This Wednesday marks the 10-year anniversary since one of the largest cloud storage providers of its day unceremoniously bit the dust. While many have forgotten, and nearly all have moved on to alternative solutions, I believe that it is critically important that we take this week to carefully consider the impact of this event on everybody who has important data to save.
In case it gets lost in the delivery, or if the post is just too long to read in its entirety, my message is simple: Cloud storage can be an important supplement to our backup strategies, but in light of what happened 10 years ago to MegaUpload, and more recently, in January of 2021 with the whole Parler debacle, it should now be obvious that such services should not be relied upon exclusively for storage of any important materials. In the same way that a single hard drive in one computer should not be the sole residence of critical files, it’s time to start getting serious about not relying too much on any one piece of storage technology.
At the time, according to reporting by The Guardian, MegaUpload accounted for “4% of total Internet traffic.” Obviously, the landscape has since changed significantly, but the tactics of the censors have not. MegaUpload shut down overnight with no warning to users the same way that Pebble Technology Corporation did shortly after it was purchased by FitBit in December of 2016, freezing all pending warranty claims for nearly 5 years until the dust settled. In the best of cases, we are given weeks or even months to prepare for major infrastructural changes, and it’s at those times when we plan our migration strategies that we finally begin to grasp the scope of how much data we now have as individuals or as organizations.
10 years ago, when this incident first happened, and the world began to mourn the loss, a very important lesson was bestowed upon my impressionable young mind, that being that if something as massive as MegaUpload isn’t safe, then what is? That very week, I made a pledge to start taking data safety more seriously. This started out as routine disk image backups of my Lenovo, but later morphed into a hybrid approach where I also added Microsoft OneDrive as a secondary destination for critical files, along with a network attached storage device featuring redundant disks. Later, this evolved to include a desktop computer off-site with largely the same set of files synchronized, ensuring that most non-zombie-apocalypse-level outcomes are accounted for.
While cloud storage is extraordinarily convenient and useful, these cautionary tales of forces beyond the user’s control irreparably and irrecoverably destroying access to files have forever forced me to rethink the way that I prepare for the worst. For that reason, I am declaring January to be Backup Remembrance Month, when we all can consider the events of the past 10 years and take a weekend or two, reflecting on and taking inventory of, how we are protecting our own files. I don’t advocate for any specific methodology, brand, cloud storage provider, or protocol. Just don’t let this month go by without making sure that your backups are in sound condition.
we are given weeks or even months to prepare for major infrastructural changes, and it’s at those times when we plan our migration strategies that we finally begin to grasp the scope of how much data we now have as individuals or as organizations.
Excellent article, thank you! Personally I have always felt that if I don’t physically have the data I neither own nor control it. I make two backups; regularly to an external 2.5″ 1Tb drive, which is then (less regularly) synced to a Synology NAS with 8Tb of storage. I also carry some really essential stuff on my SailfishOS phone, which is fitted with an encrypted 64Gb MicroSD card for the purpose. As far as practical I try to never have all copies in the same physical location. It’s been several decades since I last suffered any data loss, and I still retain some really ancient stuff, like the MP3’s I ripped from my CDs before selling them in the late 1990s! A side benefit is that performing local backups is really quick at USB3 speeds, compared to doing it over the mobile Internet connection I mostly use – and it doesn’t use any bandwidth.