The T-Mobile-Microsoft Sidekick data disaster: Poor IT management going mainstream

The T-Mobile-Microsoft Sidekick data disaster: Poor IT management going mainstream

Summary: If you're a T-Mobile Sidekick user who put data, contacts and other items in the cloud we have some bad news for you: Your data is gone...probably forever.

TOPICS: CXO, Mobility

If you're a T-Mobile Sidekick user who put data, contacts and other items in the cloud we have some bad news for you: Your data is gone...probably forever. With cloud computing increasingly reaching the masses the average consumer will soon be enmeshed in the world of poor IT management. Welcome on board the IT failure express.

T-Mobile depended on Microsoft's Danger unit to provide data services. Danger's servers blew and apparently there weren't backups. Oops. T-Mobile's forums reveal (Techmeme):

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.

T-Mobile then sends you to an FAQ so you can rebuild your contacts. In a nutshell, Microsoft/Danger can't recover your data. Granted, it's only photos, contacts and the rest of your life, but it could have been worse I suppose. Here are a few observations from this debacle:

  • Poor IT management is going mainstream. As we rely on the cloud more there will become a day when everyone will have some basic knowledge of IT management. Rest assured, Sidekick customers will know you're supposed to back up your servers better. Gmail customers may learn a bit about scalability. And TD Bank customers certainly know that you can't merge systems without a fallback plan if things go awry.
  • Cloud is nice. Hybrid may be better. A local backup of data is a necessary backup to the cloud. After all, photos, contacts and other items could be summed up in two words: Your life. T-Mobile's hybrid approach: Don't reset your phone.
  • These IT snafus will become more public. In many cases, IT failures happen behind the scenes. IT failures usually ding a company's financial results or operations and there's a good bit of finger pointing (the consultant, vendor, customer loop). Customer facing applications usually don't blow up in such spectacular fashion. Today, all applications are becoming customer facing.
  • Corporate reputations will be partially be based on IT management skills. The number of IT failures and a company's reaction to IT screwups will feed into a corporation's reputation.

IT failures make our little world go around---Michael Krigsman (our IT Mr. Sunshine) even has a blog dedicated to them---and now you're on the IT failure express too. Welcome.

Topics: CXO, Mobility

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  • Always have local copies of your data

    The above is why it is a bad idea to put your fate in someone else's hands when you have a choice. By default, keep your data processing and data stores local, and then use cloud services when they suit you. All these kiddies and kiddie minded think they don't have to look at history to realize that it is a good idea to put your fate in your own hands as much as possible - and not entirely rely on others / the cloud, to ensure your well being.
    P. Douglas
    • So why bother with the cloud

      if its already so unrealiable. I and many others warned about this all along. I didn't expect this to happen so soon but it certainly proves our point. Especially since such large and professional(?) companies blew it so badly!! If the data was your business then your dead in the water and the Tax man will not accept that as an excuse.

      If you need to back up everything locally and need to run programs locally then what is the point of the cloud? Just for a few less critical things? Hardly worth all the fuss and bother really!! Just another sparkly toy that techno jerks go off about but is basically useless and now extremely dangerous thanks to even the biggest in the business proving how wrong it is.
  • Very few IT admins...

    actually have the skill to do their jobs. In 18 years of this I have run across so many IT admins that truly don't have a clue about their jobs.

    One of the biggest problems is that companies do not want to pay wages for skilled workers. So they get what they pay for and that isn't much.
    • Fire IT seniors, keep stock prices up

      Stockholders love a good firing sweep. Unfortunately, most
      companies have fired ALL good solid IT seniors, and we're left to deal
      with immature, incompetent and hostile neophytes. They only
      understand MS Windows, and they argue, shout and pound their little
      desks about every little non-sensical issue in meeting rooms from
      8AM-5PM. They mangle otherwise well-running legacy systems.
      Aggressive VM salesman and vendors sell them $mil in BS, as each has
      a "one-stop-fix" for every problem. They're too inept and ignorant to
      know better.

      They self-gloat, try to have each other fired, then they go home, text
      all the way home, then start it all over tomorrow. But boy, those
      stockholders have been VERY happy till today.

      Redemption - the seniors cannot be brought back, they won't go.
      Systems are down. Performance is awful. Savvy seniors won't even
      answer the phone - I LOVE it !
  • RE: The T-Mobile-Microsoft Sidekick data disaster: Poor IT management going

    Once a month make and export a back up of your contacts,
    data, pictures, etc. That way if something like this
    happens you are not totally out of luck. In fact, I am
    going to do this with my CRM contacts right now...
    • You should have already been doing that

      Not doing backups of your data is just plain dumb, and a full system backup ccasionally as well if you have any sense at all.
  • Grammar Nazi alert

    I am sure you meant to write "your data ARE gone".
    • AP style seems to indicate

      that it's singular.

      Web Style Guide

      Writing for the Web follows the Department?s style, which is based on the AP Stylebook exit disclaimer

      Listed below are Exceptions and points that AP does not discuss. These are based on review by a writing guide working group. Also below are Points to Remember, and common stylistic errors.

      Exceptions from AP style

      Abbreviations for States ? We use Postal Service style, not AP style. So: MS, MO, MN and MI, not Miss., Mo., Minn. and Mich.

      Academic Degrees ? It is AP style to use ?Dr.? before a name when the person holds a medical degree. Our style will be John Jones, M.D., although Dr. Jones would be an acceptable second reference. We have many people whose doctorates are important in the jobs but which are in other areas than medicine, such as a Ph.D. Second reference could be to Dr. Jones or simply to Jones, but it should be consistent. Whichever we use, we should use throughout.

      Acting (as a job title) ?The AP does not capitalize ?acting? as a job title. We do. Acting is a term of law when applied to a person holding an HHS position, because an acting holder of a position can have different levels of responsibility than would a permanent appointee. Acting should be capitalized as part of a formal title if a person is officially named to that job. Similarly, if a person is not officially named an acting holder of a position, avoid even lower case use. If the title follows the name, however, use lower case, as proper grammar.So: Acting FDA Commissioner John Jones, but John Jones, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

      Agency Names and Use of the Word ?The? ? We would use ?the? before the agency name (the Office of the Inspector General) if the agency commonly is known with that usage. As for the abbreviations, it would be up to the agency to decide if the public would refer to the agency commonly by its initials and know what that means, and the name is being used as a noun (the FDA announced.) AP copy commonly uses ?the? before FDA. That?s not the case for agencies less well-known.

      AIDS ?AP has it as just ?AIDS.? We would write it as HIV/AIDS, as more exact, when we mean the infectious disease in general, and HIV when we are talking about the virus or the pre-AIDS stage. We would not use human immunodeficiency virus alone because more people would recognize it by its acronym. If the disease has advanced to the level at which it is clinically defined as AIDS, we would say that.

      Avian Flu-Pandemic Flu (Or Influenza) ? Because the AP Stylebook does not have this, here is the correct use of terms from

      Terms Defined? Seasonal (or common) flu is a respiratory illness that can be transmitted person to person. Most people have some immunity, and a vaccine is available.

      Avian (or bird) flu is caused by influenza viruses that occur naturally among wild birds. The H5N1 variant is deadly to domestic fowl and can be transmitted from birds to humans. There is no human immunity and no vaccine is available.

      Pandemic flu is virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person. Currently, there is no pandemic flu.

      Commissioned Corps ?We can refer in upper case to the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, or say a person is an officer in the Commissioned Corps (provided we already identified the Commissioned Corps as part of the U.S. Public Health Service).

      Datelines ?In general, we don?t need them in news releases because the letterhead or Web page provides location identification. When we use datelines, they should reflect where the news comes from. If the news is at an event in Chicago and the agency is in Washington, the dateline city is Chicago. If the announcement comes from Washington about an event to take place in Chicago, the dateline city is Washington. When the release is a roundup ? for instance, a multicenter study in which the news comes from several areas and the writer or the agency was not in any of those places ? we would not use a dateline. This would be similar to AP style for roundups.

      Headlines?All words in headlines are in bold, upper and lower, Times New Roman. When subheads are needed, regular or regular italic is acceptable. In both, 12 point is used.

      HHS ? The official acronym, replacing DHHS.

      SARS? Acceptable in all references for severe acute respiratory syndrome, but it should be spelled out somewhere in the story.

      Satellite Communications ?Following are some generally used technical terms dealing with satellite communications.

      Uplink: Transmission from the ground to the satellite; and

      Downlink: Transmission from the satellite to the ground, and Footprint: The area on the ground in which a transmission from a particular satellite can be received.

      AP Style Points to Remember

      Academic Degrees and Professional Affiliations

      We don?t have to use every degree and professional association in referring to people. When a person has multiple degrees, use the degree most appropriate to the news in the release. For instance, a researcher with a Ph.D. in epidemiology and an MBA would take only the Ph.D. in a release related to epidemiology, but the Ph.D. and the MBA in a release about management of a program related to his field of study.

      Do not mention professional associations by abbreviation (e.g., FACS, FAAP) after a person?s name. If the news is about the professional association, write out the name of the association, and write out the affiliation of the person in the release (e.g., Dr. Jones, a member of the American College of Surgeons).


      We should follow AP style and use as few as possible. It would be better to write out names each time they occur, or to use a short reference, as reporters do, than to force the reader to glance back up the copy to relearn an acronym.

      We commonly use acronyms for agency names. If it is a well-known agency such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health, we don?t need a (CDC) or an (NIH) after the first reference. We can refer simply to the CDC and the NIH on second reference.

      If it is a less-familiar agency, we can refer in a general way on second reference without using an acronym. An example: After referring to the FDA?s Center for Drug Evaluation and Review, subsequent references would refer to the center rather than to CDER or the Center. If we must use CDER, such as in a release that refers to more than one FDA center, we would put the acronym directly after the first reference to the agency name.

      Administration (as in a presidential administration)

      Lower case, per AP style

      Chairman, chairwoman

      Not chairperson


      Lower case, except in a proper name


      AP says we can use data as singular if we refer to a body of data, such as an entire report, and use data as plural if we refer to more than one data point. So: The data is clear. But some data are not clear.

      Since I'm talking about your data I went with singular.

      But you can argue the other way too.

      I'll ask around...
      Larry Dignan
      • Found this in the AP Stylebook


        A plural noun, it normally takes plural verbs and pronouns.

        See the collective nouns entry, however, for an example of when data may take singular verbs and pronouns.

        collective nouns

        Nouns that denote a unit take singular verbs and pronouns: class, committee, crowd, family, group, herd, jury, orchestra, team.

        Some usage examples: The committee is meeting to set its agenda. The jury reached its verdict. A herd of cattle was sold.
      • Verdict

        The stylebook consensus: In this case, when used as a collective noun, data is singular.

        Personal note: The days were numbered for "Data are" when we stopped used "datum" in favor of "data point." :-)

        --David Grober, ZDNet Style Czar
        David Grober
  • RE: The T-Mobile-Microsoft Sidekick data disaster: Poor IT management going

    This grammar flare up is classic. Typical overly aggressive
    hostile little immature 25 yr old kids recently promoted to
    VP of this, or Director of the other. Company fired all the
    smarts and seniors about 6 months ago in cost-cutting

    Just classic. Now they're out here arguing on the way
    home with their PDAs about grammar, after destroying
    their IT centers all day.

    How long will this last? About another 4-5 big failures
    like this one, and all the kiddies will be history
  • Was there a way to synchronize to your PC?

    I definitely would not trust the cloud but for a convenient way to have a 2nd copy of my things, to be accesible from other means... and would - if that is possible with this device - have my workaday copy in my PC...
    Roque Mocan
    • Actually there is on most phones

      They have a mini usb port to sync data from the pc to the phone so if anyone lost their data because they did not back up can not really blame T-Moble or MS.
      Oh I wonder who was the IT for TMoble- MS or TMoble them selves?
      Michael L Hereid Sr
    • Not according to a newspaper article

      I read in the paper (I know, I know) this morning that there was no way to download data from these phones to a local PC.

  • RE: The T-Mobile-Microsoft Sidekick data disaster: Poor IT management going mainstream

    Since the 1980's when I started using computer's - I learned to always make backup copies of all my important data.
    Even today I still keep backup copies on several differant disc's and I even keep copies on cd r's and dvd r's.
    In 60+ years of living I have learned "If you can think of something happening sooner or later it will"
    Michael L Hereid Sr
  • RE: The T-Mobile-Microsoft Sidekick data disaster: Poor IT management going mainstream

    Yes, there was 10 dollar software one could download from Tmobile that synched up Outlook and the Sidekick. Good thing I had a copy.
  • RE: The T-Mobile-Microsoft Sidekick data disaster: Poor IT management going

    As more and more businesses rely on third (turd)
    world nations for both manufacturing and IT,
    problems such as this should be expected. In the
    past I have lost wallpapers and ringtones just
    upgrading phones. Didn't take long for me to
    realize bling on a phone wasn't worth the money.
    If cloud computing is our future there will be
    many more cases such as this, and finally a good
    reason for attornies!
  • Yes, poor IT management is not going away

    Having worked in IT operations for much of my 25+ years (currently off), I agree that this situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. There has always been a shoestring approach to quality management in Windows/UNIX shops that has not been true of mainframe, AS/400 and high end UNIX world (and this from someone who made his livihood at the smaller systems, not MF). As the mainframes fade, this focus on quality is fading with the generation of folks that had to do it as part of their job.

    I have seen this lack of interest and funding for QA systems in Windows/*NIX shops for a long time. ITIL adoption not withstanding, the budgets for training and retaining high quality staff and more disturbing, the lack of process formalization is still high. Only the most disciplined companies (or ones under legal obligation to do so) are into serious process optimization. There is usually no reward for it. You need experience in staff to understand how to implement this kind of situation, and especially the script kiddies that make up much of IT ops these days still, after decades of ways to get better, aren't. Nor appear to have any interest in doing it.

    Yep, back up your data locally, and prepare to lose more. Or at least be signicantly inconvenienced when Google 'locks' your account because you didn't of whatever random act you do that doesn't meet your hidden profile of a user...Customer service? Forget it, this service is free.
  • Stop calling this a server failure....

    ...this was IT incompetence, pure and simple. Servers fail all the time, but recovery processes are put in place.

    I'd even consider a larger problem because I find it hard to believe that people can be so incompetent: It was money. Some bean counter somewhere may have decided the infrastructure was built up enough to risk not spending money on hw/ and human resources for backups. This implies that data integrity in the cloud can't be trusted.
  • RE: The T-Mobile-Microsoft Sidekick data disaster: Poor IT management going mainstream

    IT Management is performed by people following some directions, not by engineers with a deep understanding of the systems they manage. How the engineers, whose instructions are being followed, failed to provide automatic and redundant backups is beyond comprehension. They should have Disaster Recovery plans in place, like all IT systems with any kind of important data. As usual the financial industry leads in this.