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. Julian 8 Silver badge

        As all my data is held locally, it is a full copy of the data and the disk is protected.

        My understanding (and I now need to check), is that if you were to do a copy of some sort, your copy is the downloaded data from the cloud storage and not a link - however, I maybe wrong and happy for someone to confirm

    1. Deni

      What's to stop one Cloud provider using another for some if their storage needs?

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Nothing.

        iCloud was literally just Azure and AWS instances for a decade.

        They didn't even bother to pass on the region guarantees - they were using random Azure/AWS instances all over the world and thus wouldn't guarantee where your iCloud data ended up as they didn't know or care.

        https://www.theregister.com/2011/09/02/icloud_runs_on_microsoft_azure_and_amazon/

      2. Orv Silver badge

        Most of the online backup services are just repackaging Amazon S3 or similar.

      3. David 132 Silver badge
        Joke

        What's to stop one Cloud provider using another for some of their storage needs?

        Nothing whatsoever, until someone trips over the stretched power cable.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge
      Joke

      Backups

      Well, I have regular backups maintained by Google, Facebook, Azure, one or two governments and more organised criminals than you can shake a stick at. They are all such lovely, helpful people, I didn't have to ask any of them. My only problem is accessing them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Backups

        @steelpillow

        I never thought I'd find a comment more paranoid or more cynical than the one's I usually write.....

        Well Done!!! I need to try harder!!!

    3. Ianab

      100% agree. Disaster recovery planning means asking "What if....?"

      Most of our clients still keep their live data local, and then Backup to a dedicated cloud backup service. It's a scheduled task, and keeps multiple generations of backup, like old school tapes, so we can go back X months for versions of files. It's been tested, and used "in anger" to recover from accidental or malicious deletions, so we know it works. It's also a locally based company, and we can get phone support if needed. It's an automated process with their own client software, and emails the status to both the client and our office each morning, so you get a notice if a scheduled task hasn't happened, or has fallen over for some reason. It's actually better than manually doing backups, as we have had situations where a user has been changing tapes / disks each day, but the backup never actually worked. And no one knew....

      But if the backup service shuts down tomorrow, for any reason, live data isn't affected, and we can implement a new backup plan, even if it's something like a USB hard disk as a temporary thing.

      Another client has their main business system hosted on a AWS cloud. Each night the system makes a local backup of the database to a backup folder on the cloud server. Obviously that alone is not good enough, it's a single point of failure. So we copy that backup file down to a local server overnight, and add the file into the backup of local files and emails that are sent to the local cloud provider. So the backup exists in 3 different physical locations, with versioning and 3 months of history on the final cloud backup. So again, as you say, there are backups in 3 different physical locations. So far we haven't had to recover anything from the AWS system. but if the whole virtual server "went away", it would be rebuild-able. AND prior to the AWS, the clients building took a direct lightning hit, and the backup system saved them then, once they got power and internet back on, and a couple of new PCs / network switches / UPS units.

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Wait a minute

    Are you saying that your data on someone else's computer isn't actually more safe?

  2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    The Chocolate Factory collective says

    You're not being very Googly. Let us meet somewhere to chat. We know when and where, and we'll see you there.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet... some people are all in with Google

    Docs

    Android

    Chromebooks

    Gmail

    Photos

    Chrome

    Search

    and everything else.

    All I can say.... Stupid Fools.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Yet... some people are all in with Google

      You forgot Pixel phone!

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Yet... some people are all in with Google

      My former workplace was a private school whose entire infrastructure is now reliant on Google.

      They produce about 1m Google Docs/etc. a year.

      All the teaching, back-office, SLT, governors, policies, etc. documents are on Google, all email is on GMail. Over lockdown, everything was Google Meet.

      All the clients are Chromebooks for the kids (every child has one), all Chromebook Flex for the classroom desktop computers and laptops (for teaching staff), and the few PCs that still exist are basically pulling everything from Google drives via Google Chrome with Google Docs, etc. because of the need to interact with the Google data.

      It costs them almost nothing (Google services and storage are all free for education, the only thing they pay Google for is a managed device licence one-time per device, whether that's a Chromebook or a PC with Flex installed). Some of the machines they deployed Flex on (rather than update to something that could run Windows 11) are now 10 years old.

      Shortly before I left (after which they went full-Google), I was told to stop backing up Google into their backup system because "it's Google". Obviously, they'll never lose a single file, ever, right?

      I have to say that the Google service actually works rather well. It's rarely down and rarely problematic and very easily manageable (with their desktops and laptops now on Flex it's even easier) and extremely cheap. And, because it's an outside third party... if it goes down, what can you do as an IT guy? Nothing. Maybe send Google a stroppy email, that's about it. Great from an IT management point of view because when it all goes wrong, you can do nothing about it.

      But I'm not sure they realise that they've lumped all their eggs into the one basket. The only saving grace is they didn't also jump down the Jamboard route because that's been killed off by Google already.

      It's fabulous when you have a single, integrated, managed, flat system like that - where everything is basically the same. Until it all goes wrong. And then your IT guys have *nothing* they can do about it and, in this case, not even a on-site backup to pull your documents from.

      My successor at that school worked with me for many years - and they took over when I left and realised that they just have no money at all, that's why they're doing that and why they denied all reasonable routes to actually progress. Brexit, losing all the international kids, stopping boarding, interest rate rises, etc. has meant that their incomes have tanked. My successor is looking to get out because it will all go wrong one day, which is kind of why I left too. Also because it was literally just the two of us managing 1000 users/devices as well as all the IT and every associated system (access control, CCTV, etc.).

      Hilariously, they would often demand Surface tablets, and full Office 365 licensing for everyone, and all kinds of stuff (and have just done that again to my successor), and they've been demanding that for 10+ years from me when I worked there. I was always for it. Strangely it never, ever, once got into actually purchasing anything because it was always vetoed when the costs were quoted. Not just by one person, but by about three successive leaderships when they see the price that other schools are paying for 365, Windows devices, etc. It's not that they *couldn't* afford it, but they are so set in not increasing the IT budget (including staffing!) that they just stagnated and won't ever make the leap out to "normal" IT pricing, and instead waste their money elsewhere instead.

      It's worked out fine for them, most annoyingly. But one day it will collapse around their ears, and they can't say they weren't warned.

      When you're paying almost zero for the service, it doesn't really matter if it fails, so long as you know that and spend the money where it can join the gaps. It wouldn't work for a business, but a lot of schools are run on that basis (by a short survey I did, to kind of prove my point, one third of schools were Microsoft-only, one third were Google-only, and one third were both).

      There's nothing wrong with going all-in on Google. But you want to be backing that up with something. I know when the Internet connection went down, the whole school just stopped as they could do nothing. Their solution: Buy another leased line from another provider. I'm not sure that's the solution you want, especially if the Google end goes off.

      1. dmwalsh568

        Re: Yet... some people are all in with Google

        There are solutions for backing up a Google Workspace that are affordable for most schools to make sure all their eggs aren't in a single basket. But if the administration of the school won't budget for backup costs they are indeed setting up the IT folks for failure.

        My district uses Syscloud currently, but we used to use backupify

        For folks in this situation a decent (if a bit slanted in their own favor) article is at https://afi.ai/blog/best-g-suite-backup-solution

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Yet... some people are all in with Google

          I use Metallic and have previously used Datto (yuk, spit, not my idea and ATROCIOUSLY terrible product) to do just that.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: All I can say.... Stupid Fools.

      You mean like those entrusting Microsoft, who's OneDrive has a long track history of losing user data? And where SharePoint isn't further behind?

      The main reason why this incident with Google Drive is going through the news is simply because GDrive has been pretty robust over all those years, while when the same happens under OneDrive it's more or less business as usual.

  4. emswift

    Remembering a poster I saw in an anarchist coffee shop:

    “It’s not ‘the cloud’, it’s someone else’s computer”

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      I'm intrigued by the concept of an "anarchist coffee shop".

      "Hey, I ordered a triple-caramel oatmilk mocha but what you've just served me is a single banana in a bucket!"

      "Yeah! Fight the power, man!"

  5. heyrick Silver badge

    "trusting one's data – particularly data on which a business depends – to any sort of cloud storage should only never be done"

    There. Fixed that for you.

  6. PenfoldUK

    And I'm sure this is nothing to do with Google deleting data in "inactive" accounts.

    I know from work the number of times "inactive" data is targeted and it picks up newly created stuff as well...

  7. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Rather the other way round

    "just because files are being stored in the cloud, there is no guarantee that they are safe"

    There is a significant probability that they're less safe, as you have no control over what happens to your files and the provider doesn't give a toss about individual users. If you use the cloud you need local backups, so why use the cloud?

    The only benefits of cloud (scalable resourcing for business and access from anywhere for private folks) have to be weighed against the loss of control.

    1. pdh

      Re: Rather the other way round

      "There is a significant probability that they're less safe"

      To be fair, there are people who take worse care of their data than the average cloud provider does. For those people, cloud storage may be beneficial -- not because it's perfectly safe (it isn't) but because it's better than what they're willing and able to do on their own.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        If you can't learn to cross the road safely, it doesn't matter how many people you (don't) pay to hold your hand, one day, something terrible will happen to you.

        So you need to wake up and learn.

    2. Julian 8 Silver badge

      Re: Rather the other way round

      if you are not a techy, how many people are doing any kind of backup ?

      The cloud isn't perfect - as this shows, but for most it is far superior than what they had before - aka nothing

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Rather the other way round

        The real problem is that several of these sync/remote access cloudy services are being explicitly sold as "backup".

        When they're nothing of the sort, and even actively erase your local copy to "save space".

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Rather the other way round

        This is another issue. And a scary ( if only vicariously) one.

        The people who lose a phone or the use of a PC and with it their precious family photos, all their important documents and so on.

        Cloud backup of their phone ( if they've bothered to set it up) could at least save them that anguish.

  8. MatthewSt

    Instructions to recover

    My partner had the same problem. Took about 2 days but I managed to recover her stuff.

    1. Uninstall Google Drive.

    2. Install an old version of Google Drive (there's a version 82/83 floating around on the internet).

    3. Disable the 2 Google Update services (they won't be running, but they still need to be disabled).

    4. Disable the Google Update scheduled tasks (2 of them).

    5. Make sure Google Drive is not running.

    6. In the User Data folder, go into Google > DriveFS > the folder with a long number.

    7. In that folder there's a folder called backups, which has another folder with a couple of long numbers. Move all of the files from the "Backup" folder into the main folder (from step 6).

    8. Start Google Drive.

    9. Go into your G Drive (or wherever it is) and copy _absolutely everything_ somewhere else outside of Google Drive.

    Due to the way that Google caches stuff, what you have locally will be your latest files. The problem looks to be that things weren't being uploaded properly.

    10. If you want to carry on using Google Drive (!!!), re-enable the update services and wait for Google Drive to update. It will then sign you out and reset your local state to what it had in the cloud.

    11. Use a tool like robocopy to overwrite the contents of your G Drive with what you had copied elsewhere.

    1. sparrow19345

      Re: Instructions to recover

      thank you for posting this here Matt. Google has completely removed the whole thread from the Community page. I wanted to try this fix but couldn't get past step 4. I am running windows 11 and I couldnt find any Google Update scheduled task in the task manager or anwhere else. can you advise how to do step 4?

      1. MatthewSt

        Re: Instructions to recover

        On the start menu type in "Schedule" without the quotes and you're looking for "Task Scheduler". That will open up a window with a handful of entries in it. Right click on any that say Google and disable them.

  9. DaemonProcess

    as we are here...

    Maybe they used ZFS and discovered reading not-quite-written data causes corruption, hehehehe.

    Seriously though I suspect it is a cache-sync issue here. Same sort of idea but a different level.

    I would like to see the cloud operators enter into a big mutual agreement where none charge egress data fees for backups to another cloud provider.

    But I can't see them doing it, even though a simple API call on their platform could wipe everything.

    If you are on M365 you have the option of independent backups to AWS or elsewhere from ISVs.

  10. krf

    I have said for years, people who choose to live in the cloud will eventually die in the cloud.

  11. Snowy Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Good place

    Good place to share data but a rather to risky to be a backup.

  12. SamJ

    My subscription ended 3 months early!

    Ny 5 TB subscription was supposed to end in February but at the beginning of November I was told that I had over filled my 15 GB in g drive. Of course, until I had bought another subscription, I could not contact Google drive support. I bought a 1-month subscription for two terabytes which covered what I had in there at the moment, and called them. Within several days they gave me back the cost for my five terabyte annual subscription for the previous year. I then went and purchased a new annual subscription. With that money for five terabytes. I must mostly use it for transferring large backup files from one NAS in the office to the off-site NAS - si I periodically need more space. The outage was more of an inconvenience and a head scratching experience then an emergency. Of course, Google said they had no idea what caused the failure in their subscription system.

  13. sheardp

    I store all my data on Google Drive. It's a lot better than storing it locally, but I back it up every week.

    1. Zazu56

      I do similar. Back up to iCloud and use Time Machine on a local drive.

  14. retiredmonkey

    This is why I have my own cloud NAs with RAID 1, 3 desktops that replicate it, one with RAID 1 and the other 2 with regularly scheduled backs, and 2 laptops that sync to it, for a minimum of 10 physical copies of any important data; and that is before I count in other manual backups because I am paranoid.

  15. dogzilla100

    I have this issue

    I have this issue, Google support was worthless. They just kept asking the same questions, uninstall and reinstall the app.

    Given the cost of flash drives, I now just buy a very large one and use this for backup, keep one offsite. Its still a pain. I have the Apple iCloud service, but it doesn't work as seamlessly and the upload is incredibly slow. You need to plan on waiting until the next day to use anything. So, I'm using the age old Nike Net, except I use flash drives instead of floppies.

  16. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Eggs, Basket

    It never gets old.

  17. quartzz

    what's wrong with a usb drive?

  18. t245t Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Cloud services terms and conditions

    What are the Cloud services terms and conditions for the various providers?

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Cloud services terms and conditions

      Look out for the small-print phrase, "utilizes lossy data compression."

      Or, perhaps Google is storing your data in a massive array of counterfeit USB flash drives.

  19. Kev99 Silver badge

    I had the same thing happen to me with Yahoo mail. they offered zip support or help. And a number of the messages here critical.

    As to Google drive, the only time I use it is for temporary storage when I'm on the road. I have an android phone and it's a simple matter to move photos and docs to drive. Once I have a decent internet connection I move everything to my NAS.

  20. Code For Broke

    In related news, a local schoolboy coated his homework in peanut butter and left it within easy reach of the family dog.

    When the homework promptly vanished, the schoolboy was left with no other option than to bring the obvious accusations to his teacher the next day.

  21. Blacklight
    Mushroom

    When did it start?

    Do we know?

    I have GDrive synched to my server, and backed up to Backblaze with a version of each file retained for at least 12 months. If we know when this started I can at least get anything "vanished" since that date.

  22. Jakester

    My Google Drive Data Seems OK

    I do use Google Drive for convenience of having certain files in a convenient spot. Those files are important to me, which is why my original files are on my home server, which gets backed up nightly to external drives.

  23. James O'Shea

    Heh

    I once did some work for an 'online university' based in Switzerland. They were 100% Google... except for MS Office 365. Google Mail. Google Drives. Google everything. (Well, those who had MS Office also had OneDrive.)

    One fine day I logged into the school site... and Google Drive was, umm, non-responsive. Once it did wake up, everything on the GD was gone. Because I'm paranoid, I had my GD stuff mirrored to the OneDrive set up by the school MS Office, and to my local hard drive. (Note: school IT tried, hard, to prevent people from mirroring to local drives. I ignored them. One reason why I no longer work for that school is that I ignored instructions. Note that the fact that I could keep on working when everyone who had followed instructions was up shit's creek made no difference... Or maybe it did.)

    In any case, I have OneDrive and iCloud and DropBox on my personal machines. No GoogleDrive.

  24. Boufin

    Another rclone user here

    Daily rsync to a local disk, and daily rclone to one of the cloudy services as a backup to my backup (that I can also access on my phone if needed). I can sleep.

  25. Smirnov

    The data isn't gone - it's the GDrive Windows client

    Had this happen to me today on all my GDrive accounts - lots of newer files gone AWOL.

    This was on Windows. Checked Google Drive on the web, all data there. Checked Google Drive on my Macs, all data there. Checked Google Drive contents on Linux (GNOME), all data there.

    Only on Google Drive for Windows the files are missing (on all my Windows machines).

    So it seems that no data has actually been lost, it's just that the Google Drive client for Windows fails to show data beyond a certain date.

  26. QQcandy

    looks like a lot of backup experts here, wondering that what iPhone data backup tool you guys use. currently i'm using the FoneDog iOS Data Backup & Restore tool, but thinking of changing another one though.

  27. Mr_Pitiful
    FAIL

    Clouds Evaporate

    I had this happen to me the day after I setup between my Main PC and GD, to use some files offline on site (29th Nov)

    Everthing shut down and off to bed!

    Next morning switched on PC.....no icons on desktop, my local drives were intact - I spent all morning linking back me NAS

    All my short cuts were gone, a few with cmd lines I couldn't remember

    I heard nothing back from a support request, maybe they've all lost their desktop icons

    I really wish I hadn't started on this minor glitch!

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