The Ugly Backside of Online Backup

I was just showing off my new Gmail/Remember the Milk marriage, which is truly a cool tool and worth checking out, to my slightly less new wife. Her response was: but it’s online. How can I use it if I’m offline?

I slapped her about verbally, of course, because you can’t be doing with that kind of defeatist talk at Loose Wire HQ, but she’s actually right: The great Achilles Heel of online is that it’s, well, online.

A shining, and sobering example of this problem is online backup. Of all the online backup tools that looked the most serious, Omnidrive was ahead of a big pack. Until recently. This from Webware: 

We got an e-mail earlier today from a Webware reader and Omnidrive user who told us the online storage service has been out since early this morning. We sleuthed around a little and tried to get in touch with Omnidrive CEO Nik Cubrilovic, whose personal blog is also down, although we’ve heard nothing back yet. As of publishing this, the service is still down.

That’s still true. I don’t have stuff stored there, but I feel for the guys who do. The problem with asking consumers to entrust their stuff to you is that it’s about trust: Lose it and you’re lost forever.

My blog has become a minor Mecca (can you have minor Meccas?) for those disenchanged with Xdrive since it was bought by AOL, so much so that somone claiming to be Robert Blatt of AOL posted a comment yesterday trying to repair some of the damage and get people back to the service.

His comments reflect a rare honesty from AOL about the size of the problem (whenever someone corporate uses the word “challenges” you need to replace it with something very much stronger. It’s the corporate equivalent of self-flagellation and an acknowledgement of having screwed up big time):

First of all, a disclaimer, not only do I work for AOL but I am responsible for both the Xdrive and BlueString products.

With that said, over the last year we have made tremendous efforts to improve the reliability and performance of the underlying infrastructure that drives both Xdrive and BlueString. We use Keynote monitoring 24X7 to measure consumers’ ability to login, upload, and access their online assets. Over the last six months these numbers have consistently been above 99% availability. If consumers who use this blog are continuing to have problems please post so that we can understand and rectify.

With respect to customer support, we both understand and agree with the challenges that people have been having. We have recently increased our focus and our resources to address this issue. Changes like this always take a bit of time but I am confident that we will have the same kind of success that we have had in improving the product.

Finally, look for a new, easier to use interface for Xdrive during the first quarter of 2008. We are working hard to erase the boundary that currently exists for consumers between their desktop and the internet.

I’m sure Robert doesn’t need to be told that in the world of online storage it’s a case of once bitten, twice you’re far, far away and would only be lured back by the promise of vestal virgins and free Porsches. Would you ever entrust something as valuable as your backups to someone who lost them the first time around?

The rule of thumb of online backup is, sadly: Think of it as a sort of luxury. Not as something you can rely on. Because of that, I can’t imagine why someone would pay for it.

09. January 2008 by jeremy
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 comments

Comments (9)

  1. Hopefully it’s just the Omnidrive website that is down, a user commented on the Webware post that they could still access their account via the Windows client.

  2. Scott, thanks for this. I tried with the Windows client and couldn’t get in.

  3. Oh no … could be the worst case scenario then. 🙁 It’s times like this that make an external hard drive a very attractive and prudent purchase!

  4. Honnestly, even if I do use storage services, I always keep a secure copy on my harddisk(s). Whether I use Box.Net (costly) or FastMail (Mail+Files), I always backup my files using Transmit (on Mac) to synchronise (copy only newest files) or just an FTPS (FastMail only) download of all files (if I’m on a Windows).

    I do agree with the author of this blog : XDrive is a jerk. If you like Xdrive, you will love DriveHQ.com (free 1GB) or FilesAnywhere (too).

  5. Sounds like a good idea. Only one other issue with this is that in Ireland the upload and download speeds are terrible (in comparision to other countries like the USA and most of the EU). It will be painfully slow until Ireland gets fiber connections and lower contention rates….

  6. Omnidrive is online again, a hard drive failed (via the blog).

  7. This blog is interestering reading. You should check out a company called perfectbackup, http://www.perfectbackup.co.uk. They offer 99.999% availability (no more than 3 minuted downtime in a year) and have a combined 106GBPS to their data centre. More importantly they offer a 1GB free for life account, all packages come with a £1,000,000 data restore guarantee.

  8. anything less than 100% availability is surely a compromise in todays market.
    another one
    idrive, poss one of the biggest and v. cheap.
    if your an it student,
    http://www.backupanytime.com
    free online backup for masters students and free for life for it grads. The commercial packs aint dear either. 100 uptime 100 guarantee of data availability.

    Regarding the ugly side of online backup….
    We wont see that till one of these companies goes bust. I cant see an example of it on the web yet but it is sure to happen and sure to make noise…

  9. Another interesting softwereis MEMOPAL (www.memopal.com). 250GB storage and file sharing