February 12, 2009

The Pre And The Cloud And You #7

Filed under: Groundwork — mikecane @ 9:29 am


Two terrifying tales of the Dark Cloud:

Contacts on Ovi beta database failed – my deepest and most sincere apologies

Something bad happened yesterday. A cooler broke down in the hosting center that we run the Chat service in. This event lead in to two catastrophic consequences from our point of view. Firstly we had to ramp down the service down for a very long period, in fact most of the yesterday morning and afternoon we had a service break. Secondly, our database broke down. Despite the fact that we had regular back-ups, we were not able to set it right.

What we had to eventually do, was to return a back-up copy from our previous hosting center, created on the 23rd January 2009. As a consequence, anything that you’ve done since that (profile details, images, friendships) are gone. The problem has now been fixed and the server is now back and working. You should now be able to log back to your Contacts and start using it as normal. You do, however, need to invite your friends again etc.

Imagine that! Imagine meeting someone new, entering their Contact data, syncing to the Cloud — and then having a crash on your own phone, requiring restoration from the Cloud. And then you’re informed — Poof! — “Your data. We eated it!”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, what if an entire service you’ve set up in the Cloud goes FAIL?

Here’s a horrifying tale of catastrophe from Gear Diary: Surviving the Nuclear Winter after an Atomic Server Crash, Part One

About 9:30 I finally crawled out of the world’s most comfortable bed, had some cereal, played with Avah, watched CNN for a bit, and then sat in front of my computer to take a look at the morning’s email. I noticed that there were a bunch of comments pending moderation, so instead of doing them individually through the email interface, I logged into our Admin panel. I approved the first comment, and got a database error. Anyone who has ever used WordPress has seen errors before, and many times a quick refresh will right them. I backed up and tried approving comments again, and got the same error.


As I always do when something back-end happens that I can’t figure out, I called Ewdi – website code guru extraordinaire – catching him at lunch. He said he would get online as soon as he returned home. So in the meantime, I sat here waiting…hoping against hope that the site would come back online. Hoping that when Ewdi came on I could laughingly tell him “never mind, and I’m truly sorry for disturbing your lunch!”

But instead, I got to go through one of the most frustrating, depressing, and mind-numbing events any web-master could possibly endure.

It’s truly a gruesome tale that is worse than anything Stephen King could imagine (although now that he has a Kindle, maybe not!). It’s long but worth the read for an insight about what can happen behind the scenes with the technology we might have to rely on.

It’s going to be very interesting to see what strategies evolve as people attempt to maintain data-safe lives.

How many backups will be enough?


  1. I can imagine an even worse scenario. Suppose your phone autosyncs to a cloud database. You don’t trust it so you also sync to your desktop PIMs. The cloud database barfs and restores to an old version, which your phone obligingly autosyncs to as the latest revision. Not knowing this you sync to your desktop and BAM all your data is now back to the old version.

    Comment by Mark Reid — February 12, 2009 @ 10:01 am | Reply

  2. It’s not _those_ contacts that failed. Contacts on Ovi is a chat application, so if you met someone in the last three weeks and only entered their IM information, without following up and getting the rest of their info, then yes, you have lost touch. But if you entered their contact info into the address book, that is still there as nothing happened with the service.

    It’s important to remember what data you are using in the cloud and to make backups of important data (which the regular Ovi sync, of which you are thinking, does) but one is simply an idiot if they store their information in one brand new beta service.

    Comment by Kevin Neely — February 12, 2009 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

  3. I’m not sure I understand the cloud hate/fear. Sure, cloud failure can happen, but I’m guessing that non-cloud users probably loose their data more frequently due to local hardware/software failures which are not recoverable due to lack of back ups. So, the cloud probably helps out the causal users and the more sophisticated users can still run frequent backups from which they can restore and re-seed their cloud.

    Given how reliant the Pre will be on cloud services, I’d think it is possible that Palm would anticipate cloud problems and would set up some on-device local backup of data.

    Comment by Galt — February 12, 2009 @ 10:53 pm | Reply

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