back to article Childcare app bods wipe users' data – then discover backups had been borked for a year

It was with "great regret" that Orbit, makers of an app for professional childcare services, informed its customers that it lost all of their data during a weekend site upgrade – before discovering their backups hadn't been working for a year. Orbit describes itself as "a secure website" which provides "the Orbit Early Years …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Guess they are secure now.

  2. frank ly

    A free app - delivering adverts

    Childcare 'professionals' gave sensitive information about children to it. *Shakes my head*

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge

      Cloud Cuckoo Land

      The *ONLY* perspective from which Cloud makes sense is from the company that provides it. For users, it's a stupid idea, always.

      There is *no* reason whatsoever for this app to have been storing data anywhere except locally with the users. That would have given superior security and reliability.

      Sure, they could have replicated a small subset of that data back to their server if (and only if) it is needed for collaboration features, but to put *everything* in the cloud, that's where most apps fall over, and it's driven by greed - of the cloud providers - to be able to mine all the data and sell it to advertisers/statisticians/crooks as they please.

      The most ridiculous part of all is that they were storing the only copy of the data on one server, which is 'doing it wrong' even from a cloud perspective.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Cloud Cuckoo Land

        "storing data [...] locally with the users. That would have given superior security and reliability."

        Only if their users were very different to the users I have encountered, otherwise it would have been neither secure or reliable.

  3. Kraggy

    I guess some lawyers will be getting Christmas early out of this fiasco.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Don't forget the executive bonuses will still be given out as well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        s/be/have been/

        Wouldn't want this pesky lawyers stopping that.

  4. Shadow Systems

    So much for Due Dilligence...

    What person smart enough to make backups in the first place fails to check to make sure the backups are useable? You make a backup & then immediately verify that the backup can be restored to recover the data.

    A company charging money for services should be doing this constantly to a test server from the main server's backups, in order to make DAMN sure the backups can restore the customer & corporate data. Anything less is failure to practice Due Dilligence & leaving themselves wide open to having a lawsuit shoved up their arse.

    Heads will roll & the lowest folks on the corporate totem pole will get thrown under the bus when this debaucle comes back to maul their arses.

    1. Dippywood

      Re: So much for Due Dilligence...

      Q. What person smart enough to make backups in the first place fails to check to make sure the backups are useable?

      A. An expensive consultant

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So much for Due Dilligence...


        I've never seen an expensive consultant doing the daily checks. That's normally left for the operations team.

        The consultant only gets the PHB's to agree that it needs doing and gets budget so that it can be the first place.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: So much for Due Dilligence...


        A. The operations team.

        Q Who discovered this?

        A. The consultant brought in to do a migration.

      3. tskears

        Re: So much for Due Dilligence...

        I am offended...

        I'm an expensive consultant working in a regulated industry and part of computer systems qualification is to successfully run a backup AND a restore.

        Poo on you...

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: So much for Due Dilligence...

      "What person smart enough to make backups in the first place fails to check to make sure the backups are useable?"

      A fine sentiment - but it's no use checking the first few backups - you have to check every backup to be certain that it's all working correctly. Of course nobody does this.

      It make more sense to maintain multiple backups via unique services/methods in the hope that not all of them will fail at the same time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So much for Due Dilligence...

        @Version 1.0 you have to check every backup to be certain that it's all working correctly. Of course nobody does this.

        Sorry but some of us do just that. We even go as far as running test servers to restore to and test that everything works on failover.

      2. Will code

        Re: So much for Due Dilligence...

        "nobody does this"

        We do. restore production backup, anonymise it appropriately and then use it for integration testing. Handy for performance tests and data dependent tests when you don't have sufficient unit test coverage. The testing of the backups is an added bonus

        Does require sufficient hardware so is not free.

        We also do proper bcp tests but those are months apart.

      3. H in The Hague

        Re: So much for Due Dilligence...

        "Of course nobody does this."

        Ermm, some of us do (while occasionally bemoaning the passing of paper tape and punch cards :).

    3. Vince

      Re: So much for Due Dilligence...

      "What person smart enough to make backups in the first place fails to check to make sure the backups are useable? You make a backup & then immediately verify that the backup can be restored to recover the data." our experience. Most people.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: So much for Due Dilligence...

      Testing? That costs money!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So much for Due Dilligence...

      What person smart enough to make backups in the first place fails to check to make sure the backups are useable?

      Earlier this year I setup some geo-redundant web/database servers for a somewhat large outfit to use for some fairly mission-critical stuff. I asked the guy I was subcontracting to about backups, he told me "that's Muppet's problem". "Muppet" is the name given by the person to whom I was subcontracting to person the whole thing was being handed off to.

      Given my experiences with Muppet I would say that the chances of there being anything even resembling a functional backup at this time is around zero.

  5. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Sueballs at dawn ?

    Given it's axiomatic the service was sold to "protect your precious data", how are Orbit going to manage to now claim it had "no value" when the courts get involved ?

  6. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    @ Shadow Systems

    They weren't charging for it - perhaps they should offer refunds :-)

    @ JimmyPage

    "Precious" =/= "valuable". Some of my most precious things have no intrinsic value whatsoever.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "it was discovered the database back up had not been working properly over the past 12 months."

    What backups? If they're not regularly tested they're not backups and clearly they hadn't been tested.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      "Two is one, and One is None."

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They kept their school's data in a cloud application

    Because "the cloud" is much safer and far more reliable than using their own servers.

    Looks like it didn't work out quite the way they expected.

  9. MotionCompensation

    Test your backup as part of any big change

    I'm doing a migration tomorrow. First step is always: backup production, restore to test, run the migration there, validate the results. You now know you can restore the production database and you've seen your upgrade or migration run with the current production data. Only then can you proceed...

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Test your backup as part of any big change

      Er yes.

      OK maybe they didn't check backups regularly. But if they were actually going to go live with them, then FFS check them first, before you wipe the originals. (BTW maybe I'm missing something, but since when were backup files used to replace live ones except under emergency conditions anyway?)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I told you so !!

    I hope the new owners of the business we sold last year are listening, I told them it wasnt a good idea (and also that installing Win10 would break UK the data protection act).

    Anon, cos this is a small town full of petty minded people.

  11. Mage Silver badge


    Sounds like a typical and inevitable Cloud scenario?

    1. cd

      Re: #Cloudfail

      Good title for a nerdy James Bond flick.

  12. jtaylor


    No backups, no testing, ad-supported childcare service, and their domain is in Somalia.

    I wonder if Orbit was trying for Sketchy Outfit Of The Year.

  13. Duffaboy

    "a secure website"


  14. Mark 85

    It's in the cloud...

    It rained... cloud is gone.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let someone host your stuff for you

    And give them your house keys whilst your at it.

  16. Lennart Sorensen

    So they deleted the current system before setting up the new one from the "backups"? Why would they do that? It's a cloud, can't you just create another test instance to do it in, and then shutdown the old one when the new one is ready?

    I guess the users got what they paid for.

  17. Stevie


    Not to panic. All the data is probably on some server in Chechnya.

    1. Zimmer

      Re: Bah!

      Don't worry, the USB stick will turn up eventually,

      possibly at the London Transport Lost Property Office

      ** icon ---maybe not..

  18. heyrick Silver badge

    Bloody hell people, where are you going to learn?

    If you willingly place "important" (by your measure of importance) data into the hands of a third party with no private copy of your own, you can scream and cry and gnash your teeth, but it's pretty much your own fault it is all goes boobies in the air. You can choose to make backups, or not. However when it's all out of your control, the integrity of your data depends upon the competence of other people, and you'll generally find the less you pay....

    I just wonder how many people or moaning now, but will continue to use the app regardless. Until the next time? Or the time after that?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I work for a video production support company and having more than a single backup protocol is useful. I typically run a daily hardware duplicate of production drives (or media spaces) as an Online backup and then use drives or tape as appropriate for historical Nearline and Offiline backups (which include archives of changes daily). That way, if one doesn't produce the expected results, the secondary or tertiary backups will usually have the required data.

    So far, I have been able to find data that has existed in our systems for at least 4 hours (backups are run frequently) in one of these backups: Online duplicates (most common and quickly restored) for files that were accidentally deleted , Nearline backups (with trailing archives of changes for the last 14 days) and Offline backups (typically completed projects). All of this is scripted of course, but must be monitored. Another bill to the client.

    It is expensive, requires maintenance and vigilance, but we find that we only very rarely are at a loss to restore data from servers or workstations. This requires massive storage, both on and off site. Not for the light of wallet.

    It is also a service and its cost is easily passed on to clients who may not have digital archives of the work we have produced. It is a moderate moneymaker in this respect as well.

    If your data is worth something, back it up two or three different ways, so you always get a backup somewhere, even if one backup method fails. You will be thanked one day for this.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surprised...

    ... the service was pretty crappy anyway. Nursery here used to use it for a while.

    Sounds like they were doing something very weird if they erased the live system, then were planning on setting the new system going with data off of the backups. Very odd.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not surprised...

      Anon cos wife works in EYFS.

      I asked herself about this.

      She, and as far as I'm aware, all local schools around where we are use a suite called tapestry.

      It allows schools to download their data and burn it to CD - who knows when or if they do.

      Though interestingly their website says nothing about data integrity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not surprised...

        I was asked to look at Tapestry a couple of years ago, after reading everything I could find about it, I recommended AGAINST using it, as there were big issues over how secure the data was.

        Also, the data was going through/stored on a US server, so (once again) technically broke UK data protection act (this might have changed by now).

        Same anon as "I told you so".

        BTW, I set up an offline data back-up system for them that needed a single button push to launch, and a supply of SDXC cards to use; they hadnt run it once, the last time I checked, and since their "IT Manager" doesnt even know how to set a PlusNet router up, I doubt it is doing anything but gathering dust.

    2. GrapeBunch

      Re: Not surprised...

      Dear Odd,

      We are reliably informed that the IT-technical term for erasing a working system before the new system is up is "hubris".

      Even at home, you replace a hard drive long before you expect it to fail, because new hard drives are quieter / more capacious / more reliable than the one you're using. Then you put the old drive on your secure shelf as a known good working backup. In addition to any other backup systems you have in place. It's "free", or nearly so.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once bitten.......twice shy.....hold on

    "already going to have weeks/months of work to redo without not being able to do my current work too!!"

    Even though they have been let down by them this person was saying they were annoyed as they are currently unable to use it for their current work!

    That's like being thrown off your horse and in the process the horse injuring itself and then moaning about not being able to get back on the horse due to its injury.

  22. Mystic Megabyte

    Dead Data

    The only way to be sure is to nuke Orbit from it!

    I'll get my coat now...

    1. bob, mon!

      Re: Dead Data

      I'd say that's just happened...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many nursery schools...

    How many nursery schools have an operations team doing backups of their locally hosted data? Unless snafu like this happens the cloud is probably a far safer place than the iPad of some NVQ qualified nursery worker.

    1. OliP

      Re: How many nursery schools...

      or you outsource it...

      It just takes the manager to take it seriously. Sadly like many other industries the education sector is run on next to no budget and people with the skills to make decent suggestions are often over-ruled.

      I used to support a handful of schools, nurseries etc from a MSP in east london, we knew their budget was limited so offered a discount but treated them like any other corporate when it came to their data. They may have gotten a slower response time but they could live with that.

      There is always a way to do IT properly - you just need to plan it properly, and if you don't understand it listen to someone who does.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: How many nursery schools...

        "people with the skills to make decent suggestions are often over-ruled."

        All too often people with the skill to make decent suggestions aren't even employed.

  24. MatsSvensson

    Our condolences in your trying times

    At least the data is safe now, in the clouds of heaven.

    Suggestion for press release:

    I know how much your loss must grieve you,

    but here's a thought I'd like to leave you:

    Although you're sad, please enjoy the consolations;

    that now god is reading your observations.

  25. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I wonder that their T&Cs say about compensation for losing data.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Cloud

    Other peoples computers you have no control over.

  27. David Pollard

    Cover for theft/misuse?

    Maybe it's a paranoid thought to wonder that the loss of data for the last 12 months might have been deliberately engineered to cover up some sort of misuse of the information, or to eradicate details of abuse. On the other hand ...

  28. Alan Brown Silver badge


    Why did they even need to LOOK at their backups?

    When migrating like this you do an ascii DB dump and reimport. You should only need to resort to the backups if that's failed.

    Multiple levels of FAIL.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: urrrm.....

      My guess would be that they'd just redone the front end intending to use the existing database and contrived to re-initialise it when they connected to it.

    2. PassiveSmoking

      Re: urrrm.....

      Because there's absolutely no need whatsoever to encrypt a db backup full of intimate details of a load of children....


  29. cosymart

    Free as in air

    Think they need to ask for their money back...oh dear, it was excellent value and they got what they paid for, nothing :-(

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the Cloud" is just a fancy name for somebody else's computer/network/SAN

    The problem is, especially in IT, is that if you don't pay the peons their worth, they will start to skip on some responsibilities, especially should you start to assign more and more responsibilities to the same person without proper renumeration (salary increase, extra perks etc).

    Or you don't want to pay $$$ for a proper test/lab network with which to test the backup/restore functionality of your data. Backups cost money, and having a test network is even more of an expense, but at the end of the day the expense of having a test/lab network will look like chump change should you experience total data loss and world+dog is taking you to court. Over a barrel.

  31. 0laf

    I'm shocked I haven't come across this product before it's just the sort of crap I usually find out about a month after the contract has been signed then I'm expected to retrospectively approve the non-existent security and compliance on it.

    Then I'm the bad guy not the fucker that didn't follow procurement and breached the DPA.

    I wonder if anyone will sue the company or customers. Clearly the loss of data is a breach of Principle 7 and vulnerable individuals have potentially been placed at harm because this data is no longer available.

    Thanks for the story, it'll go in my bag marked "Cloud isn't always shiny and cheap"

    1. Alister

      Thanks for the story, it'll go in my bag marked "Cloud isn't always shiny and cheap"

      You only have a bag? I have a room full of filing cabinets marked "Why cloud is bad for you" but we still struggle to fight off PHBs with silly ideas.

  32. PassiveSmoking

    On the bright side...

    ... they can at least guarantee 100% data security.

  33. Hollerithevo

    I don't ask them

    I run, for a much-reduced fee, websites for a few charities. I tell them I am covering 'the usual back-end admin' and don't ask them to make decisions on this. If I did, they'd try to cut it out of the budget, which I would not care about (I am already making a wee loss, but my work for them is my donation), but which they eventually would care about. So they get all the patches, updates, etc, and they also get three back-ups: local to a HDD on their premises, one to a server on my premises, and one to an external cloud server (based in EU). Luckily, disaster with data has never struck, but I don't ask them to be wiser than they are about security and we are all happy.

  34. Tezfair

    I remember a few times as a breakfix engineer going on site and whilst it wasn't part of the job, I would always ask what backup they are running and just have a peek. Number of times it had failed was quite surprising. Usually due to capacity issues or changed paths / shares etc, but a classic was a FAT formatted USB HDD. All was fine until the backup hit 4Gb as a filesize - pretty much a week after being set up.

  35. hoola Silver badge

    But it was in "the cloud"

    Unfortunately there is a mentality that "the cloud" is the answer to everything and magic just happens to keep your data safe. The people the do not understand the difference between availability and backup is staggering. Couple that with the Apple connection (yes I know the only made it available) but it on the App Store so it must be good and "just work".

    The company behind this that were stupid enough to wipe without testing deserve to go out of business. I would actually go as far as preventing them from putting anything back into the App Store (or Google Play).

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