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Summary:

So instead of a relaxing weekend, Sidekick owners had a frustrating one. Saturday ended on a bang as the Sidekick servers lost all of the user data. That, in turn, translated into Sidekicks with little to no user data. Contacts? Gone. Appointments? Gone. Message history? Rewritten. […]

sidekickSo instead of a relaxing weekend, Sidekick owners had a frustrating one. Saturday ended on a bang as the Sidekick servers lost all of the user data. That, in turn, translated into Sidekicks with little to no user data. Contacts? Gone. Appointments? Gone. Message history? Rewritten. It’s a terrible situation, and I feel for customers who lost anything and everything.

There’s plenty of reason to trash the folks that run the service, and if I was a Sidekick customer, I’d likely be doing the same. But I also would have done something else — found a way to have a redundant copy of my most important data.

Many commenters from the original story have bashed the cloud or said something like, “See, this is why I won’t use the web to store my data…” The fact is, web storage and services are a tool, just like any other. And any tool has a chance of failure — that doesn’t mean the tool is flawed, only that it has limitations.

Once you accept that, you begin to understand the need for backup copies of data, especially for mobile devices. I use the cloud for so many services, that I can’t name them all. Online I have photos, videos, contacts, calendar events, tasks, music, podcasts, documents and more. But — and here’s the kicker — every reasonable bit of that individual online data has a counterpart. I either have a second copy on a different cloud service, a local copy (or two) on a hard drive, or an archived CD/DVD copy. If I don’t have a second copy of a particular bit of data, it’s because I’ve deemed it replaceable. And I make sure that I don’t let months and months go by between local copies or backups. That way, in a worst-case situation, only my most recent data updates are vulnerable.

Now, we’ve covered our fair share of cloud storage and other backup or synchronization services here over the past few years. And we’ll continue to do so. I can’t tell you what service or approach will work best, because your needs are different from mine. But I can tell you that services fail. So, too, does physical media. Don’t wait for the inevitable to happen, because one of the most frustrating situations has to be when that device you rely on simply can’t help you. We get so dependent on our data that without it, we simply can’t function. If you’re not leading a double life with your data, just imagine that you were impacted by the Sidekick debacle or some other tremendous data loss. How much would it impact your life? More importantly — what are you doing about it?

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  1. Agree 100%. The ‘cloud’ brings us amazing flexibility and choice. I’m trying out Carbonite for example to see if it will act as an effective backup and file storage solution, but I won’t be relying on it as my only storage for all my stuff!

  2. James Kendrick Monday, October 12, 2009

    It’s a tough problem, especially given that smartphones themselves rely on the cloud for storage/ backup of our data. As Kevin says the only “fool-proof”, and I use that term carefully, route to peace of mind is to make our own local backups of our data. Sometimes how to that can be far from intuitive, depending on the phone/ platform.

    The Palm Pre has that built-in backup, so many owners feel secure. What they don’t realize is it doesn’t back up any of the user’s data. All it backs up are the credentials for the various online services that the Pre is syncing up with. So if the online service goes kaput a la Sidekick, the Pre is lost. It doesn’t seem logical given the owner has been duly “backing up” the Pre since first run.

    The key is to recognize where your data is really being kept and back that up. Of course, how do you back up Google? Gmail? It’s often not straightforward.

    1. I autoforward all mail, work and personal to a gmail account, which is used purely as an archive/backup. Where this doesn’t work is where your email only forwards a mail and doesn’t keep the message, like Yahoo mail for example.

      1. A second cloud service (preferably with another company) with the same data definitely gives some redundancy. Adding a desktop client in the mix to pull Gmail IMAP and then backing up that client data does the trick too. Simply using Outlook or Mac Mail to sync Gmail on a computer that’s backed up solves the Gmail issue.

  3. I use Sugarsync (https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=c6g3ccjrtagq2) for my file backup (and remote access). I also do a backup of my data to an external hard drive.

    I use GDocBackup to backup my Google Documents.

    I use Evernote a lot and the Windows App has local backup and sync.
    I also make sure that super important information is backed up separately.

    I also export my blog and other Google settings once a week. My Google Calendar and Contacts are sync’d to my Palm Centro using Goosync.

    Important emails are saved to Evernote for backup also.

    And, my Palm Centro gets a hotsync every week.

    Everything is backed up in multiple places. It’s the only way to go, cloud based or not.

    1. Lifestream Backup (http://lifestreambackup.com/) is another way to make your own backups Google Docs, GMail, WordPress, Flickr, etc.

  4. ‘Cloud’ users must know their data is hosted on a physical device *somewhere* and that they’ve given up control and ownership over anything entrusted to the “cloud”. Like its namesake, the Internet ‘cloud’ may be ominpresent and delightful most of the time but in a blink can become the harbinger of storms, lightning, hail, and other unpleasantries. We should have no more expctation from the Internet ‘cloud’ than we expect from real clouds; we have about the same control over both.

  5. devi iriawan mulyono Monday, October 12, 2009

    I get a lot of valuable information from your article. thanks

  6. Much (deserved) hoopla was made when the average consumer was offered a true Personal Computer. This allowed the average user to create and store their information on their own machine. No longer were consumer users simply using terminals relying on a mainframe elsewhere (maintained by others) to store their data. And users learned (regardless of OS) that with that freedom came the need to do their own work, including backups.

    Cloud computing seems to be an effort to return to ‘dumb’ terminals and mainframes elsewhere – to encourage users to rely on “the kindness of strangers” for their software, storage and privacy needs and away from their own personal computing and maintenance regimes. All very well and good, just so long as the company involved doesn’t go under, doesn’t change its syncing cooperation with your hardware provider or, doesn’t change its licensing conditions or, as the case recently with Kindle and Sidekick users, simply lose everything – or find themselves cut off from their servers, like with Palm’s WebOS.

    Backups of cloud-based info is all very well and good, but often such restoration requires devices to sync with the failed service, or to migrate the whole works to a completely different (and sometimes incompatible)piece of software or service. Not so good.

    Our desire to be fully mobile and have our ‘life’ fully accessible at all times means we are relying on hardware that is beyond our personal control. Problem is, sometimes those clouds can become a tornado.

  7. The Palm Pre pulls all its information from Exchange, Google, etc. and it downloads it into the momory of the Pre. So if the Palm servers failed, your Pre would still have its data. If your exchange fails or Google fails or facebook etc you still have your data, as it is stored on the Pre. If your pre fails it can still be downloaded agian in a jiffy,

    This makes the Pre super safe from fail. Because it constantly syncs and in syncing actualy stores it all local, you can be sure if any one link ion the system fails the other has the data.

    This was not the case with the sidekick which is why it was such a problem, It did not store information on the device.

    You want data back up and protection against failure of a server or cloud? Get a Palm Pre.

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