lost their customers' money along with their own... But now, you can walk into a bank and hand your money to a total stranger, without even checking the financial condition of the bank, and be pretty confident about getting your money back. But the reason for that isn't that the _banks_ found solutions, it is that the legislatures imposed very heavy regulations on the banks. There are strict limits to how much risk the banks can take. Their books are kept in very specific ways. Inspectors from both the state and the federal government (if the bank is federally insured) will come in and check the books. People go to jail if the regulations aren't followed...

    It's pretty hard to imagine software thriving in an atmosphere like that. Legislators understand money pretty well, but are clueless about technical issues. Even if they understood, they couldn't change the laws fast enough to keep up with technology that changes significantly even while the legislature is in session, but banks still do pretty much the same thing they did 200 years ago -- they just use computers and phone lines to do it faster.
  • The reason businesses would store their data at a service bureau is that they don't want the hassles of managing the server themselves. People who truly know what they are doing are both rare and hard for a layman to distinguish from all those that just think they know what they are doing, so contracting the whole thing out to a company with apparent expertise is quite appealing. And with a big enough service bureau, you do get a certain assurance that somewhere in the organization there must be someone that is really competent, and if you yell loud enough about problems you experience they are going to assign that competent person to straighten things out.

    How about a service bureau that administers your network and servers at your site instead of dragging your data off to their site?
  • Its funny that I keep reading these "ASP Nighmare" stories when I just completed a class whose senior project was examining an ASP and it's industry. The overwhelming conclusion of the class was despite the 1999 Gartner projections of grandeur and wealth for this 'new and exciting' ASP market, you don't control the applications and you don't control the data.

    The ASP market is limited by a number of factors. You need smaller-ish companies that don't have the inclination/capitol to support their own applications. You need also companies that don't value their own privacy or that trust their ASP like a family member.

    The ASP market is overblown and its somewhat shocking that people are writing articles to the effect of "X Company held all of my apps and data. Now X is gone, and I didn't take these matters into consideration." Think of this as more .com consolidation.
  • And I can see little reason why anyone should use it for their business. Having your HR, email, accounting run by complete strangers leaves your company wide open to all sorts of disasters. HR records may go astray, email may get broken into (remember yahoo, hotmail anyone?), and what do you tell IRS when it's time to file the taxes, and the ASP's server has crashed, and they did not do proper backups, and you've signed contracts saying that any damages is limited to the ASP's fees.
  • .. and I'm upset that they didn't give me more time to prepare for them to go out of business.

    Anyone who lets someone else keep their data is nuts. Anyone who lets someone who runs a free website keep their data deserves to lose it.

    Anyone who cries when a free website is changed and they are not notified is an idiot

  • by AsylumWraith ( 458952 ) <<wraithage> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:12AM (#157910) Homepage
    But the owner *does* have the right to have your car removed from *their* property, at your expense, without notifying you. At least that's what it's like here in New Jersey. The drives belong to the storage company. Though I wouldn't argue that it's completely unethical for the company to do something to your data, surely it's not illegal.
  • In principle this is no different from what Google did to Deja, or the cute format incompatibilities Microsoft has been springing on Office users for years.

    If you use something controlled by someone else, you have to expect them to put a very high priority on their interests, and a very low one on yours. They will change it if that serves them, or not change it (eg, bug fixes) if that serves them. They will pretend to care about your concerns, but they will only act on them when it makes sense in terms of their concerns.

    Everyone who reads SlashDot knows the answer. Free software (but not necessarily "Open Source" - eg, Mozilla). Open standards. Free documentation. Community ownership of knowledge. FreeNet. No one entity controlling the things that everyone uses.

Sendmail may be safely run set-user-id to root. -- Eric Allman, "Sendmail Installation Guide"

Working...