Every One of You Should Lead a Double Life

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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