Lessons Learned: Backup!

Never underestimate the importance of a backup. Ask yourself, what would you do if every file, every song, every word document, every piece of data I owned was deleted? Given, there would probably be some people who it would not bother, but I would argue a majority would not know exactly what to do. Now what would you do if a corporation was somehow responsible for this data loss?

In two separate cases this week, users saw they’re data eradicated without any chance of it ever being returned. In the cell phone market, T-mobile had server issues which caused rampant data loss. And in the OS market, Apple’s new release, Snow Leopard, was revealed to have a bug which could erase your hard drive.

For owners of T-mobile’s Sidekick phone a simple power down would have meant the entire erasure of all the phones data. Here’s why, all the data on Sidekick Phones is stored in ‘the cloud.’ You might have heard of this magical term before, but in reality it’s not all that magical. In fact this fluffy good-natured white thing is generally just a nice name for a bulky black server located in some dingy basement continually hooked up to the internet. The particular servers that constitute T-mobiles cloud are owned and operated by Danger (a subsidiary of Microsoft). But Danger, in its infinite wisdom, decided not check the cloud or back it up, with that a remarkable reliable system became remarkably unreliable. So if in the time when the cloud was down your Sidekick shut down, you removed your battery or your battery ran out there was no hope of ever getting your contacts, notes or photos back from the black beyond. T-mobile did offer its users a $100 gift card and a free month of service for their troubles.

Across the way in Cupertino, Apple was also struggling with a random bug in their Snow Leopard Operating System code. This hard to define bug has believed to been targeted down to a few steps. Take any Mac running the 10.6 OS update, log in with a guest account and then log back into your user account. At this point all the data in the user account is erased. No prompts or warnings, just massive data loss. Apple said in a statement to CNET that “We are aware of the issue, which occurs only in extremely rare cases, and we are working on a fix.” How widespread the problem occurs is unknown. Around 100 posts of similar complaints were submitted on Apple’s support forums over the last week. I would suggest that until 10.6.2 is released or unless you have Time Machine running correctly (and you’ve double checked this, because it’s a finicky thing) that you beware of this hungry snow kitty and its guest accounts.

So what have we learned America? Firstly, backup. Secondly, backup. And finally, Backup! Don’t ever get the notion that your data is perfectly safe, because its not. Also beware drinks near computers (from personal experience).

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