State-of-the-Cloud

Hello, and welcome to the State of the Cloud, Cloudwards.net’s monthly column where we go over the biggest tech news. In this April edition, we’ll be talking about a slew of industry news concerning VPNs and backup providers, as well as, of course, Facebook.

This edition also marks the one-year anniversary of State of the Cloud, and it makes us uncomfortable to report that Facebook has made an appearance in each and every one. Though detractors might point out that we’re merely unoriginal, we like to think that the social media giant is too big and powerful and should’ve been reined in by now.

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We’ll let you decide where you come down on that, but we recommend reading what the Zuck and his minions have been up to lately before doing so. That said, some industry news is up first.

The VPN Wars: Rising Costs

VPN Price Raises

As we’ve mentioned before, particularly in the January edition of this column, interest in virtual private networks has risen among consumers thanks to all the privacy and security scandals. That has led to new providers jumping up like mushrooms after a rain and a lot of maneuvering among established services.

The mad scramble for a piece of the expanding pie has made our life as reviewers interesting. On an almost weekly basis, we’ll get an email requesting we review a new VPN, often accompanied by offers of money that we firmly and politely refuse. Reviewing those fly-by-nights is also amusing because they often don’t work well or at all.

The upshot is that unless you find it among our VPN reviews, you probably shouldn’t sign up for it. We’ve looked at almost every VPN out there, and we decide quickly whether something is worth reviewing. We will, of course, make exceptions for providers such as VikingVPN, which has a great rep among our competitors, despite not being in service for over a year.

The Price Is Wrong

We can safely say that none of the upstart services poses a threat to the likes of ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but that hasn’t kept the services in our best VPN selection from sitting still, and the results have been mixed at best. Though we applaud any refining of features, we’re leery of the messing with prices we’ve seen over the last month.

For example, CyberGhost and NordVPN raised their prices earlier in the year by 5-10 percent — depending on the plan — only to bring them back down to their old levels in March. That’s annoying for people who signed up during the lull, as well as the editorial staff at Cloudwards.net, but at least they saw the error of their ways.

That said, deciding on a hike of one-tenth, then reconsidering is one thing. Doubling your prices is quite another, and we’d like to ask the Private Internet Access team what they were thinking when they did so. It has practically doubled its prices, changing it from a service we were happy to recommend for being safe and cheap to one that offers good security at a premium.

As you can read in our PIA review, that has badly affected the service’s ranking. On top of that, you’ll quickly find that there are cheaper services out there now, as well as better services for the same money. We predict it’s curtains for the once-brave fighter for net neutrality unless it restores some sort of sanity to its pricing.

World Backup Day 2019

March 31 was World Backup Day, an annual reminder for you to backup your data. Despite years of campaigning, we still see too many instances of people not making copies of their work in the cloud or even just on a thumb drive and then losing it when their computers crash.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to backup your data, so check out our best online backup article for the best providers out there or our article on 3-2-1 backup to get an idea of a smart backup strategy.

Dropboxing People In

In kind of related news — okay, we admit it’s a stretch — Dropbox has restricted the number of devices you can hook to a free Dropbox account to three as of March 2019. Thankfully, paid plans are exempt from that, so we’re guessing it’s yet another way for Dropbox to prod people to start paying for its storage. You can read our Dropbox review to learn whether paying is a good idea.

Face to Facebook

We more or less started the month of March with the news that we’re getting a more privacy-friendly Facebook. Once the editorial team was done wiping the tears of laughter from our eyes, we went digging into The Zuck’s claims and found they were, curb your surprise, bogus.

We came to that conclusion by reading the news. For example, the news that Facebook knew about Cambridge Analytica using data to target ads way before the story broke in the media, negating the company’s ignorance defense.

Another hint was the story that several Android apps are still sharing data with Facebook, despite the company claiming it had stopped doing that, which broke the same day as The Zuck’s announcement.

It’s not just malice that puts the lie to Facebook’s attempt at image reform. There’s also plain old incompetence, such as the company storing users’ passwords in plaintext. As we explain in our description of encryption, plaintext is unencrypted data, making it for the world to see if anybody gets access. Sloppy only begins to describe it.

That said, Facebook’s many sins seem to be catching up to it. The New York Times reported in late March that federal prosecutors based out of New York City are looking into the many deals it has made with third parties to sell your data. We wish them luck in a fight against an establishment that seems content letting giant companies do whatever they wish.

Upsetting the Apple Cart

Another company facing legal trouble is Apple. The maker of smooth white cases with inferior hardware has had an antitrust case filed against it by Kaspersky Labs, probably one of the best known developers of antivirus software (read our Kaspersky Anti-Virus review to see what we thought of it).

Kaspersky alleges that Apple forced the company to strip two features from its software suite, only to implement both in its own alternatives. A similar suit was also filed in March by Spotify against Cupertino, which claims that Apple curtained off several avenues for users. Apple, of course, denies that, but neither suit seems to be going away.

Either suit would be serious enough, but the biggest challenge is raised by Elizabeth Warren. While setting up her presidential bid, she claimed she wanted to break up all tech giants, but reserved special scorn for Google, Facebook and, a day later, Apple. Even if she doesn’t make it onto the Democratic ticket, chances are other presidential hopefuls will pick up the banner.

Smaller Stories

Russia, never a place where human rights flourish, has taken another step toward a dystopian nightmare with the signing of two new censorship laws. One bans fake news, while the other protects public officials from being insulted. Though that might make sense at first glance, knowing the Putin government, both laws will be interpreted in new and creative ways.

YouTube bowed out of the streaming wars. The streaming website, part of Google parent Alphabet, had tried to bring out several shows and web series of its own, but just couldn’t match Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the upcoming Disney+. In all honesty, nobody in our editorial team even knew YouTube had its own shows, so marketing might’ve been an issue.

One of Norway’s biggest companies, Norsk Hydro, was hit by a massive and nasty ransomware attack. The aluminum manufacturer won’t be paying the cybercriminals, though, because they have a backup that’s only two days old. That makes this as good a place as any to plug our online backup reviews, we figure.

We’ll finish with good news: the Democrats in Congress have brought forward a bill that would restore net neutrality in the United States. It’ll almost entirely restore the original one that was put in place while Barack Obama was president and is generally seen as a good thing.

Final Thoughts

With that bit of light in the tunnel we’ll leave you for this month. We hope you enjoyed reading our little monthly recap and recommend that you sign up for our newsletter below if you’d like to be notified when the next one comes around.

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Let us know in the comments below if we missed any major stories or if you have an opinion to share on any of these developments. Good luck, and thank you for reading.

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