Tony Bain

Building products & teams that leverage data, analytics, AI & automation to do amazing things

Who cares about your data?

January 04, 2009 | Tony Bain

An example of combustionImage via Wikipedia

JournalSpace, a blogging website which had been around for 6 years but failed recently when their server died and they realized they didn’t have any backups of their users data.  This is bad for them and bad for the users of their services as presumably thousands of blog posts (their users data) have been lost.

Their defense was nonsense, they essentially blamed someone who didn’t work there any longer.  Phftt, a business whose sole purpose is to manage data which doesn’t have a sound backup strategy is the fault of the entire business not of one no longer employed IT guy.  Ultimately it doesn’t matter whatever the excuses are because regardless it seems the data is gone.  As we move more and more data to web services we are going to see more and more occurrences of this.  The problem is, the difference between a ‘web site’ going boom in the 2000 crash and a ‘web service’ going boom in the current climate is that web services are much more likely to eat data that matters to you.

This highlights a key issue as we move more data into a cloud services world.  While we are beginning to transition the management of information from our direct control to the control of a service provider, at the end of the day who has the ultimate responsibility to make sure your data is backed up?  Should you or your business trust your service provider to undertake a recovery strategy that will ensure you will always be protected from data loss?  You can’t see what is happening behind the scenes in their data centers so do you trust that they always remember to put the tapes in or do you trust that they are doing off sites in case of fire?   Do you trust that they actually have a data center and that their web service isn’t just been served up from someone’s PC under a desk somewhere?  Maybe you do, but do you also trust them to pay all their bills on time and not be shut down and disappear overnight?

I think the key learning here is that even in a web services world the only person who is going to have the same level of care and responsibility for your data as you do is you.  If your blog posts are important then you should have them backed up somewhere.  If your Amazon S3 data files are important then you should have them backup up somewhere.  If your Flickr photos are important these should be backed up somewhere.  If your tweets are important, or your Facebook friends list, and so on…

Good web services providers will provide good data recovery but will also understand that users are going to want the ability to provide additional protection to their own data.  They should in fact make it easy for users to do this by be providing the necessary API’s or interfaces to allow third party web services to hook into the users data and make copies of it elsewhere.

There are a lot of great web services out there that allow you to publish, store and share your data in ways like never before.  But remember that your data is yours and it is up to you to make sure it is protected whatever circumstance may arise.