mouseLast month, it was news that Google is to cut its popular RSS Reader at the end of June.

Today, Yahoo is telling users it intends killing off a number of services including the old version of Yahoo Mail, SMS Alerts and Upcoming amongst others. The word is Yahoo Mail Classic will deliver its last mail on June 3.

These services join an ever-growing list of online roadkill over the last few years as online giants chop and change their line-up, all in the hunt for greater profits.

The news raises a couple of issues – first, the danger of relying on free stuff itself.

Everyone loves ‘free’ but the danger of ‘free’ is that it’s still costing someone to produce that service you enjoy. That means it’s at a much greater risk of disappearing if you’re not putting any of your own cash into supporting that service. That means two things – you shouldn’t rely on free online options as your sole source of that service type; and you shouldn’t use it as the primary point of contact with the outside world, especially if it’s your business.

Sure, everyone swaps and changes their phone network providers but being able to keep your own number ensures continuity with your contacts and not ending up marooned on a foreign number while you spend your days updating your friends and contacts.

The other issue is relying on cloud storage services you’re not paying for. Free online storage is potentially one of the more dangerous options because not only do you have little practical control over your data, there are are few options in getting your data back should that service disappear. The most important point is to make sure that you have copies of anything you have stored online stored on your own home storage. Sharing files with work colleagues online is fine but again the assumption is that you have copies of all your files on local storage.

At the very least, you need to read the fine print of exactly what you’re signing up for when you decide to use a free service – chances are that there will be few guarantees and even few options of obtaining lost data should the service disappear.

With the larger players like Google and Yahoo, you should at least get a warning of a service’s closure before it happens and there are usually alternatives, either provided by them or available to use with them. For example, Feedly is a great option to use instead of Google Reader that ties in nicely with Google’s Chrome browser. Yahoo has a new mail service to replace the Classic option that it says is faster and easier to use.

But for others, there are no guarantees.

So the simple way to stay safe is this – use online services by all means, but never use them as your primary and/or only source of digital contact with the outside world or as your only source of archive storage.


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