T-Mobile turns Sidekick data disaster into a PR mess

T-Mobile turns Sidekick data disaster into a PR mess

Summary: Over the weekend it emerged that a server crash at Microsoft/Danger had caused significant data loss for Sidekick users on the T-Mobile network. Yesterday T-Mobile released a statement which caused further anger and confusion amongst Sidekick users.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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Over the weekend it emerged that a server crash at Microsoft/Danger had caused significant data loss for Sidekick users on the T-Mobile network. Yesterday T-Mobile released a statement which caused further anger and confusion amongst Sidekick users.

Here's the statement:

Dear valued T-Mobile Sidekick customers:

We are thankful for your continued patience as Microsoft/Danger continues to work on preserving platform stability and restoring all services for our Sidekick customers.  We have made significant progress this past weekend, restoring services to virtually every customer.  Microsoft/Danger has teams of experts in place who are working around-the-clock to ensure this stability is maintained.

Regarding those of you who have lost personal content, T-Mobile and Microsoft/Danger continue to do all we can to recover and return any lost information.  Recent efforts indicate the prospects of recovering some lost content may now be possible.  We will continue to keep you updated on this front; we know how important this is to you.

In the event certain customers have experienced a significant and permanent loss of personal content, T-Mobile will be sending these customers a $100 customer appreciation card.  This will be in addition to the free month of data service that already went to Sidekick data customers.  This card can be used towards T-Mobile products and services, or a customer’s T-Mobile bill.  For those who fall into this category, details will be sent out in the next 14 days – there is no action needed on the part of these customers.  We however remain hopeful that for the majority of our customers, personal content can be recovered.

Wow! A $100 gift card that you spend with T-Mobile ... Woohoo. Also, what is it with the "experienced a significant and permanent loss of personal content" nonsense? Who decides what's significant? Way to make a tech disaster into a PR disaster too T-Mobile!

Along with clarity over compensation, I think that Sidekick customers are entitled to answers to a few questions, such as:

  • What caused the outage?
  • Why no data backup?
  • Why is a fix taking so long?
  • What precautions have been put in place to prevent a repeat of this mess?

Personally, I'm wary of cloud computing. If I lose data because I've not backed it up, that's my look out, but it seems that you can't even trust big companies to have bancups either.

Topic: Mobility

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35 comments
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  • This wasn't cloud computing

    This wouldn't have happened with cloud computing. In a cloud architecture users wouldn't have even realized any disruption. They would have automatically been distributed among other non failed geo dispursed instances while the failed instance was automatically restarted on other hardware and restored from replicated data sources.

    I suspect that Danger fully disclosed it's architecture to TMobile at original partnership and MS probably revisited it with both of them when they acquired Danger. I also suspect that TMobile declined to invest in adding reliability and offsite backups to keep cost/price down. Perhaps they clearly stated in the terms of service that there were no data loss guarantees and users were responsible for their own backups.

    I would really like to see some investigative reporting and facts and less pure speculation...
    Johnny Vegas
    • Agree on both counts.

      Descriptions of Danger's set up don't sound like cloud computing - more like a Server + SAN in a data-center somewhere. Any old web-server isn't "cloud computing".

      Also, there's been far too much speculation already. Danger and/or Microsoft really need to make public the full details on this, however embarrasing that may be. The PDC is coming up soon, and a full, honest, presentation there entitled "How we screwed up with Sidekick" would not be inappropriate.
      njoho
    • Isn't it amazing how the press throw buzz words around?

      I've not seen anything around this that indicates that the Sidekick data
      was stored in a cloud. The 'technical' press seem to think anything
      that is stored on the internet is in the cloud - [b]wrong[/b]!

      An early report indicated that the failure occurred when Microsoft's
      hardware subcontractor (Hitatchi) replaced SAN resources. How true
      that is, I don't know, but that would make it likely that the Sidekick
      data was
      not stored on any of the recognised cloud providers.

      Also, I saw a user comment that T-Mobile terms and conditions gave
      no guarantees on user data, which tallies with your conclusion.
      David Hamilton
    • So, you say that if the vendor's architecture is found to be inadequate...

      ...then the service they're selling must not be
      considered a "cloud"?

      Exactly how is the hapless end consumer supposed
      to differentiate between who is part of "the
      cloud" and who is not if they are not privy to the
      most intimate details of a vendors back-side?
      JohnMcGrew@...
      • "The Cloud" or "Cloud Computing" BIG difference

        Cloud computing means that the service and data is distributed between different nodes in different locations for fault tollerance.

        A single SAN and server cluster is not "Cloud computing". That the Internet in general has been called the cloud means that a lot of people don't differentiate between the Internet (single web servers or clusters serving up content) and Cloud Computing (distributed servers balancing and replicating data globally).
        wright_is
        • Big difference to who?

          Again, how is the end-consumer supposed to know
          that? If a month ago, a soon-to-be-hapless
          Sidekick user were to ask their local T-Mobile
          representative if the data infrastructure behind
          their Sidekick was on distributed servers
          balancing and replicating data globally, what kind
          of answer would they get?

          It doesn't matter. It's "the cloud".
          JohnMcGrew@...
          • "End Users" No, Tech Journalists, Yes

            Few people expect the ordinary end users to understand when saving something to "the Internet" is the same as, or different from, saving it to "the Cloud."

            However, the original point was about the way in which the story was being reported. Most of the people reporting it are technology journalists, and many are doing so in the technical press. The <i>tech journalists</i> should most assuredly understand the distinction, and need not report it sloppily or inaccurately.

            It is not going to make it any harder for "end users" - and especially not for the readers of this sort of site - if you say that Sidekick's data was stored on a remote server, rather than saying it was stored in "the cloud."

            If the company/ies involved were perpetrating this sort of muddle then the matter is even less forgiveable. Say, "We lost is in the cloud," and there's a sort of general excuse implied. "Oh, you know this new, vague sort of thingy - Cloud. All cutting edge, teething troubles, way out there, not really our fault - Cloud." Say it often enough and even your disgruntled customers may start to believe that you were a bit unlucky.

            Say, "All the data was on one server and the backup was dodgy to start with, and then the main server threw a wobbly." Now even not-so technical users are going to wonder why their "It's really safe, you don't need a personal backup," data was entrusted to one hardly backed up at all server.

            So, "It's the cloud," is sloppy research or sloppy writing by tech journalists. And if T-Mobile/Danger are using it, it's probably purposely misleading.
            pvsutton
          • But once again, how are they to know?

            If a month ago a "tech journalist" has asked a
            Microsoft representative if Sidekick data resided
            "on a server" or "in the cloud", what kind of
            answer do you think they would have received?
            JohnMcGrew@...
    • Then please explain exactly what "Cloud Computing" is.

      My simple assumption was if I sent data or files to reside on a 3rd party
      server, for example: Mobile Me, Drop Box or flicker, I was sending it to
      the "cloud". I assume the sites I just mentioned are very similar to the
      Sidekick site. Now, I am probably quite wrong in this simplistic
      assumption, so fill me in. What is the "cloud"?
      A Grain of Salt
      • Fair question - cloud does have multiple definitions

        As with any hot technology (SOA, etc) each vendor has its own take on
        the definition of cloud, so I went (sigh!) to wikipedia for a general
        overview, and it does provide some support for your point of view:

        [i]"The term cloud is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on
        how the Internet is depicted in computer network diagrams and is an
        abstraction of the underlying infrastructure it conceals."[/i]

        However the definition that most technologists put on "The Cloud"
        appears further down:

        [i]"The majority of cloud computing infrastructure, as of 2009,
        consists of reliable services delivered through data centers and built
        on servers with different levels of virtualization technologies."[/i]

        [i]"Reliability improves through the use of multiple redundant sites,
        which makes cloud computing suitable for business continuity and
        disaster recovery."[/i]

        In other words, clouds use virtualization to spread and duplicate
        services and storage across multiple hardware resources, massively
        minimising the chance of data loss, and almost eliminating the chance
        of a complete data loss such as that suffered by Sidekick.
        David Hamilton
        • Thank you. Eggs in many places (nt)

          (nt)
          A Grain of Salt
          • What does...

            Eggs in many places mean?
            But as far as "Cloud computing" goes, there in nothing integral in the meaning of the cloud that implies redundancy of any kind. All that it STATES is that the hardware is "somewhere out there" as opposed to on site. While a number of implementations of cloud computing in fact allows for multiple failovers for both processing and storage, that is a flavor, NOT the definition.
            MobyMud
          • Eggs

            "Eggs in many places" as opposed to 'eggs in one basket." Remember the
            old saying, "Don't put your eggs in one basket"? One server with no
            back-up=one basket. Many servers with many back-ups=eggs in many
            places. The analogy doesn't actually fit, since if we are talking eggs in
            many baskets and one basket breaks you lose one egg permanently
            (unless you scrape it off the ground). But if one server crashes, the
            redundancy means you don't lose anything. Still, it's the thought that
            counts.
            levinson
  • Short of giving another phone...

    One that does not rely on MS/Danger, I would be opting for the free early termination and go somewhere else.
    mrlinux
    • Ironically, I've Used T-Mobile for Over a Decade w/Out Serious Problems

      Of course, I've had a Treo 270, Treo 600, Blackberry Pearl (my LEAST favorite phone, but not T-Mobile's fault - it's just a poor compromise between Blackberry OS and a consumer phone) and a G-1 in that time - and I store my stuff locally because I Have Not Now Nor Have I Ever Trusted Online Storage....
      drprodny
  • RE: T-Mobile turns Sidekick data disaster into a PR mess

    Stop being so pretentious.

    To normal laymen users, "cloud" computing just means their data is held somewhere else not under their control. So this was a cloud computing disaster for Sidekick users.
    Droid101
    • Not pretentious at all

      The normal layman needs to learn, then. If this is being- incorrectly- termed cloud computing, then it is a disservice to real cloud setups. I was under the impression that it was a cloud setup, but I could not understand how the heck they could simply loose the data.
      A basic server makes more sense (though it's still hard to figure out how they managed not to have backups).
      chris@...
      • caveat emptor

        'I assume' equates to 'can't be ar5ed reading all the T+C's', cloud or otherwise. If they can't understand what they are reading, get 3rd-party advice.

        Disservice to 'real' cloud setups? T-Mobile doesn't give a rats tazz about that, otherwise they would have belt+braces the infrastructure; they did it on the cheap EOS.
        muzza2005
    • It's not laymen, but journalists, who use the word 'cloud'

      People who use technical terms without knowing what they mean, just
      because they sound cool, merely confuse everybody and make the term
      meaningless.

      But it's the press that are the ones using the word 'cloud', supposedly
      not laymen, and they really should know better.
      David Hamilton
  • T-Mobile PR suggestion going forward...

    (1) Tell the impacted T-Mobile subscribers the situation is only temporary, as we get more information we will get back to them.

    (2) State frankly we had some concerns with our technology partner?s architectural approach and we will investigate to get to the root cause of the problem.

    (3) Thank you for sticking with us as a trusted supplier during this unprecedented event- we appreciate your business and hope to restore your trust in our company as we resolve this unfortunate 3rd party equipment failure.

    (4) We now need to go work this pressing issue... stay tuned.

    r simkavitz
    simkavitz@...