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The hidden dark side of today's hottest tech trends

Peter Wayner | June 14, 2013
New technologies and new IT strategies are here to solve all your problems — except the ones they create

The tech world is a slave to innovation and the hype that surrounds it. Everything is better, shinier, and more essential than the last wave. Buy in to the latest trend or find yourself washed out.

At least that's the sales pitch.

Of course, not every hyped technology or IT strategy is snake oil. The main stew may very well be chock-full of awesomeosity. Alas, everything, no matter how wonderful, comes with one or more side dishes of problems, annoyances, and grief. The tech world loves to focus on the main course and forget about the helping of reality needed to balance out the meal.

What follows is an overview of the hidden dark sides of today's hottest tech trends. Consider it a stink-eye gleam on what's dangerous, unsettling, or outright horrible about the latest amazing ideas floating through the tech memespace —and a heads-up on what IT should watch out for when the infatuation for the latest and greatest in IT technology and strategy wears off.

The hidden dark side of PaaS
The trade-off always seems better than it is. Forgo spending thousands of dollars to buy and host a server in favor of a subscription to a neat cloud-based service that's priced like a cup of coffee or, in some instances, a stick of gum. Heck, the neat service might even be entirely ad-supported.

The thought of renting technology for pennies is great even if it's just for a microsecond. Who wouldn't want to shop at the cloud five-and-dime instead of plunking down purchase orders for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars? Anyone who has had to recover from the collapse of one of these free or cheap companies, that's who. In many cases, the failure of just one service messes up the software you've written at four of the other PaaS offerings. They fall like dominos.

New tools like this are a real gamble for the people who work there and the people who buy into them at the beginning. They're fine for light experimentation, but the danger escalates quickly as your reliance on them for infrastructure gets at all serious. Even if they're willing to commit to a great SLA (service-level agreement), that's not worth much if they go out of business, quintuple the price, change any aspect of their infrastructure without providing meaningful, discoverable documentation, decide it's no longer cost-effective for them to provide backward compatibility or to support your quickly "aging" app.

The hidden dark side of BYOD
BYOD (bring your own device) begins as a way to empower employees to choose the laptops, tablets, and smartphones they prefer, but it quickly devolves into yet another chore for everyone. Not only must people perform their usual work duties, but they must now install updates and new software, bear greater responsibility for troubleshooting and repairing their devices, and shop for a new hardware every year or so. This isn't so bad for programmers who know how to care for software, but it's a nightmare for anyone around the office who's not tech-savvy and has better things to do.


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