back to article Google Drive misplaces months' worth of customer files

Google Drive users are reporting files mysteriously disappearing from the service, with some netizens on the goliath's support forums claiming six or more months of work have unceremoniously vanished. The issue has been rumbling for a few days, with one user logging into Google Drive and finding things as they were in May 2023 …

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  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Ultimately, trusting one's data – particularly data on which a business depends – to any sort of cloud storage should only be done after fully understanding the implications of the services' terms and conditions."

    Namely, that it's somebody else's computer and your files aren't as valuable to them as they are to you.

    1. Barry Rueger

      Take responsibility

      This is hardly the first time one of the big on-line giants has done this, which is why my files live on my local hard-drive, and backup drive. I simply don't trust Google, Apple and company to protect me.

      Beyond that though is the reality that if my rural Internet or mobile service go down - a fairly common thing around here - I can still keep working on projects until it returns.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Take responsibility

        And yet software companies keep pushing this cloud nonsense.

        Presumably to train their AI on it or do other not so pleasant (to the owner) things with them.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Take responsibility

          "And yet software companies keep pushing this cloud nonsense."

          What they are pushing is the notion that data in "the cloud" is safe because it's distributed and duplicated so you will never lose anything, even if a data centre burns down. What they don't make a headline "selling point" is that free accounts definitely don't get that safety net and paying customers need to pay a LOT more for that resilience and that it might not actually work anyway.

      2. Julian 8 Silver badge

        Re: Take responsibility

        Don't use drive, but do use Onedrive (cos the 6 user deal is brilliant value for money)

        Always store locally, and preferably on multiple computers

        A NAS sitting at a remote site download to that (Synology has an app for this)

        Use RSync to copy that data back to a server sitting at home.

        The NAS and my local server all have versions - I don't trust cloud data storage, but I do like its idea and simplicity when it works

        1. Rafael #872397
          Windows

          Re: Take responsibility

          Don't use drive, but do use Onedrive (cos the 6 user deal is brilliant value for money)

          Always store locally, and preferably on multiple computers

          My take on OneDrive: started using it for the same reason, and used the same procedure. I was using it to synchronize three Macs (work, home, and laptop for travel).

          After some time I noticed that some of the files were not stored locally -- any attempt to open them required downloading. Also, the OneDrive app on the Mac is slow as hell, kept "looking for changes" or similar bullshit. Also, it crashed *silently* from time to time, making the computers out of sync. I got plenty of different versions of files that were out of sync.

          Aside from the crashes, beachballed with an alarming frequency. Searched for solutions online, and almost all the suggestions were on the line of "reinstall and resync", which would take days.

          I am evaluating Dropbox now, at least it is faster -- and more expansive, but honestly, the time I spent faffing with OneDrive was way more expensive for me.

          1. DJV Silver badge

            Re: Take responsibility

            Having gone through several cloudy services, I'm currently using a combination of the following: OneDrive, DropBox and Filen.io (yes, these three will all work on the same computer at the same time).

            The latter is by far the fastest for uploads and, so far, hasn't glitched on me. My requirements are modest so I've been only using the free versions of all three. However, Filen.io's prices do look very reasonable with a €35.99 lifetime payment currently for 200GB (this is a Black Friday deal).

            Others I've tried in the past include Box but their free space remaining has a habit of not recalculating after you delete files and you "run out of space" when, in reality, you should have plenty free; iceDrive but this doesn't play nice with the excellent FreeFileSync program that I use a lot; nextCloud which had various issues that I couldn't get resolved; and pCloud, which also had issues which meant that backups would randomly fail to sync.

            I've never tried Google Drive but that's mainly because I loath them as a company!

          2. Tim99 Silver badge
            Gimp

            Re: Take responsibility

            I'm retired, and in spite of a learned paranoia, I can't be bothered with some of this stuff. I've simplified my life; and now use an iMac, an iPad Pro, and a couple of Raspberry Pis. I managed to get all my important stuff down to ~500GB (including 20+ years of emails).

            For me, I found that the iMac's 1 TB hard drive, an external 2TB drive for recording live TV, and 400GB of iCloud storage work well. The Pi stuff is copied over to the 2TB drive with rsync every night, all of the iCloud stuff is also stored locally on the iMac and everything is backed up nightly onto rotated Time Machine disks - Every month or so, one of the TM disk is rotated off-site. It took about a day to set up and has been running without problems since the start of Covid. The iMac has an UPS (Yes, I'm paranoid). Replacing the iMac a few days ago took less than a day for everything to be copied back and synchronized after a fresh OS install. I also took the opportunity to finally retire all my Windows stuff that had been in Several Parallels VMs - It's copied onto two local and an off site back-up disk; but I'm fairly sure I won't be looking at it again.

          3. Julian 8 Silver badge

            Re: Take responsibility

            I have found that Windows and Android are pretty reliable, but the default is set to leave the data on the cloud (grrr).

            The people here who have iphones often find that they need to go into oneDrive to wake it up and at one point I had to archive off a lot of older pictures from the camera roll folder as it just sulked.

            I have tried everything that I can find for fix the need to wake oneDrive up.

            Regularly log into the laptops here as all users to keep them in sync, the NAS just does its thing and is a great quick way to see if someone needs to wake oneDrive up by checking its history

        2. TReko

          Re: Take responsibility

          'Tis always good to have a backup. RClone can bulk download Google Drive. Syncdocs does the same, but also converts Google's office files to standard Microsoft Office.

        3. danielfgom

          Re: Take responsibility

          One Drive! You must be kidding. It is the worst sync to the cloud system on the market. I'm an IT Technician by trade and have seen enough not to recommend OneDrive, or anything from Microsoft actually, to anyone.

        4. Julian 8 Silver badge

          Re: Take responsibility

          My "server" also has BackBlaze running on most drives as another addition too.

        5. sweh

          Re: Take responsibility

          I also have the 6 account "family" plan; with work discount that's $75/yr for 6TB of cloud storage.

          I use it as an offsite copy of my backups, using rclone to do the copying (which encrypts while uploading). So I have primary backups onto my raid6, which is my normal "oops, I deleted a file I need it back" store. I rsync that to external USB disks, just incase the raid dies totally. It'd take a while, but I'd be able to restore almost everything. And then I rclone the important bits that to the cloud, just incase there's a fire or something; in this case I wouldn't be able to recover my ripped DVDs/BDs but I would be able to get everything else.

          Is that overkill for a home network? Probably! But then I also have 2 DNS servers, 2 DHCP servers, run my own web/smtp/dns/nntp/vpn/... Overkill is kinda what I do :-)

      3. hedgie Bronze badge

        Re: Take responsibility

        I'd certainly never trust such storage solutions as a sole backup, let alone, primary storage. But as supplemental backup, certainly. The odds of my primary computer, local backup, and Tresorit drive all dying at once are pretty low. While a colo and Owncloud or similar would be better in most respects, it's still orders of magnitude more expensive. I should probably get a couple more external drives, and just keep one at a friend's place, swapping them every month or so for something additional off-site. But I also know that I'd absolutely forget to do so.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Take responsibility

          > should probably get a couple more external drives, and just keep one at a friend's place,

          Crashplan used to let you host a backup for a friend. IIRC, the backup was encrypted, so no worries about access to the data. Backups would happen on whatever schedule you selected. The idea was that if your computer crashed, you could sneakernet over to your friend's place and restore over LAN instead of the Internet.

          Then Crashplan pushed out the home users and focused on the business market.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Take responsibility

          I don't remember often, but from time to time I give my daughter a HDD full of important stuff, like family photos and key documents, to store at their place. Literally just an old hard drive from my collection that I connect via a USB to my PC and copy my backup partition to.

          1. hedgie Bronze badge

            Re: Take responsibility

            Yeah. I was thinking of that sort of thing, but I know that I wouldn't remember to do it with any regularity. Also, I keep forgetting to just buy another drive.

      4. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Take responsibility

        Absolutely. I'll happily use the (free) cloud storage available for the backups of my backed up backups.But that's the limit- and I still use more than one*, which I can because they're the free levels.

        *Basically, all of them that I can.

      5. DS999 Silver badge

        "don't trust them to protect me"

        I use the cloud as a backup, sending encrypted backup files there you only lose them if you lose your local copy AND the cloud copy is gone when you need it (but you have to occasionally check that it is still available) That copy is out of date since I only do the cloud backup once a month, but since I have mirrored local storage and a daily "backup" on the same mirrored storage (in case I oops and delete the wrong thing) I basically would have to have a fire or flood destroy my house to resort to the cloud copy. If something that bad happens losing a few weeks of stuff is far from my worst problem!

      6. Philo T Farnsworth

        Amen.

        To paraphrase Douglas Adams's Roosta, "If I can't reach it's power cord, I don't accept it."

        The "cloud" (aka someone else's server) might be great for offsite backup but only as a backup to the backup.

    2. Dr Who

      The cloud is not entirely the issue here (trust me as one Doctor to another).

      The problem is confusing file sync with file backup whether you're syncing to a cloud drive or to a NAS device in the same room as you which you can see and touch and administrate.

      Any user who doesn't know the difference between sync and backup (and there are many) will lose data, however much they value those data, irrespective of whether it's in the cloud or directly attached to their own network.

      1. emswift

        You are quite correct but tbh they do sell these services like they are a backup in and of themselves, especially on the consumer side.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          People will learn. Eventually.

          The hard way.

          1. ecofeco Silver badge

            No they won't.

            Learn that is. Just ask Hegel.

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge

          OneDrive enterprise even *calls* it backup

          Thus proving that product manager to be totally incompetent, at best.

        3. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

          Its autopilot all over again.. is it an Autopilot or self driving ?

      2. NightFox

        I've seen people post about similar issues with iCloud Drive, though that tends to be losing arbitrary files over an extended period of time, so it typically takes much longer to notice. Whilst the majority of replies are of the "No, it's inconceivable that Apple could lose your files, it must be user error", there's also invariably the "It's your fault for not understanding the difference between syncing and backup" ones.

        Trouble is, it isn't that straightforward as Apple often offloads local versions of files and in some cases even automatically excludes synced files from backups with Time Machine, so when you do find iCloud has randomly deleted some of your files, even if you've still got backups going back far enough, there's no guarantee they will even have been included in it. I'm not sure if Google Drive also works the same way.

    3. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      I remember when I got my first camera as a kid and taking my first film to the chemist to be developed. They gave me a receipt and said to be sure to look after it because I'd need it to get my photos. I kept it safe and read and re-read the bit that said something like "Films are accepted on the basis that their value does not exceed the cost of the items submitted". It was a long time before I understood what it meant, and a lesson I'd rather not learn the hard way.

    4. jmch Silver badge

      "your files aren't as valuable to them as they are to you"

      Your files are only as valuable to them as how much you are paying them to store those files (which for a large chunk of users is $0, and for almost every other user is less than the value the user would put on the data)

    5. Mark 85

      Namely, that it's somebody else's computer and your files aren't as valuable to them as they are to you.

      Exactly. The few times I've had to use the cloud, I still kept a back up locally. Saved my self headaches and stress several times when the datacenter crashed. I guess being an old-school grump and suspicious of many things has paid off over the years.

  2. Altrux

    Very dubious platform

    Google's online and cloud services are highly suspect. We've already had incidents of serious data loss in their Cloud Storage service (no such thing ever happened with Amazon S3), and we even had our entire cloud account locked out for a few days, due to an unspecified "violation of their T&Cs" and usage policies. I suspect we'll be heading back to AWS in the near future.

    On a personal level, Google Photos is incredibly erratic and unreliable, with the opposite problem to that described here: stuff coming back from the dead! The number of times my 15GB free storage has nearly filled up, because stuff deleted ages ago suddenly returns - it's infuriating. When you try to create space by downloading blocks of photos for offline management, it fails at least 50% of the time due to an unspecified "network error". Google's online tools are frankly painful, but my only alternative is to go and get an iPhone, and I'm not quite ready for that....

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Very dubious platform

      I'd be wary of iCloud. I barely use it and only store gig and travel tickets using the free allowance in case I lose the paper when I'm out and about. It seems that I'm one of the "tiny minority" that has the synch problem whereby files will stop synching up to iCloud from Mac and down to iDevices from iCloud, needing manual intervention in both cases to make it synch.

    2. Lurko

      Re: Very dubious platform

      Well, this is Google we're talking about.

      Words like dependable, quality, permanent, trustworthy only appear in the same sentence as Google when accompanied by a negative.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Very dubious platform

        Words like dependable, quality, permanent, trustworthy only appear in the same sentence as Google when accompanied by a negative.

        "Don't be evil _____"

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Very dubious platform

      my only alternative is to go and get an iPhone, and I'm not quite ready for that....

      Sync your gallery to another service or NextCloud.

  3. Lee D Silver badge

    Yet again:

    If you have your files in the cloud, that's fine. No problem.

    But where's YOUR backup? Not Google's. Not AWS's. But yours. Where's YOUR other location, entirely independent of that cloud service, where you have a full, complete and up-to-date copy of your data?

    If you can't answer that question, you don't have a backup.

    You could backup to ANOTHER cloud... that's fine. So long as your recognise that the Internet connection is then a shared access to both your backups.

    But ONE cloud from ONE provider is ONE backup, no matter how many drives or datacentres it's stored on.

    Same way that ONE SAN from ONE provider is ONE backup, no matter how many drives or network cabinets it's stored on.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      You also need a location entirely independent of your residence.

      You can have as many backups as you want, but if your house catches fire it's like you didn't have one. (Unless you keep the drives in fire proof container, but still...)

      You should also consider physical location outside of the jurisdiction you reside in and possibly even different continent or two.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Does a garden office count?

        100ft down the garden is farther away than my next door neighbour.

        1. Natalie Gritpants Jr

          Re: Does a garden office count?

          Would it survive being showered with burning debris from your house?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Does a garden office count?

            And what are your chances of a hurricane or tornado?

            We don't get hurricanes where I'm at but the bank safe deposit box I have for offsite backups is only about 3 miles away. So not 100% safe from a tornado if it is traveling at just the wrong heading.

        2. Bebu Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: Does a garden office count?

          Build an Anderson Shelter (might serve its original purpose one day :) and shove a firesafe into the rear soil wall otherwise you might be leading yourself down the garden path.

      2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        https://iosafe.com/products

        Have one of their early drives attached to my NAS as a backup device!

      3. Lee D Silver badge

        Literally any item that "conjoins" two backups makes them dependent on each other:

        - Physical location

        - Power source

        - Internet connection

        - Credit card you signed up to the service with

        - The only guy who knows the login

        Anything at all.

        And though there's no problem with having "dependent" backups, you have to know that and understand what that means when the credit card is blocked or the Internet connection goes off and now both those backups will be inaccessible until you resolve that problem.

        But one of above items is most definitely:

        - Service provider.

        So having two independent data copies in two different continents but BOTH run by Google, say... bam... you just made dependent backups again.

      4. vtcodger Silver badge

        Fireproof

        A Fireproof container might help, but I have some doubts it is really adequate. Computer media do not like heat, and building fires are nothing if not hot. I recall seeing pictures of a bag of silver dollars melted together by a California brush fire. The melting point of Silver is 916C. The ignition point of paper -- which is probably what a fireproof box is intended to protect is -- 233C. The maximum storage temperature for computer media seems mostly to be around 70C or less -- a number that I personally wouldn't have all that much faith in.

        If your data is important to you, I'd suggest a backup someplace offsite as well as backups on site. Even the trunk of a car might be better than anything on site. And a backup in the cloud as well won't do any harm if doesn't cost too much and if one's internet connection is fast enough.

        Sadly, storage media are not completely reliable. Neither are web service providers. Encryption (if you need to use it) can be slow, And there's a real risk that you may not be able to decrypt the files for any of dozens of reasons. Saving all your data can be difficult without a fast data link -- which is not an option for many people. and attempting to update only altered files gets complicated if you encrypt.

        Truth is that many of us probably need multiple backups done regularly ... and a bit of luck.

        1. Julian 8 Silver badge

          Re: Fireproof

          external hdd's are cheap, or if like me, you have a few spare after ssd upgrades just get some cheap caddies.

          If you have a locker at work, that is great, use that. I used to store a couple of disks in the glove box of the car.

          NAS down at my sisters is my main backup

        2. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

          Re: Fireproof

          "Even the trunk of a car might be better"

          Umm, maybe in the UK, but where I live in the summer the trunk of a car can reach as high as 100 degrees C, higher if it reaches higher temperatures and how long it is in the sun.

        3. ecarlseen

          Re: Fireproof

          There's a solution for this: IOSafe. They're basically Synology NAS devices with the hard drives packed in a fire- and water-resistant enclosure (see specs for details; they're designed to survive a typical home or office structure fire but nothing crazy). The downside is that they're pricey. One might note that their 5-bay expansion chassis are basically the same as a Synology x517 5-bay expansion chassis and use them with a cheaper Synology NAS, even though that's not officially supported. Still, at RAID-5 with 20TB drives that's around 75TB of useable fire-resistant storage in one package.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unless you keep the drives in fire proof container

        And do realize a regular fire proof safe is "fire proof" only for for paper documents. They are designed to keep papers from burning. So something less than 451 degrees Fahrenheit.

        There are data media fire proof safes. They keep the contents cooler in a fire. And hopefully will keep IT media like tapes, disks and DVDs usable after the safe is in a fire.

        And for all fire proof safes. Hopefully you or a neighbor will tell the fire department where the safe is so they can remove it from the embers and hose it down with water to cool it off quick. All fire rated safes are rated for maximum temperature over a set amount of time.

    2. NightFox

      And what do your backups actually include?

      Unless you had a local copy of the file on your device, then all you're backing up is a link to a Cloud server that's already lost the file you're trying to recover.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Yep, I've seen that before - someone backing up shortcuts or part-files where the rest was in some cloud service that wasn't being backed up.

        That's where the second rule of backups pops up - if you have never restored, verified and checked your backups contain all your data, then you don't have any backups.

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