In late June 2016, artist Dennis Cooper was browsing his Gmail when he was suddenly informed that Google had deactivated his account. While many have undoubtedly had their Google accounts suspended or altogether deleted, this incident had particularly far-reaching consequences. The artist also used Google’s blogging app, Blogger, to host his popular blog, The Weaklings, which when deleted, made inaccessible 14 years of work.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Many have undoubtedly had their Google accounts suspended or altogether deleted” hashtags=”google, tech, cloud”]

The artist perhaps rightfully became disgruntled with Google for not pre-warning him about removing his blog whilst the media and activists are up in arms because it reeks of censorship. It remains unclear why the blog was deleted although online speculation suggests it may have been due to content violating the platform’s terms of service. Google have yet to comment on the matter. In the meantime, data backup providers are resting their heads in their hands as they continue to read about it.

The deletion of the blog and possible censorship aside, there is a more notable problem that many have not chosen to focus on – the importance of data backup. Whilst nobody likes to be on the receiving end of an “I told you so”, the simple fact is that if Mr Cooper had backed up his work from the blog, he could simply restore the content and migrate it to a platform with perhaps more amenable terms and conditions.

This highlights an all too common misconception that because something is in the cloud it is safe from accidental or intentional deletion. Dennis Cooper’s case proves that this is simply not true. The same misconception costs hundreds perhaps thousands of people a year as they realise their online data hasn’t been backed up.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Just because work is stored in the cloud on a blog doesn’t mean it is safe from loss.” hashtags=”tech, cloud, IT”]

In the case of Dennis Cooper, just because his work was stored in the cloud on his blog didn’t necessarily mean it was safe from loss. The reality of the situation was that the data was very much at risk of being lost with no formal backup in process in place. This is evident simply by reading Google’s terms of service, which state:

WE DON’T MAKE ANY COMMITMENTS ABOUT THE CONTENT WITHIN THE SERVICES, THE SPECIFIC FUNCTIONS OF THE SERVICES, OR THEIR RELIABILITY, AVAILABILITY, OR ABILITY TO MEET YOUR NEEDS. WE PROVIDE THE SERVICES “AS IS”.

When using any cloud services, including services such as Office365 and Dropbox, it is crucial to have a backup of everything, separate from the system in which the live data resides. Every day we read about the importance of online backup for businesses and are constantly exposed to cautionary tales and cases of bad practice. However, less emphasis is placed on an individual’s own information being backed up which is just as important.

How to avoid data lost due to backup oversight

To reduce the risk of data loss, it’s imperative to understand that cloud storage and cloud backup are not the same thing. Cloud storage is for live data and provides often little or no protection against data loss. Whilst it’s great to be able to enjoy the benefits of storing data in the cloud and having access to it from anywhere, a backup should always exist outside of the system in which the live data resides.

With the advent of cloud technology, we have the opportunity to back up our data within the cloud. Many businesses and individuals see the benefits of having local copies of their data as well. In particular, this can be useful in situations where Internet access is intermittent or where very large restores are needed fairly often.

Lastly, you can never be too cautious when it comes to data protection so backup your backups. If you utilise an online backup service provider, the service provider will usually do this for you through redundant copies in multiple data centres. This could save you a lot of time, energy and the inconvenience of potential data loss. If you use a service provider that only retains one copy of your data, now is a good time to explore what else is out there.