posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 9th Dec 2009 23:28 UTC
IconNow that everything is moving to the cloud internet, you might think that data loss is a thing of the past. Sadly, as the past few months have taught us, this actually isn't true; we first had the Microsoft/Danger disaster, and now we have Palm and Sprint facing a class-action lawsuit over data loss for webOS phones. All this raises the question: how safe is it to store your precious data on the internet, and do you really trust the internet?

In the Microsoft/Danger disaster, it turned out to be not as bad as everyone (including the involved parties themselves) had thought; Microsoft was still able to recover the lost data, meaning that users still got their stuff back. Still, I'm sure Sidekick owners were less than pleased.

The issue with the webOS is a bit more problematic, but at least it only affected a relatively small group of people. As it turns out, the online restore function has problems restoring a backup made by a newer version of the webOS to an older version of the webOS. It affects a small group of people, but Palm and Sprint have been hit with a class-action lawsuit nonetheless.

I won't dive into the merits or validity of such a lawsuit (I'm sure the fine print in the appropriate contracts have some cop-out remarks about data loss), as I want to talk about how you people feel about storing your precious data on the internet (and yes, I refuse to use that other stupid marketing designation. This man is not for turning on this one).

So far, the problems have been confined to mobile phone data, which is most often not nearly as precious as data found on computers, such as photos, sensitive documents, school work, and so on. People usually still have an old-fashioned real-world address book lying around. In addition, Microsoft eventually recovered the data, and the Palm and Sprint case only affects a small amount of people.

But we've seen the writing on the wall. Google is hard at work making sure you store your stuff on their servers. This means that the document you make, the photos you transfer, and whatever else you create on your computer is now no longer stored locally - it's out of your control, out of your hands. Data protection and loss prevention are no longer an individual responsibility - they're Google's.

Is this a future you want to live in? Surely, you say, Google won't lose my data, They are one of the biggest technology companies in the world, highly skilled in these matters. Well, but what about Microsoft? They're even bigger than Google, yet they still managed to mess up royally.

It is cases like the ones described above that make me very weary of any of these store-it-on-the-internet ideas. People claim this will solve all of our data problems, but all moving your stuff to the internet accomplishes is that it's no longer your responsibility - which is a whole world apart from it no longer being an issue. The problem has not been solved - it has simply been moved.

As much as the hoity-toity technology companies of today want you to believe that the internet is the place to store your data, they are wrong. In the end, internet or no, there is still only one tried and true way to keep you data from getting lost: it involves common sense, and a 60 EUR external hard disk (or a fancy RAID setup if you're a nerd). Mac OS X has an easy-to-use and effective (but technically crude) solution, and you can get similar solutions on Windows and Solaris (ZFS).

Data loss prevention should be in your own hands, not in those of some company. What can happen at Palm, Sprint, and Microsoft can most certainly happen at any other company. Placing your trust in them is ignorant and silly, and will come back to bite you in the rear.

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