You may have seen TV commercials or read something in the media recently about MyCloud.com, billed as your personal cloud. The technology does exactly what it says on the tin, so the advertising isn’t deceptive in that sense. It’s deceptive because, for one thing, it isn’t really a cloud, it’s just a way of remotely accessing your files, or more accurately it is Network-attached storage (NAS). Anyone with a PC, the internet, and a little bit of savvy (just a tiny pinch) has been able to do this since long before we started speaking of “the cloud“.
The cloud isn’t just remote access to your files, either, not anymore. The cloud is about services like Google Drive or Dropbox, which let you share, collaborate, in some cases even create and edit files right in the cloud. When a college study group needs to share files with each other and collaborate online from almost any device, will they use MyCloud.com, or Dropbox? The latter, of course, since not everyone has a MyCloud, but everyone with a browser or mobile apps can use the major cloud services.
The claims are also deceptive because MyCloud promises greater security than other cloud hosts without offering any meaningful evidence or data to back up it’s security claim. It preys on irrational (albeit less irrational now than they once seemed) fears of government surveillance. Even if these systems were somehow safe from being hacked or spied on by intelligence agencies or law enforcement, how secure is a “cloud” that any thief who breaks into your home could steal? Do you live in Fort Knox? Even if a thief can never access the files, stealing the device is liable to result in significant data loss to you, the user, which defeats the point of one of the primary advantages of the cloud (offsite redundancy).
There are also questions of MyCloud.com reliability, which the ad never addresses nor does their website. If your power at home goes out, you don’t lose access to Google in the process, unless you can’t go anywhere else with internet but with MyCloud, a power outage at home (or wherever the device is located) could potentially leave you without any MyCloud access at all, which would be especially problematic if you really needed those files right now. Most cloud services are largely immune to such issues, with some boasting well above 99% reliability with mere minutes of (typically localized or limited) downtime.
The most honest part of the claims MyCloud makes is that it is cheaper than the major online cloud storage services, and on paper at least this appears to be true. A 2 TB MyCloud device starts at around $150, compared with $100/month for the same amount of storage space on Google Drive. For someone who needs to have 2-4 TB of their own files available almost anywhere, this could be a good deal, but that is probably a small group of people that gets smaller by the day, with people storing fewer large media files like movies and music (because these, too, are shifting to services like Netflix Instant Viewing or Spotify), and with social networks offering abundant storage space for personal pictures and image files.
Also, what of down-the-line costs, like replacing the device when and if it breaks? What about the costs of losing access if you lose your internet, or lose your home, or what if you don’t have those things to begin with? What of the painful costs in data loss should that device break or be stolen without you maintaining proper backups? What if the device is even vulnerable to malware?
MyCloud.com probably has a niche to serve, but their advertising and marketing is misleading at best, and liable to cause harm to consumers who are not properly educated about what it is and what it isn’t. For that reason, their advertising seems dangerously deceptive to me.