An outage causes users to lose their pictures and other personal data, casting doubts on the cloud

Cloud computing is one of the hottest buzz words in the computer industry today.  All of the biggest companies -- Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Yahoo -- are trying to jump on it and figure out how to sell it to customers.  However, outages in service have led many to doubt whether the cloud -- offloading storage, computing and other resources to a centralized external location -- is really such a good idea.

Microsoft's subsidiary Danger, purchased in 2008, is one of the most extensive adopters of cloud computing.  All customers of the company's Sidekick phones use cloud services from Danger to provide information to contacts, calendars, IM and SMS, media player, and other applications on phone, and conversely to store data from these apps.  The service seemed convenient and efficient.

However, Danger has experienced a catastrophic cloud computing failure – starting Friday October 2, customers across the country began to lose their service.  The entire weekend the service remained out, with service finally being restored by Tuesday, October 6.

Then came the bad news for Danger's customers -- it had lost all of their data, including personal items like pictures.  States a T-Mobile message to subscribers, "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."

T-Mobile urged users to keep their phones on and charged during the outage.  According to Engadget the company has also suspended sales of the Sidekick phones.

The disaster places Microsoft in an awkward position.  A strong supporter of cloud computing, producing the first widely available cloud operating system -- Windows Azure -- Microsoft obviously believed the practice to be sound.  And with Danger producing Microsoft's upcoming phones, codenamed "Pink", it seems likely that Danger was going to deliver service to the phone via the cloud.

For now the fallout is mostly on Danger's shoulders, but Microsoft has to weigh whether to risk taking such a public relations hit on its own phones by opting for services from the cloud.  When it comes to cloud computing, it's clear that while the idea is promising, poor implementations and lack of redundancy can mean major headaches for all parties involved.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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