Flickr account holder Mirco Wilhelm was shocked to learn that Flickr had accidentally deleted his account, and apparently lacks the ability to restore his 4000 photographs to their site.
This was of course not his primary storage area for 5 years of photographic effort. His account only contained lower resolution copies of work that he has backed up at home. He obviously still has his photographs–loss of his primary data is not the issue or lesson here.
What this guy lost was a form of virtual publication, painfully built up over several years on Flickr. Not only does that ‘published work’ contain a large amount of metadata (tags and comments), accreted over several years by the Internet army, but it also sat within the context of other publications. In short, he lost his links. Five years of community building, online marketing, and a growing search engine presence are missing, and may never be recoverable.
His mistake was to rely on the wrong service provider. He mistook Flickr for a business-oriented site, when it actually is a consumer site. What he should have done was create his own website, using his own domain name, and he should have periodically backed that up to some other location. That would have allowed him to recover his site, restoring the original links. Even if he ended up having to use a new provider, the links would have been fine because he would still have control of his own domain name (the significance of this lesson was painfully learned by millions of GeoCities site holders) .
Wilhelm’s fatal error was assuming that a cheap cloud provider would always be there for him, and that he wouldn’t need to take any responsibility for backing up his increasingly rich virtual publication. The comments at the end of the Observer.com article (and a growing number of other commentaries) suggest a widespread misunderstanding about what level of service is actually provided by low-end cloud services:
“We are paying for having our pictures saved on their infrastructure and they’re not even making backups?”
“One should expect the cloud host to be making backups of its own, not only full backups but also incremental backups, as any reasonably mature data processing shop would do”
“Even the cheapest web hosting services provide monthly backups of your info in case [stuff] happens.”
Many enterprises are making the exact same mistake, presuming that their provider is backing up their data and capable of restoring it in case of an accident. There are a lot of SaaS applications used by commercial organizations that either have no offline backup at all, or backup is offered as a for-cost option that some buyers avoid. Likewise, users of low-end IaaS services have also experienced unexpected data loss.
Be cautious about vendor spin around misused terms such as RTO and RPO. If your vendor can’t tell you where your data is, including offline backups, then you shouldn’t assume that it ‘is’ at all.