As is widely reported (here by TechCrunch), Carbonite, an online backup service, have lost customer data. Another one of a long line-up of data losses, (whether partial or complete – which has taken some companies down) this demonstrates that relying on someone else to keep your data safe is not an infallible solution.
Now, don’t forget I’m a fan of the concept of cloud storage, but I also think that we need better data availability models to cope with the failure of a single provider (I wrote a series of posts on this starting here). However, reading the comments on the TechCrunch site, one entry from Chris Walker made me think that people aren’t understanding the way IT works:
“I believe data stores in S3 auto-replicates across multiple data centers so theoretically you should not encounter a data loss like this one – unless all of amazons data centers get nuked.”
Data loss is not purely a hardware failure issue. Information is lost for many reasons; whether that’s malicious data destruction, lack of forethought on IT design, a rolling disaster, failure in replication, or something else, you can’t assume just because data exists in multiple locations that it will be 100% safe.
Data security is as much about process as it is the technology. Here’s a few questions to ask:
- Is my data replicated in real-time (so if I delete/corrupt it, I ruin all copies)?
- Is my data saved in snapshots (helps prevent the above issue)?
- Is my data secured on multiple technology platforms (e.g. primary, secondary and/or tape storage)?
- How is my data being replicated (tools and process)?
- How can I prove my data has been backed up/replicated successfully?
- What level of user/electronic/physical security is in place?
Unfortunately, the appeal of online storage services today is the low cost and ease of use. Perhaps we should also be giving more weight and consideration to the value of our data before we commit to using these services; it may then be worth paying a little more to get a more resilient service, or to insure against the consequential losses of losing valuable data.