On Friday afternoon, October 2nd, T-Mobile Sidekick users began experiencing trouble with their phones, with many losing access to the Internet as well as to their online address books. According to this story at GIZMODO, the problems were expected initially to be fixed by the end of the day Saturday the 3rd.
When that didn't happen, the story notes, T-Mobile said that the problems would mostly be fixed by Monday, the 5th of October.
However, that was not to be either.
In fact, on Tuesday, the 6th of October, CNET was reporting that:
"Microsoft, whose Danger subsidiary powers the Sidekick service, said it is 'working urgently' to deal with the problems, which interrupted data service for most Sidekick users starting at 1:30 a.m. PDT on Friday. The level of disruption has varied, though most users have been affected, Microsoft said."
The CNET story went on to say that Microsoft claimed that it had restored service as of 0600 PDT, October 6, for "critical applications including address book and calendar, social media applications, IM, web browsing, media player and camera. ... Our goal is to have all services restored to 100 percent functionality by Thursday (8 October); however there may be some exceptions."
Well, the "exceptions" came to light over the weekend.
That's when Microsoft admitted that a technical problem likely caused the loss of contacts, photos and other personal data for T-Mobile Sidekick users.
This past Saturday, T-Mobile put out this press release that said,
"Regrettably, based on Microsoft/Danger's latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device - such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos - that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger. That said, our teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low."
As noted by this story today in the Wall Street Journal,
"The loss of personal data is especially awkward for Microsoft since Sidekick's online service is designed, in part, to ensure personal information can be easily recovered if a device is lost or destroyed. The safety of data is a big part of the appeal of 'cloud services,' a broad trend in which local computing functions and data move into computers in data centers."
I wonder how long it will take before cloud computing companies ramp up their advertising and marketing campaigns to try to frame this little incident as an aberration that couldn't possibly happen to them.
If some information is really important to you, keep your own back-ups.
T-Mobile has been apologizing for more than a week for the outage and said it would credit users for one month's service because of the interruption.
I am sure that will make up for it.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.