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Sun, 11 Oct 2009

Microsoft loses all Sidekick users' data. Lesson: Make backups.

Some tens or hundreds of thousands of T-Mobile USA customers probably just lost the contacts, photos, and notes "on their phone" forever. Those data are primarily stored on servers run by Danger, a subsidiary of Microsoft; rather, they were, until data loss destroyed them. Many customers' phones do not have a complete copy of their data; some have no data at all.

T-Mobile texted the affected customers with a link to this message:

Personal information stored on your device - such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos - that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger.

Long story short: No backups.

The story is a sad one, told many times

Microsoft chose to make no backups, reports Sidekick news website It seems the team at Microsoft in charge of user data storage allowed an upgrade to the storage system with no backup in place. When the upgrade failed, the data was toast.

This sad story of "no backups" is something that sysadmins -- myself included -- find ourselves in from time to time. Toward the end of 2006, the "Leafycaust" (disk failure with no backups at destroyed lots of data for Students for Free Culture. I had my own catastrophe in mid-2007 when two disks connected in RAID-1 (which is not a backup system) failed within two days of each other. (I now run nightly off-site backups for all the systems I maintain.)

People who rely on computers ought to make sure the people responsible are doing those backups, and that the backups are actually usable. Students for Free Culture was a Leafyhost customer; T-Mobile is a Microsoft customer. It's somewhat humorous that Microsoft and Leafyhost provide the same level of assurance.

"im about to cry!"

In the article above, users tell their own sad stories and give advice.

Invest the time. It's good advice.

Everyone: Please make backups. Don't trust any one thing - your IT staff, your personal computer, or your paid service provider, to keep your data safe. (For more technical readers: Don't rely purely on your DBMS, your filesystem, or one particular location. You know the drill; now practice it.)

I'll conclude with a quote. This one is about the Leafycaust, but it could easily be about Microsoft/Danger:

Essentially, these notjobs burn through several thousand dollars of people’s money for the service of deleting all their critical (and personal) data.

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