My mom is not into technology. She hates it, in fact, but she realizes its value and so tries her best to learn how to use it. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has a parent like this. One of things she struggles with, however, is not only gaining the technical expertise to use her computer, the Internet, and so on, but developing the technical savvy necessary to use them well. Those of us who are digital natives, or who at least use technology on a daily basis, know how to avoid certain traps. Unfortunately, my mom doesn’t. Last week, she sent around an email she’d received from a friend. You know the kind. It had sensational pictures and my mom had been tricked into believing they were real. She was so amazed by them that she sent them to all her family and friends. A quick look at Snopes.com, however proved them to be fakes. I have to admit that I felt a little bad emailing her back and letting her know she’d been tricked.
The moral of this story is, if you don’t already know, that you should never take anything you see on the Internet at face value. Sure, hucksters have been around since the beginning of time, but in the digital arena, all bets are off. Obviously, everything on the Internet is mutable. It can be changed. It can be manipulated. It can be taken out of context.
This is especially true when you’re trying to buy something. I harp a lot about statistics being thrown around and people stretching terms in ways that make them meaningless, but that’s because there’s so much fuzziness out there. Recently, I came across two examples.
Since I started working as a writer at StorageCraft, I have spent a not insignificant about of time defining “the cloud.” We work with cloud partners, I write papers about the cloud, and so on. So I am no stranger to the confusion concerning what exactly the cloud is. I even wrote an article for SMB Nation about it (though the article has since been retired). In it, I used my favorite quote on the subject. Here is Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle, on the subject a few years ago:
“The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can’t think of anything that isn’t cloud computing with all of these announcements….Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things have changed much since then. During March’s SXSW conference, the Global Language Monitor released it’s list of the most confusing tech terms in the industry. “The cloud” was number two (behind “big data”).
Part of the problem here is that everybody wants you to think of their innovative use of the the cloud as “The Cloud,” as if anybody who puts an “aaS” at the end of their particular service has some kind of monopoly on the whole thing.
So when you’re looking into cloud services, it’s probably wise to take the time to figure out if your definition and your prospective service provider’s definition are compatible.
I’ve spent a lot of my professional life working with and for academics, and if you don’t know, sources are a big deal in academia. I’ve spent countless hours combing meticulously through works cited pages, tracking down sources, and making sure that everything, even down to the punctuation, was exactly the way it was in the original. So yeah, my perspective on citing sources is a little skewed, but it amazes me how often I see a company base a product claim on a statistic without offering a source. When I’ve tracked some of them down, they’ve been as much as 15 years old. Do you think an IT statistic from 1997 has any relevance today? I don’t, or at least its relevance is severely compromised. Even worse, many of the statistics are untrackable, which means they’re most likely made up.
So I was gratified and amused when I ran across this website the other day. By far the most common statistic in the backup and disaster recovery space is the “a company who suffers x hours of downtime will die” statistic. The great page at the link takes a wide sample of variations of this statistic (they call it the 80 percent myth) and painstakingly tracks them down. Some are old, some are fake. Very few are relevant in any way.
When it comes to your backup and disaster recovery, don’t take things at face value. Do your research. Dig into a company’s claims. I’m sure my mom was a little embarrassed when I debunked her email, but if you’re not careful with your backup and disaster recovery, you’ll be more than embarrassed. So be smart.