Microsoft plans to dump OneDrive unlimited and Windows 7

Microsoft continues to lose the plot. This week saw the announcement that OneDrive customers have a year to shift their data way, and business have a year to switch from Windows 7 to Linux Windows 10.

The problem they’re having with OneDrive is that when they sold it on the basis of “unlimited” storage, they didn’t realise the punters would actually believe them. After all, who believes what Microsoft says about any of their products? But, apparently, some credulous customers have been using it for backing up all their stuff and this has caught the folks in Redmond by surprise. So they’re withrawing the product, and users have a (at least) year to shift their stuff off, after which the Office365 subscription would have lapsed anyway. The maximum storage available after that date will be 1Tb, but they have yet explain what will happen to the excess.

And in the same week, Microsoft announced that Windows 7 will no longer be available in a year. It may surprise some to hear that it’s still available, as anyone buying a domestic PC from the high street has only had Windows 8 since 2013. However, if you buy a business machine from a business supplier, chances are it will still have Windows 7 pre-installed, with a set of Windows 8 downgrade disks in the box to satisfy an “everything now ships with Windows 8” clause in some OEM deal. Businesses don’t want Windows 8, and voted with their cheque books to keep Windows 7.

Microsoft now plans to take that choice away, and force everyone on to Windows 10. This is hardly unexpected, but now it’s official. The reasons aren’t clear to me. Okay, Windows 10 has the creepy doll sending user data back at Redmond, in order to deliver a richer user experience (and targeted adverts) and make the world a better place (for Microsoft shareholders). Possibly a case of corporate Google-envy? Is Microsoft so keen on the Google business model that they’d risk hacking off the loyal customers who’ve been buying Windows XP and Windows 7 for years? Ironically, Google is pushing it’s paid-for cloud apps, and I suspect, would like to get a larger revenue stream from selling SaaS.

Listen up, Microsoft. People buy Windows because it runs the applications they want. It has nothing to do with whether the like the colour scheme. Windows XP runs DOS stuff; Windows 7 does, just about, because it has XP emulation. This is a concept known as Backward compatibility, and Intel knows all about exploiting this and making mega $$$ if you need a reminder. Lightweight home users and kids might be impressed by the new and shiny, but business wants something that works, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The beneficiaries of this will probably be Linux (including Android), Google GDrive and other cloud storage providers, and alternatives to Office: (Google Docs, and smaller companies like SoftMaker. The latter has just released SoftMaker Office 2016, with an offer to make it free for use in schools.

Leaky iCloud

As I picked up my copy of Private Eye at the station Newsagent just now I noticed the headlines on certain of the dailies going on about hackers stealing naked photos of celebrities from their Apple on-line storage areas. The fact that they were (apparently) celebrities and that the weren’t wearing clothes was the main point for the tabloids, but the big story is really the security of cloud storage.

Personally, I’d be very surprised if attackers had actually compromised Apple’s servers. More likely explanations would be an inside job, or the lusers endpoints. But my money would be a phishing attack.

It does highlight, however, the danger of outsourcing your sensitive data to anyone.

In the 1980’s the fad for outsourcing really took off. Professional engineers all said it was a bad idea then. If your company data is important, the last thing any business should do is trust it to someone else.

The term ‘cloud’ has become a trendy marketing concept in recent years. What it really means is “I have no idea and don’t care.”. It was used in context as follows:

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“Where is that service your using actually running?”

“Don’t know, somewhere up in the clouds!”

It’s was ironic. In the real would, admitting you’ve lost control of your data is hardly something anyone would be proud of. But suits heard the new buzzword and wanted some of it. And the punters quickly accepted the benefits (free stuff) without a thought to the risks.

So has Apple’s on line storage been compromised? I doubt it’s been hacked. The technology is fairly robust. If you want to access iCloud data, Apple’s servers themselves are not the soft attack vector. The obvious method is to trick users into handing out their passwords. After all, any coy celebrity foolish enough to (a) take pictures of themselves in the buff; and (b) store them on someone else’s computer, are hardly going to be the brightest stars in the sky.

The fact that fanbois seem to have been the victims in this case is irrelevant. They may have been easier targets if, indeed, it was a phishing attack. However, the general principle remains the same whoever is providing the service – Amazon, Google, Dropbox, Microsoft or one of the many startups trying to get a bit of the action. And the same goes for Facebook and the like – anyone uploading anything remotely sensitive to their servers needs to consider the implications. If you wouldn’t publish something directly on your web page for all to see, don’t send it to “the cloud” either.

The American gun-selling industry has long used the argument that firearms in themselves aren’t dangerous. It’s the users that are the problem. They’re right, in so far as the argument goes. Unfortunately, adding the human factor to cloud services makes the encryption, data centre security and other precautions taken by the providers irrelevant in the same way. People will be hurt. And “celebrities” will caught with their pants down.