How much is your data worth? If you are a customer of T-Mobile using their Sidekick mobile device, all your personal data, pictures, contacts, emails, calendars, etc., which you had stored with them is worth one month’s service plan fees.

So, do you agree? Well, that’s what T-Mobile is offering users who lost all their data when the Microsoft/Danger network crashed earlier this month, without an adequate backup in place. Unrecoverable is the word they are using.

Now, here is the question every single one of you have to ask yourselves: “In case of a disaster/crash/hack, is my business’ data backed up and recoverable?”

Really now, think hard. If this can happen to mobile phone data, it can happen to your business’ vital records. If all your data…your accounting, your payroll, your invoicing, AR/AP, customer records, serial numbers, inventory, development plans, R&D reports, whatever, was lost, unrecoverable, would your business survive? And if it could survive, what would it cost you in money, time, cash, personnel resources, capital resources, lost customers, investment, fulfillment delays, dividends, tax inquiries, profits, and money to recreate those records, or blindly grope ahead without them? More or less than one month’s service fee do you suppose?

Those of us who started in computers with punch cards (“what are those?” some of you ask) and aged along with mainframes and Apple IIs, floppy disks and LANS have always been conscious of the need for data backup. Always, that is, since our first hard drive got reformatted at the repair shop who promised us we didn’t need to do a tape-drive backup.

The worlds of speculative fiction have, for years, been full of stories imagining and describing the dire consequences of data loss. It could be political opponents, war, criminals, business competitors, presonal enemies, preteen hackers, spies, hurricanes, earthquakes, solar flares, nuclear-powered satellites exploding, or even aliens that cause the data-loss crisis. Unlike books, TV and movies, though, the heroes (you and your business) won’t suddenly be saved by the deus ex machina in the last 3 minutes … unless, that is, you’ve already invested the resources of time and money into data backup.

Cloud computing, wireless access anywhere, online applications and remote-server-hosted data can certainly be a boon to business, but this foul-up clearly displays the hazards inherent in having your data stored elsewhere.

Understand this! Once you hand over your data to someone else, it is no longer exclusively yours.

There is no possible guarantee that your vital records won’t be, with evil intent, hacked, perused, copied and sold, simply stolen, corrupted or, by accident, just plain lost, deleted, or unrecoverable. Each technological generation becomes enamored of the possibilities and capabilities of the gizmos we invent. We can’t help it. It is, then, up to we geezers, ancients, oldsters and curmudgeons to holler:

“HEY! Pay attention! It is going to break! There are going to be screwups! Someone is going to mess with it! Watch out! Protect yourself now!” “We know this because it happened to us!”

So, if you’ve embraced the-sky-is-the-limit cloud computing, you owe it to your business and its survival to buy some information insurance, as it were, and back up all your data locally, and frequently. This doesn’t have to be on-site necessarily, but out of the clouds and firmly on the ground. Because, really, seriously, once your data is gone, the likelihood of successful disaster recovery is mighty slim. You are S-O-L.

Steve Lange
Senior Editor, and Oldster who’s lost data before
Palo Alto Software