Monday, November 30, 2009

Strike Two! Cloud Computing loses more customer data

Last month I highlighted an incident where users lost their data which had been hosted by a Microsoft subsidiary. Now a similar problem has hit Palm OS devices and once more the hosting provider is 'working' with users to assist in recovering their data.

The way I read it, the data is gone forever but the loss to each individual user is far below the entry cost for a lawsuit so the maximum downside for Palm etc. is a PR hit for a couple of weeks then back to business as usual. One day a hosting provider will lose a lawyer's data and then it'll be pass the popcorn while we watch the customers fighting the PR flacks with lawsuits at dawn.

If anyone wants to tell me that the Palm and Danger scenarios weren't technically Cloud Computing then perhaps you can preface your remarks by telling me the difference from a customer's point of view... "I gave you my data and now it's gone. Everything else is irrelevant."


Greg Charland said...

Another interesting thing that I'll be blogging on later this week at

Microsoft Office Live Small Business has a policy of deleting customer e-mail accounts FOREVER at 7 days prior to domain expiration.

Microsoft Office Live started out as a "free forever" way for businesses to put up quick web sites, e-mail, etc.

In late 2009 MS decided the "free forever" model wasn't working and that customers would need to pay $15us per year for the domain name.


MS sent notices to the "admin" e-mail of each OLSB account (which 99% of small businesses don't check), stating that folks who DON'T pay the $15us will have their domains expired (fair enough), web sites deleted (not so nice)

AND ALL E-MAIL DELETED...BEFORE domain expiration.

For the average small business using this service, here's how that looks:
-Office worker tries to sign in to e-mail. Gets a message saying her account has been de-linked and she needs to provide a new e-mail address.
-Office worker calls her favorite tech to ask WTF?
-Favorite tech finds out that all of their email was deleted forever at the moment the domain went "expired" in the OLSB system... and cannot be recovered by any means despite several days of support tickets, escalation requests, tweets to Office Live PMs, and any other contacts he could muster. (Of course Office Live support is a multi-day affair of e-mail...wait...e-mail again, nauseam)

From the FAQ which many people are finding after their domains are gone:
"In addition "the administration of your domain name will be transferred to Melbourne IT,
who is the domain registrar for Office Live Small Business," Microsoft informed. "All e-mail
accounts on the expired domain name will be automatically removed and e-mail messages
will not be saved. You always have the option of keeping your Web site active with Office
Live Small Business on a free Web address such as if you don't feel the value of the
custom domain justifies the cost."

I kept telling myself, "There's no way a Microsoft entity can be THAT stupid." I was wrong.

Gavin Bollard said...

Technically these things aren't cloud computing but you're absolutely right... from the customer's point of view any offsiting (is there such a word) of data, is "cloud" to us.

Of course Domino isn't an exception to this, why only this week we had our offsite server disappear for no apparent reason.

The best thing was a response to my email of "please switch our server back on" that read, "Can you please advise your test details as to why you think it is down"

The answer;
I'm a customer. My data was available yesterday. It's not there now. We've still got internet access - so where is my data?

(btw: I didn't send that answer, I sent log files)

It's like money in a bank. It's nice to know that it's there and we're willing to trust ... but if the bank oneday says "what money?", we go into full panic mode.

There's something to be said for the comfort of knowing that at least you've got your own backup tapes (or replicas) and can restore without having to call for assistance.