If you have followed the recent developments of the government shutdown of Megaupload you may be under the impression that the site was merely a pirate’s playground used exclusively for infringing on copyright. Whether or not this is true, whatever your opinion of copyright in the digital age, the shutdown does bring forth one of those perhaps unthought of questions. What happens to my data in the cloud?
Along with any infringing material, Megaupload servers contained user created data. Family pictures, documents, recipes, and perhaps small business documents were also stored on Megaupload’s servers. It was cloud storage pure and simple.
As the story unfolds, at least some of the storage space was on servers not directly under the control of Megaupload. It resided on third party servers who leased the storage space and bandwidth to Megaupload. And now those bills are coming due. The government has frozen the assets of Megaupload and it’s principals, the URLs to the data no longer work, and no one is paying the bills for this leased capacity.
The migration of critical corporate documents to the cloud hopefully includes a thorough due dilligence study. Things like security controls, data center locations and redundancy, backup and restore terms are often included. Hopefully there is a plan in the event the cloud storage provider goes out of business. But what about a situation where the government pulls the plug? What about individuals or small businesses who may not have thought to look far enough forward?
It is going to be interesting to see if the government intervenes to allow legitimate user’s access to their data that had been stored on Megaupload’s servers or to at least ensure that data is protected. In the meantime there are probably lots of family vacation photos that could end up collateral damage.
I don’t know that there is an easy answer to this particular situation, but it does give food for thought in planning out your cloud storage strategy and underlines again the need for GOOD backup and restore practices. If your data is in anyway important to you, there should be multiple copies in multiple locations. Allowing the only copy of important information to exist on systems under control of others is a recipe for disaster.