What Happens When The Cloud Abandons You

The world of online services may be convenient, but there is always a risk of such services doing something your locally installed software won't: drop off the face of the Earth at a moment's notice.

That is the scenario OfficeDrop users are now facing, after receiving word last Friday that the five-year-old online collaboration and storage service would no longer be around after May 5.

"We know that many of you have come to depend on OfficeDrop to store and share your files in the cloud," a notice to users from OfficeDrop CEO Prasad Thammineni read, "Regrettably, we will not be able to offer OfficeDrop as a standalone service anymore and will be discontinuing it permanently as of May 5th, 2013."

The wording of the notice was specific: OfficeDrop as a company is not going away, just the service to its users. After reaching out to Thammineni over the weekend, he explained the situation.

"Recently we signed an agreement to sell OfficeDrop to another Cloud Storage player. We will be closing soon and will announce more details as to who the acquirer is and other related information," Thammineni responded to inquiries about the nature of the service's ending.

"Unfortunately, [the] acquirer has decided to not continue offering the OfficeDrop service and instead will integrate the product, technology and team with theirs and market it through their channels," he added.

According to the notice sent to OfficeDrop users, billing for OfficeDrop has stopped, and refunds are being issues when applicable. The notice urges all files be downloaded as soon as possible, because "they will be securely and permanently deleted as of May 6th, 2013."

What OfficeDrop Users Will Be Missing

OfficeDrop has seen some critical success over the years, with many reviewers appreciating the capability of iOS and Android apps that could take a picture of a document and then save a file in the cloud as a searchable PDF using optical character recognition. Think Evernote, with big side of Dropbox, and you get the idea.

The service has been aimed at small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but this experience may leave a poor taste in OfficeDrop users' mouths. Given the just 16-day notice they received and the hard stop for their files' existence on the cloud-based service, (a hard stop that falls on a Sunday, which will probably make for a blown weekend for quite a few people), this could put SMBs with potentially limited IT resources in a bind.

After all, downloading the documents will be relatively simple, but finding a place to store them and enable users the same kind of access could be tricky for a local platform. After all, it's the very availability of files that makes the cloud so attractive to customers in the first place. Storage is easy - access is hard.

Vanishing Like A Cloud

In the days before cloud, acquisitions and consolidations happened between software companies all the time. But even when Company A swallowed Company B and discontinued B's software product line, devout users of B's software could still keep using that software - albeit unsupported - until they could figure out what move to make next.

For cloud services, the timing of service shutdowns is no longer decided by the users… it's the service provider who calls the shots.

As online services continue to pop up with some new feature or convenience, it is not unexpected that we will see more of these kinds of consolidations happen over the coming months. And end users will have to bear the brunt of the inevitable service shutdowns that will follow.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.