How Did Danger Not Backup Its Servers? How Did Microsoft Allow Such A Failure?

from the one-of-those-times-where-epic-fail-applies dept

I bought the very first Danger smartphone the day it came out (rare for me -- I'm not so much of an early adopter on mobile phones). One of the features I liked the best was the fact that all of the data on the phone was immediately and automatically backed up to Danger's servers. Since then, I've always been amazed that other providers didn't make similar features standard. Danger never fully lived up to its hype, and eventually sold out to Microsoft. It was never entirely clear why Microsoft would want Danger, but at the very least you would think that it would make sure that the servers were pretty safe and redundant. Or so you would think. Apparently Danger had a massive server failure and is warning people that their data may be completely lost. The company is telling people not to turn off their devices, as the only way to keep the data alive is to keep the phone going.

It's difficult to think of a system failure that makes a company look quite this bad. Tons of people have Sidekick phones and rely on server backup to keep their data. Not having a working redundant backup is a stunning sort of failure for Microsoft, and should remind people of the inherent dangers in relying on a cloud based service. While there are lots of cloud-based solutions that are quite useful, people are definitely going to need to be able to have alternative local and remote backups to make sure that, in this kind of situation, they're not totally relying on a company who should do things right, but perhaps did not.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 8:36am

    Massive FAIL

    With so many options to redundantly backup data today, I have to wonder along w/you how something like this happens. Most enterprise BDR solutions come w/an onsite/offsite structure to give you multiple points of restoration.

    What we use internally, for instance, backs up locally for quick restores and than replicates to an offsite secure datacenter on one side of the country. When it's done doing that it replicates from the one offsite to a 2nd offsite on the OTHER side of the country. For us, and the customers who use our recommendation for this solution, that offers us three restore points.

    We like to tell people that to lose their data, their building would have to burn down AND global warming would have to sink California...otherwise they're in good shape.

     

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    Vadim, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 8:49am

    Danger

    Man,
    It is called DANGER,
    For Christ sake what did you expect from a product with such a name?

    :):)

     

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    roxanneadams (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:02am

    Why didn't the Sidekick owners back up their data with the Intellisync PC software that came with their devices?

     

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    Wesha, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    Worst thing, Sidekick doesn't offer a way to offload your data. AT ALL!!! When I canceled the service, I had to write a script to go to their web UI and pull my emails off it, as there was no other way whatsoever! That's just crazy!!!

     

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    davesmall, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Buy an iPhone

    Goes to show that depending on Microsoft or any other cloud computing services vendor is risky.

    Not only is iPhone the best smart phone on the market, it backs up to your own computer during syncing. That's the best way to go.

     

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      John Doe, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:31am

      Re: Buy an iPhone

      Yes, because we know that all iPhone users have their computers backed up as well. Those iPhone users are so dang smart.

       

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        Rabbit80, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:59am

        Re: Re: Buy an iPhone

        My WinMo phone backs up over the internet automatically with my server (in fact I just changed ROM today, it took less than 2 mins to restore everything!) - whats your point?

         

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      DS, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:53am

      Re: Buy an iPhone

      Is one other PC/Server considered Cloud Computing?

       

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    deadzone (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:14am

    Wow

    This is a stunning failure on the part of Microsoft and T-Mobile. I cannot believe that they didn't have some sort of redundant back-up solution in place!

    There will be some major fallout from this cluster*%@# I bet.

     

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      John Doe, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:33am

      Re: Wow

      It is a first rate failure for T-Mobile as it is up to them to contract with providers who can do the job. Their contract should specify backups, redundancy, load balancing and all other manners of service level agreements.

      Of course it is a first rate failure on Microsoft's part for getting into this situation without proper backups. Surely they understand the need for it?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 11:48am

        Re: Re: Wow

        It is a first rate failure for T-Mobile as it is up to them to contract with providers who can do the job.

        No, by that line of reasoning it's actually a massive FAIL for the subscribers. After all, they're the one who signed contracts with T-Mobile that didn't "specify backups, redundancy, load balancing and all other manners of service level agreements". T-Mobile was under no contractual obligation to provide such things and so did not require them of own their providers.

         

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          John Doe, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 12:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: Wow

          So not being under any contractual obligations lets them off the hook? What about the black eye they are getting? Not being under contract with the consumer is one thing. Making sure they didn't suffer a loss to avoid embarrassment and possible mass exodus to other providers is their fault.

          So yes, massive FAIL for TMobile.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Wow

            So not being under any contractual obligations lets them off the hook?

            Well, you're the one who introduced the "contract" reasoning.

            What about the black eye they are getting?

            What about it? That's not a contract issue.

            So yes, massive FAIL for TMobile.

            Massive FAIL for you for not even being able to stick to your own reasoning.

             

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    Liam, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:15am

    cloud

    Biggest problem with the cloud, is that you are essentially keep all your data on someone else's computer, and trusting them with it all.

    Not good in my book. I'll use your services, but let me keep my data local.

     

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    Vista, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:22am

    "How Did Microsoft Allow Such A Failure?"

    Hi.

     

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    Se7en, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:32am

    Damn

    That is brutal. And Microsoft is launching Azure this month?

     

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    ash, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:45am

    sidekick

    The more I read about the phone - can't connect to it, relies solely on a bad cloud implementation...why the hell would anyone use this? Wouldn't it be obvious right away to anyone that cared about such things that the Sidekick is just a failed attempt at a smartphone? It seems more like a psp with phone capability than anything else. If you don't mind not having direct access to the data you are storing on a device that is in your pocket every day, then it probably isn't really important data.

    This whole system was in place to begin with. It's not as though MS got a hold of it and changed the way the phone worked so that it sucked. It already sucked. None of the WinMo phones behave this way...no smartphone does. The sidekick is a toy. I find it curious that someone would be smart enough to write a script to pull their data off of Danger's web pages, but not smart enough to ditch the thing as soon as they realized they had to write a script in order to have an offline copy of their stuff.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

      Re: sidekick

      This whole system was in place to begin with. It's not as though MS got a hold of it and changed the way the phone worked so that it sucked. It already sucked.

      That's why it fit so well with them.

       

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    NullOp, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 10:05am

    Server Failure

    There are two kinds of people in this world, those that have lost data and those that will. Apparently, Microsoft helped a whole bunch of people into the ladder group. This is the kind of thing people lose jobs over. Who from MS is on their way out?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 12:08pm

      Re: Server Failure

      This is the kind of thing people lose jobs over. Who from MS is on their way out?

      Someone from the mail room maybe? How about an intern? Remember, sh*t runs down hill so don't expect one of the bosses to be a sacrificial lamb.

       

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    DH, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 10:10am

    Microsoft's ongoing failures

    Yes, there are definitely dangers in cloud computing, but this is Microsoft we're talking about here. I'm not shocked anymore by any catastrophic failures on Microsoft's part. From operating systems to gaming consoles to application software to, now, smart phones, Microsoft continues to demonstrate that nothing they do is worth the money they charge, no matter how much they discount the price.

    When is the world going to wake up?

     

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    Clippy, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 10:56am

    Re: How Did Microsoft Allow Such A Failure?

    Do you need a hand with your backups? I can show you how!

     

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    lux (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    Interesting

    Hopefully whatever is lost can't be that important, since you are only saving it on your phone!

     

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    Jake, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 11:19am

    This is a perfect example of why I keep my data backed up on a hard drive I personally own and maintain.

     

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    Mark, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 11:31am

    Microsoft doesn't get the cloud

    I remember when Microsoft grudgingly upped my free Hotmail space limit to 250 MB, in response to the new, previously-unheard of 1GB limit at GMail. In raising my limit, Microsoft somehow managed to delete all my existing email --several years' worth.

    Cloud computing may have its attendant risks, but of Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, only Microsoft has ever deleted all my stuff. I would never, ever trust them with my data -- not on a Windows OS, not in an Office application, and certainly not ever in the "cloud".

    The difference between Google and Microsoft in this respect couldn't be more obvious. Google may screw up eventually, but they strike me as archivists by nature. Microsoft? No way.

     

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      Jake, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 4:12pm

      Re: Microsoft doesn't get the cloud

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think Microsoft can be forgiven for thinking that anyone who got an email they'd need to refer back to would keep a backup copy somewhere.

       

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    j. wyatt (profile), Oct 12th, 2009 @ 11:45am

    back this up on your iPhone

    I use my winMo phone with g-mail and google-contacts. Instant update and back up with over-the-air automatic sync. Doesn't seem to be a problem. Cheez-it.

    And while AT&T tries to tell me what apps I can run on my phone (no worries, it's unlocked now ;) ), Microsoft can't kill anything - unlike the iPhone.

     

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      identicon
      Steve Ballmer, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

      Re: back this up on your iPhone

      "I use my winMo phone with g-mail and google-contacts"

      Well stop fucking doing that you little pussy, before I throw a chair at you, you little fucking traitor!

      PS - Way to slam the iPhone though... I did pop a boner when you did that. Just get off the Google teat, will ya'?

      SB

       

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    identicon
    Ryan, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    common sense

    People people, we are forgetting, nobody bought a sidekick because it worked, they bought it because everyone else did.

    Only one person made a mistake, everyone else was just part of the "trend"

     

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  •  
    identicon
    cc, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 3:14pm

    "Duh, OS/2 was IBM, not microsoft."

    Indeed. If anything, OS/2 was a Win for Microsoft -- they ousted IBM out of the PC market using that kind of sleaze.

     

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      OS2, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:35pm

      Re:

      Not in deed. If we are talking about deeds, then it was Microsoft's deed to create an operating system for IBM. They either failed at this, or never intended on delivering OS2. It was allowed to die on the vine until their customer, IBM gave up.

      Great legacy Microsoft. Ruthless and incapable of completing a contract for one of your best customers, and the customer who, by the way, was responsible for your very success.

      This is what they have now done to a million T-Mobile customers.

      OS2: Yet another failure that Microsoft "allowed".

       

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 4:51pm

    No Big Surprise

    It’s very difficult to back up a Microsoft OS. You need special “ghosting” tools—you can’t just do straight file copies with an off-the-shelf tool like rsync, the way you can on a Unix/Linux system.

    I know what you’re thinking—isn’t the OS a separate thing from user data? It is on a rationally-designed OS, where you can backup and restore one without touching the other. Unfortunately that’s not true of Microsoft OSes.

     

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    joel Bradshaw, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 5:15pm

    They wanted to make the cloud look bad...

    What if micro$oft who has waaay too much money and wants more... had an evil idea to help discredit the cloud. Buy a company with cloud services, let if fail, show how fragile data is, and steer people back to fat apps that reside on their own computers and servers which they can backup as often as they like....


    not saying that's the case, but it would help their cause, and hurt people who see the cloud as the future...

     

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      Yoofa, Oct 12th, 2009 @ 9:39pm

      Re: They wanted to make the cloud look bad...

      Interesting position.

      They *definitely* have done one thing:

      They have hurt my confidence in *any* cloud proposition that Microsoft would care to float in the future. I'd rather stick needles in my eyes.

      Data *is* fragile. Don't trust Ballmer with it...

       

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    cc, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 5:33am

    The Win pun was completely wasted on you, man! But that's OK because puns aren't really funny.

     

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    cc, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 5:35am

    "What if micro$oft who has waaay too much money and wants more... had an evil idea to help discredit the cloud. Buy a company with cloud services, let if fail, show how fragile data is, and steer people back to fat apps that reside on their own computers and servers which they can backup as often as they like...."

    Then it's no less far-fetched to say this is sabotage by some other company who wants to hurt Microsoft's cloud efforts.

     

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    jsf (profile), Oct 13th, 2009 @ 6:59am

    NOT Cloud Computing

    One thing that gets skipped in this whole thing is that Danger/Sidekick is not a cloud computing service. It is a plain old client/server system. Unlike a true cloud system there was single place where all the data was stored. The data was not spread over multiple systems in a dynamically scalable manner. If it would have been an actual cloud based system the loss of data would have only effected a small portion of users, if any at all.

     

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    cc, Oct 13th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    I disagree. The Cloud is just a marketing buzzword to describe a twist on the plain old client/server model. Load balancing/redundancy/replicas, distributed data structures etc etc have been around forever. The thing is, we don't actually know which of those things Danger had in place, if any.

    In the end, it is a matter of putting all the consumers' eggs in the same basket and giving the basket to a bunch of strangers. What reassurance do you have that those strangers won't conveniently forget to set up replicas to cut their costs, or, perhaps worse yet, get curious and start poking in your private data?
    I wouldn't personally want to put _all_ the data on my computer on somebody else's server no matter how safe or secure they claim it is!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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