back to article Flickr flap illuminates cloud concerns

Briefly, a photographer used Flickr to store his pictures online – amassing more than 4,000 photos over five years. Being the helpful sort, he alerted Flickr to another user who was stealing content. Flickr deleted his account, by mistake and those pictures looked to be gone forever. Following a media firestorm, Flickr had a …


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  1. whats the point of kenny lynch?

    what i don't get is..

    surely flickr has a backup of a backup of the stuff that they host?

    surely all cloud storage has several backups of backups in different locations with different passwords etc etc.....surely??

    1. Stephen Gray

      Did you read this article at all?

      There’s a cost to this; you’ll have to over-provision to beat the band, and it will cut into your margins and make you less competitive.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      What i don't get.... clearly you don't get is because you don't work in the area.

      How do you propose to back up?


      Well it will NEVER complete a backup.


      How much drive space!

      Mirrored as above, but any mistakes are copied across + how much drive space.

      The problem is so many people want stuff for free / next to nothing, but then complain when they don't get a premium service.

      If you'd read the article, if youwant backup etc, you have to pay for it. These are businesses, not charities helping out the needy.

      Our business has SLA's of 10 - 20 seconds to answer a phone on the helpdesks, but boy do the customers pay for it!

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Smoke & mirrors

    I worked for a time at a very well known cloud service provider.

    What most people forget is that these companies are not selling a product as such, they are selling a promise based on reputation. If I install a shrink-wrapped product and it crashes my system I'm annoyed but many such users are happy to be told it's Microsoft's fault and very few customers are lost due to a lowering of reputation in the eyes of that user and their friends.

    A cloud company on the other hand is scared shitless about a screw up. The problem can't be blamed on Microsoft and, as in this case, it gets plastered all over the web by people such as El Reg who have a field day with it. Reputation damage is beyond proportion to the error and in some cases can be fatal to the business.

    I've worked in networking and storage for over 20 years and personally I'd never trust anything I regard as important to be anywhere outside of my control. The dangers of the service provider losing it are one problem, network failure is another. Anyone in Egypt who relies on storing data in the cloud will have been screwed this last week.

  3. Wize

    It goes to show... don't want to have anyone else in control of your data.

    Sure, its a good thing if you want to use it as an offsite backup system, or a secondary backup.

    Eg, your small photographic business is probably run from your home and a fire will wipe out your PC and those backup CDs/tapes you've made. At least its all on another server somewhere.

    But as your only copy of the files? You'd have to be crazy.

    1. Peter Mount

      Thats part of the problem

      Agreed you must be certifiable.

      I use cloud storage for backups, but it's for offsite stuff, usually for stuff I don't want lost when there is a problem with a fire or a dead HD etc.

      The problem is that a lot of these services make them selves out as being the ideal place for storing backups but most people then don't think what would happen if they go tits up.

      TBH I'd be inconvenienced if say DropBox or Google trashes anything but then I've got the data stored elsewere.

      Beer icon as thats where I'll be in about 10 mins...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Enterprise, SLAs and high availability

    It's impossible to guarentee truely high user availabilty. Contracts will be worded such that availability is defined as being locally available. An enterpise cannot guarentee that a network not under their control won't go down, nor that power cuts may prevent access even if they have their own generators, nor that someone will not steal their cables.

    Basically think of the number of times you can't reach a website (even google is sometimes unreachable) or skype is playing up and that is what cloud access will be like. OK for home users but not for serious businesses.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward



      Basically think of the number of times you can't reach a website (even google is sometimes unreachable)


      Strangely - less often than not being able to connect to Exchange or devices on our internal network because of shonky software, badly configured (or administered) hardware or even someone forgot to turn the server back on after a power cut (we're in a rural location, it happens).

      Hell, the entire accounts system is still shut down at the end of every month to do stock taking because we can't trust the accounts software to be correct.

      Having said that though - our internet connection goes down occasionally as well so that would bork any cloud services we might use.

      I get far better reliability from my network when I'm working from home :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        ever heard of a UPS?

      2. Steven Knox

        Strangely indeed

        "Strangely - less often than not being able to connect to Exchange or devices on our internal network because of shonky software, badly configured (or administered) hardware or even someone forgot to turn the server back on after a power cut (we're in a rural location, it happens)."

        Then I'd say you're not a serious business -- or at least not a business with a serious IT department. All of the issues you described would have been fixed by an IT professional with a respectable budget in their first month on the job.

  5. Ian Michael Gumby

    Please get this straight...

    The issue is that the cloud company 'accidentally' removed his account. Normally in the 'cloud' you have high availability and redundancy. (Of course you really have to define what you mean by the 'cloud'.)

    In terms of cloud computing you can see companies like Facebook and Yahoo! have 1000's of machines in cloud clusters and this is repeated in to several data centers.

    What happened was that there was a human error that removed the account. Luckily they were able to retrieve the data from somewhere else in their cloud infrastructure.

    What people don't understand is that the amount of data within these clouds, the only way to back up the data in terms of disaster recovery is to have another cloud in a different site. Its impossible to back up PB of data to tape.

    The photog was lucky that he could get his data back.

    In the future you have to read the fine print and always maintain your own backup...

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      @ Ian Michael Gumby

      Maintain *what* backup? Does Flickr provide a way to retrieve all of the comments and such associated with an account? Does it provide a way to replace 'lost' pictures with replacements retaining the same URL? It isn't about whether or not stuff is "backed up", it is about all of the added services (metadata) that enrich the site and the user experience that cannot be easily restored.

      However, this article does have a valid point to make asking what your recourse is in cloud computing, as enterprising people are finding more ingenious ways to provide services and functionality that operates "in the cloud". Sure, it might be nice if I was a globetrotter to be able to sign in on any compatible terminal/phone/etc and do my wordprocessing and check my accounts, but if we think going cloudy is the way of the future, we better think a lot harder, for the outlook is cloudy with a chance of rain...

  6. The BigYin

    Always 3-2-1

    At least three copies, on at least two media types, at least one off-site.

    Flickr counts as his one off-site. Where were his other two back-ups?

    A couple of USB drives (or a NAS) would have done.

    If his pictures were that important, he should have taken the trouble to work out how to keep them safe.

    I always considered Flickr a viewing gallery - not a back-up location. Maybe I'm just weird.

    1. Merchman

      Re: Always 3-2-1

      If you read the original article, he did have back-ups of all the photos uploaded to Flickr. This issue was with all the meta-data and links to the photos from other people. If you have some mystica, magical way to backup that lot as well, I'm sure we'd all like to hear it.

    2. Rob Carriere

      Recomendation good, but impossible

      Your recommendation is good, but the photographer couldn't have followed it.

      As the original article says, he had his own backups of the pictures, no problem there. The problem is precisely as you state it: Flickr is is a viewing gallery and what he lost was the meta data associated with the photos and perhaps even more importantly, the URLs at which those photos lived, breaking any and all links to his gallery from the outside world.

      Flickr does not provide a mechanism to back up either of those, so your recommendation was mission impossible. In the final analysis, that is the danger of a collapsing cloud app. Backing up your source data locally is easy; having a scheme to recover all functionality and derived data built on top of your sources by that cloud app, that's the hard part.

  7. Bill B

    Could the cloud allow you to backup?

    OK all you IT experts, help me out here.

    Would it be possible for the cloud service to permit you to backup your own data?

    Simplistically, lets take an example. I use Picasa to share me photos. It allows a 'web synch' that synchs what's on my computer with what is in the cloud, but only to a limited extent. It doesn't synch other people's comments, links or a lot of other meta data.

    But .. wouldn't it be possible for the service provider to provide that as additional synched data. In that way I could 'backup' the cloud data myself.

    Possible or completely unrealistic?

    Can't find the icon for 'embedded systems grunt' so beer will have to do.

    1. Claustral

      Backupify will do exactly that

      Backupify specializes in backing up data you have on the cloud. They have specific solutions for Flickr, Facebook, Google Docs and many more. What I don't see in their product is a way to restore efficiently from the backup back to the cloud. [I haven't tried it myself because of this problem with restoring data.]

  8. Edwin
    Thumb Up

    the real issue is consumer mindset

    With hotmail, gmail, flickr, facebook and so on, consumers are used to getting something for 'free'. With p2p filesharing, this experience is further enhanced that you can get (nearly) anything for 'free'.

    And with all this 'getting' comes (insidiously for service providers) a sense of ENTITLEMENT. Somehow, the industry (or guvmint, or whoever) is going to have to get it into consumer minds that you get what you pay for.

    As with antivirus, phishing mails, patching your windows install and so forth, this looks to be a long, slow battle. I wish us all luck.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nevefr lets the facts get in the way....

      ISTR reading somewhere that this was a Flikr "pro" (PAID FOR) account so in that context comments re "freetards" are invalid.

      Fact remains that once data leaves your control you are at the mercy of the cloud operator, not something I am in any way comfortable with

  9. Mage Silver badge

    Metadata backup

    "This issue was with all the meta-data and links to the photos from other people. If you have some mystica, magical way to backup that lot as well, I'm sure we'd all like to hear it."

    Run your own hosted site. Not perfect but better than Flickr or MS Sidekick if you do it right.

    I have a daily cron job that exports the SQL server. I backup that file. I can loose at worst the last day's Metadata. If it was a busy site you maight do hourly SQL replication also.

    The uploaded files are separately backed up. If I had money and really paranoid I'd have a mirror with a different provider in a different country. And clever stuff with DNS.

  10. Mage Silver badge

    Sync Metadata

    Bill B

    Yes, very possible

    I don't know of anyone that does though.

  11. chrisjw37
    Jobs Horns

    I said it would end in tears - proven

    I said it would end in tears - proven


    me = predictive pyschic

    Now I'll do tours and cure bedwetters, smokers and drivers of Audi's from being cocks.

    Honestly - its so bleeding obvious, it is sad is it not?

  12. nsld

    The problem

    Is not the medium, its the process of the operator.

    A front line tech should not be able to delete anything.

    Even at the delete stage you have a stasis period and you also supply the client with a data copy

    After a period ot time and the delvery of the data you can delete the stuff.

    The other key issue is price, you get what you pay for, pay $20 a year or zip and you will get a chimp thumping the keyboard and no DR in place.

    Combine bad process and cheap as chips client demands and you have a recipe for disaster.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Ahhhh My Crystal Balls

    The cloud???

    Some good ideas put forward here...... Better insights etc...

    I am reminded of the time a few years ago, when a back hoe operator swung his scoop through a fiber optic cable - somewhere about 1/2 way up the side of Australia - and cutting about 2/3rd's of Australia off the internet for a few weeks....


    Somehow - while "The CLOUD" - does have benefits, and uses and all - me thinks this sales pitch about the benefits of "CLOUD APP's" is mainly PR spin - "a new glorious age for all mankind" bullshit.

    I think the sellers are pushing hard to get and keep customers into MORE product lock in // sales // turn over // etc., etc., etc...

    I am not saying that these benefits being pushed are not genuine (mostly) - but I am saying that having all the hardware and software to do it all in the first place - in ones own office // home, and having all the data backed up in a couple of formats, in home and off site; and using stuff like UPS's and PROPER power protection on all the lines, - because YOU can control all of the issues to do with running your own services.....

    But when shit happens, with Larry the backhoe driver.... undersea cable on a ship anchor, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc,,.......

    As a simplistic position of extremes - The folks that only have a dumb terminal to work from - are screwed (for however long).

  14. NoSh*tSherlock!

    So you want your cake and to eat it

    It is great to have TR write a balanced article, maybe combining this one and

    would really illustrate the mob mentality of those WHO DID NOT BOTHER TO UNDERSTAND THE RISKS AND WON'T PAY FOR THE SERVICE THEY NEED

    The world is full of bleating losers - the only way to improve this is a bit of tough love - grow up!

  15. Anonymous Coward

    I've no sympathy for him.

    Seriously, anybody who stores important stuff in the cloud without a backup of their own is just... well... STUPID.

  16. stubert

    Illuminates Cloud Concerns...?

    Support operators with detached brains illuminate cloud concerns do they? I think it just illuminates shoddy support. There are ligitimate concerns with Cloud computing, I don't think this is one of those concerns. Plus it seems that everything nowadays is coined cloud computing are web applications now cloud as well?

    Anyone who keeps data that valuable to them solely in the hands of another person or entity (even with SLAs) is misguided at best. If it is regarding the cumulative meta-data collected, perhaps that would highlight a different concern. An adequate export facility in Flickr perhaps?

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