How important is Amazon AWS?

If you aren’t an IT person you can be forgiven for not knowing what Amazon AWS is. It allows a huge number of things that we have come to expect from the Internet like Netflix. This excellent article from The Atlantic has a breakdown why Amazon AWS is so important.

It is clear from many sources that AWS is the top cloud provider in reliability. Other providers have almost perfect records and much more affordable. As you might know from reading past articles, I used Rackspace for years and it was perfect. Now I am using Copyblogger/Websynth and it has been very reliable as well. Really the biggest problems you will face from those services are problems you created yourself or hackers create.

For example, I recently had a “Socket error” on my site that caused it to go down for a half hour. The problem wasn’t my hosting provider, but rather the company that I choose for my DNS. They were having a DDOS against them so understandably that error would happen. You can protect against everything, and you really can’t have two DNS providers, so its a limitation of the current system.

When I tried other cloud providers I found them from completely unusable (Google) to so confusing (Azure) that it is understandable why the average IT person wouldn’t use them. AWS was really the most understandable provider and it is easy to see why they have become popular. Whoever made AWS deserves respect for making it as friendly and reliable as they have. I only wish that Apple would jump in and help simplify cloud technology so that the average person could use it. For example, distributed computing should have been made more consumer friendly  by now so that people and organization could use this incredibly useful technology. It is amazing how it democratizes technology and if it just had a friendly peer-to-peer arrangement this could eventually eliminate the need for IT. I can see that one day it will be that people will have informal/formal grid computing networks and when they have work they will submit it to that network. Instead of having a huge computer that may rarely get used to its potential, we will share computing power and the kind of research won’t be limited in the way it is now.

Kind of sad isn’t it? I read an article today that talked about the sale of a $650k luxury car for people who were world famous. For that kind of money we could have a distributed network working on the cures for persistent stubborn problems for humanity. Its is almost like the people with money would rather hold onto an illusion than progress. The illusion of course is that money will protect them from the scary world. Unfortunately no amount of money protects you from life, but when there is a problem sometimes waiting for a solution isn’t possible. I hope that one day we will be motivated as a species by care for each other, rather than on things that don’t provide happiness.

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A tale of 10 emails

I have been fortunate to have email for a long time. Since the late 90’s in fact. I thought it might be interesting to compare my email providers since I have just recently switched to a new email provider.

  1. Pine. This was a client I used during school that was just text and very ugly. However it was so cool because you could have friendships with people all around the world! I had many friendships with people all over the world, but unfortunately in those days email wasn’t very reliable so I lost track of them. Well it was a nice start to being international.
  2. Netscape email. Netscape was so beautiful compared to what Pine looked like. It had some neat features and was so easy to use. I spent years with Netscape.
  3. Eudora/Quarterdeck/Outlook Express. It’s true for those nerds out there that Quarterdeck was a chat client, but what a chat client it was! It was amazing in its time. Quarterdeck made some amazing software in the day. Eudora was cool and Outlook Express was awful. I was so glad to move to the next big thing.
  4. iTools then .Mac mail. These were apples failed attempts at email. This was later replaced by iCloud which was still a failure. I tried all of these services and stayed with them way past the point I should have. I kept hoping and Apple kept promising it would get better. It never did. Everything that could go wrong did with these services. Lost email, slowness, crashes, so on. I will never use any Mac email service again based on my experience for these 5 years.
  5. Web email like yahoo/gmail/other smaller providers. This was interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. Gmail always had irritating ads, and the loss of privacy just wasn’t worth it being free. My last email provider was Gmail, but I have grown tired of their privacy attitude and their sense of “don’t be evil” just isn’t factually true anymore. I am in the process of deleting my google account and never plan on doing business with them again.
  6. Exchange providers from Rackspace/Inmotion/other web hosting companies. Rackspace was fantastic and incredible for email. Even when gmail when down, Rackspace kept on working. They were the only ones with a true 100% uptime that I experienced with email. Inmotion also had great email but I didn’t use it very much since I was using gmail when I was a customer. Other web hosting companies aren’t worth mentioning since their reliability was unremarkable or bad.
  7. For testing purposes I tried Zoho, Protonmail, GMX and a bunch of other smaller providers. To me, they all had critical flaws. Zoho is ugly and its interface is overwhelming. I couldn’t suggest it to the average person. Protonmail had great privacy but it was ugly and overly complicated and not going to be worth its limitations which are currently 500 message limit a month for free. GMX was interesting, but ugly and I didn’t like the price structure.
  8. Using email from whatever client I was working for. Most clients want me on their email system so that I am easy to get ahold of for them. Often when you help people on projects they may want to send you a large file and being on their email system means that can send you incredibly large attachments and not worry about most email providers 10MB limit. So in this way I tried out many different exchange environments in companies and was mostly unimpressed. Most exchange environments tended to have performance issues especially on Monday morning, or mornings while people worked. I would not put my personal email on a clients system, so this wasn’t a good choice for me for personal use.
  9. Setting up a mail server and running it myself. No way. I am not that interested in email that I would take on this huge task for one person. In addition it doesn’t make financial sense in that I will never be an exchange only administrator and don’t want to commit my time to mastering this software. I have been an exchange administrator in the past, but it was one duty among many others and not my sole responsibility.
  10. Using an email address built into a social platform like Facebook. I am never going to join Facebook, so I wouldn’t do that just for email. LinkedIn can sync your email provider to their service, and then you send from LinkedIn via your outside email provider. This isn’t any good to me. They should have a native built-in email service that doesn’t require an outside email provider. Although I am not sure that I trust them with my personal information.

So what did I end up choosing? FastMail. It had an iOS client, it was $10 a year for the basic version-I am a light email user, it is beautifully done, it has features without being overwhelming, and it is most like Gmail for people who don’t like Gmail. I can feel good about recommending this to a non-technical person, and assist them if they can’t handle it. It was easy to import my information from gmail, and has some nice tools to import contacts, emails, calendars from many programs. They are not paying me, but so far it seems the best Gmail alternative.

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