With github or with Google Drive this happens transparently. The user has a full copy of what's on the server. Github even does this for wiki and web page data, which is great, and some people create static HTML blogs using github and tools like Jekyll.
But unfortunately, most text that's poured into comments, forums, wikis, and blogs seems to have a dubious shelf life. The case in point is that Dropbox took down their wiki a while back, making this link in one of my previous posts dead. Poof. In this particular case I kept a copy in the text file I pasted it from, so I am republishing it below.
"Data liberation" doesn't quite fix the problem, either. Some companies are better than others about providing optional downloads of your data. Google, in particular, is very good. But laborious opt-in downloads (that most people don't use) aren't good enough. Always-on synchronization or mirroring is called for.
I'm optimistic. With the mass movement towards synchronization based approaches (SkyDrive, iCloud, Google Drive, etc) and VCS (github, bitbucket) I hope we are moving in the right direction. And why not? Everyone wins:
- For the cloud service provider it means an extra backup copy that reduces the risk of angry customers if a software failure (or more likely, account security breach) destroys data. It also provides local caching, which always makes good engineering sense.
- For the user, you get to access your data on the plane and know that it will live on when the company in question decides to retire the cloud service you've been using.