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back to article Gmail users howl in anguish at 'disappeared' accounts

Tens of thousands of Gmail users have at least temporarily lost months or years of messages and chat dialogues after Google accidentally reset their accounts on Sunday. The bug left affected an estimated 150,000 users with blank slates. Surfers who re-established accounts were confronted only by welcome to Gmail messages. Any …

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FAIL

another googlefuck

and they still expect us to trust our life to "the cloud"?

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Happy

errr... nope

Of course, like much of this stuff, it's a free service, so nobody really has a right to complain and one would hope nobody keeps anything critical on it, no? (yea, right!).

On the other hand, I completely agree with you - there is no way I would trust any data to some anonymous "cloud". I stopped using other people's email servers years ago because I simply did not trust them, and I have yet to see any reason to start trusting them again. Renaming this stuff "cloud" doesn't make it any more reliable, oddly enough.

Maybe if you stored your data on multiple "clouds" then there's a better chance of holding on to it in the event of a problem. As long as those separate "clouds" are not actually just virtual instances of the same underlying cloud of course ...but how would you know?

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Free?

Isn't google's primary business model to provide free services which bring in a lot of users so that other companies will pay for advertising to those users?

In other words the money google makes is down the services it provides to the users being paid for (by advertising revenue).

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Boffin

I've lost data all over the place...

Storage is storage - maybe more reliable or less, but nothing is 100% reliable. My first lost files were on a 5 1/4 inch floppy, but I've lost information from just about every technology out there: floppy disks, zip disks, USB drives, CDs, DVDs, SCSI drives, PATA/SATA drives, RAID arrays (1, 0+1, 5), network shares - even hard copies. I've lost data from "The Cloud", and I've lost data locally. I've lost data because it was corrupted, because it was was physically lost, and because the drive it was stored on was damaged.

But you know what? Apart from one disk, I've had backups of all the data I wanted to keep - even the cloud stuff. If something is important to you, no matter what it is, you should have a complete backup of it. All my really, really important files aren't kept on Google's servers; they're stored in my bank, in a lock-box, on both a hard drive and DVDs.

I don't care what "They" expect; I back up my data, regardless of where it is.

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good point, but...

This is gmail and the backup solution is actually pretty easy - download your mail to a local mail agent while leaving it up on gmail itself. This is what I do. Email has pretty standardized formats and protocols which helps tremendously.

In different cloud contexts there may not be an easy way to capture what is stored on "their" servers and store it locally in a form you can then make sense of. Depends on their APIs. Delicious has a querying API for example, so I can export my bookmarks with a home cooked Python script, but can't import it elsewhere.

Backups and not having cloud vendor lock-in are related concept, IMHO. If you can export your data in a re-importable format, then you're OK with doing your backups. Not so much otherwise.

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Pint

What's the best way to back up a GMail account?

I have about 2GB of data in my GMail account and stories like this make me very nervous.

Can anyone suggest a good, practical way of backing that data up, please?

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FAIL

Backup Gmail....

Plently of ways to backup.... any IMAP or GMAIL client... a paid product www.GmailKeeper.com is also good.

But to trust GMail blindly is just silly.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: What's the best way to back up a GMail account?

Backup to Outlook via Pop3 is a easy nontechnical solution.

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oops

Just download your email often to you computer and stick it on a USB drive. if its not possible to archive messages to a local disc, then you could set upa forward to automcatiicaly send all messages you send or recieve to another cloud based Email account.

I run my own a nice postfix/dovecot/Spamass set-up running rather nicely with rsnapshot running hourly backups. Much preferable to any gmail yahoo hotmail etc service around.

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Anonymous Coward

Was gonna say

Before it was pointed out already... set your GMail account to POP3 enabled and then just create another GMail/Hotmail/Yahoo account to retrieve from your primary account. It won't keep all your tag information but at least you'll have another online backup.

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Gold badge

Re: the best way to backup

POP3 would allow you to backup your mail, but not restore it. Better than nothing, I suppose, but you'd never again have those messages available to you when you were away from home. That would seem to defeat one of the touted advantages of webmail.

Is there a way of backing up gmail that allows you to restore your messages to the cloud once google have finished screwing up?

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Don't use webmail!

Set up an e-mail client (I use Thunderbird) to download messages to your computer. There are independent programs to back up mail. I can never see the point of having to bring up a browser to view mail, especially as I have several accounts from different providers. It won't stop outages such as this but at least you will have mails stored locally.

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Anonymous Coward

Backing up Gmail

Try doing what I do, nice and simple -

1. I switched from using IMAP to POP, less connection delays and you get all the messages locally. If you are using Outlook you can select to also keep the messages on the server, so if you lose them on Gmail then you will still have them locally. Also whilst travelling I can still check all incoming emails via IMAP on my smartphone, or any other location.

2. I discovered Mailstore. It can backup Outlook, or connect directly to Gmail or any other email account and it downloads everything. Has powerful search as well. Home version is incredibly free, or office version starts with 5 licenses for around €250 and has extra features. It is excellent.

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@Ken Hagen

"POP3 would allow you to backup your mail, but not restore it. Better than nothing, I suppose, but you'd never again have those messages available to you when you were away from home. That would seem to defeat one of the touted advantages of webmail."

POP3 has a checkbox option of "Leave messages on the server." Check that and your emails are not deleted, thus leaving the messages online and accessible. Simples.

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FAIL

Oh Yes

Let's backup our mail into a proprietary binary blob that has known stability problems when its .pst file grows past 2gb in size.

No thanks.

Emails should be archived in such a way that each individual mail is accessible without requiring a particular software product.

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Boffin

Re: What's the best way to back up a GMail account?

For first hand, Tom_, any IMAP-capable, old-school, non-cloud email client will do.

You could also give Mailstore (http://www.mailstore.com/en/mailstore-home.aspx) a try.

Daniel

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WTF?

Read before you click

Yes, there's the option to 'Leave messages on the server' - but learn to read.

However as Ken rightly said, there's no easy way of restoring the mails if deleted from the server, unless you've got some way of untar'ing your maildir mails (*having converted them from Thunderbird's native implementation of mbox, for example) straight onto your mail root.

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FAIL

Cloud will save us all eh?

"The cause of the snafu remains unclear, though it does illustrate the need to back up important messages instead of blindly trusting cloud-based services, despite the fact that locally held data is far more likely to be destroyed by hardware failure or similar data loss."

Sounds like an oxymoron to me, having been fed all the marketing snakeoil expousing the wonders of the Cloud it turns out that for now at least my local held data are far safer on a flash drive than if I were to entrust them to someone apparently adept at cloudy goodness such as Google.

Cloud Computing: The Strongest of the Fail Ales

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Stop

Well...

Given the rate of failure for flash drives, I'd recommend that if you were to do this, you also store that critical data elsewhere, preferably in a RAID configuration.

You might not like it, but your local disks (hard, flash or otherwise) are much more likely to fail and be unrecoverable than a huge cluster of Google/MS/BlahCorp disks. I'm also hoping that Google et al are more diligent with backups than my dad is.

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@DrunkenMessiah

http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/thumb_down_32.pngThis is rather like the smug argument about the safety of flying. What are your chances of getting into an air crash? Slim to none. Okay, so what are your chances of SURVIVING an air crash? Slim to none. That's right, boys and girls. The odds of getting into an air crash are pretty small, especially if you do not do much flying. On the other hand, the chances of your getting out of an air crash alive are just as small as those of you getting into a crash situation in the first place.

Compare this to travel by automobile. The chances of your getting into a car crash are fairly good, but then so are the chances of you surviving said crash.

What are the chances of the cloud evaporating your invaluable data? Very slim. What are the chances of your being able to recover data eaten by a cloud? For all practical intents and purposes, non-existent.

What are your chances of your personal hardware crashing and causing you to lose data? Well, that's pretty high actually. I think that has happened to nearly all of us at one time or another. What are your chances of recovering data lost from a personal hardware failure? Fairly good.

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Hardware failure vs. screwup

I've lot a lot more data on 'the cloud" (luckily I had the important stuff backed up) due to system/user errors like this than I've ever lost due to a hardware failure. Only ever lost one USB flash drive and it was a very old 32MB one that I used for sneakernetting (Sneakernetting: verb: to use a sneakernet.)

Yeah, "the cloud" has redundant systems to safeguard your data, but all that redundancy goes out the window when some update or something (or someone) fubars the data.

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Welcome to the cloud...

...where dreams and data are but vapour.

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re: Welcome to the cloud

Vague, fluffy, and liable to piss all over you at a moment's notice.

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Unhappy

"back up important messages"

How do you decide what's an "important" message. Also, something that seems like trash at one moment, could become very important later on. I very rarely delete ANY of my GMail messages for this very reason, unless I'm sure it's some kind of junk. (Maplin's latest offer of the week) and I seem to get hardly any actual spam (perhaps one a week).

I currently have 43,094 messages in my inbox which is 43,094 times I have NOT had to take the couple of seconds or so it takes to decide if something is worth keeping. Even if I'm generous (it probably takes more than a couple of seconds) that's a few seconds short of a WHOLE DAY of my life that I've saved, even more if you allow for sleeping.

Luckily I redirect all my mail from a personal domain, into my GMail account... but whenever I check it through this route it's chocked full of spam. Not something I'd relish having to do really.

This is not the news I was hoping to read today.

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Anonymous Coward

Important?

You would seriously rather rely on a 3rd party to keep your information safe in the cloud than bother taking any kind of responsibility for it yourself? (Having a domain but passing the mail to that domain off to Google doesn't count as taking responsibility, quite the reverse, really).

Based on what you've said, I would suggest that you do not bother to back any of your email up, as it clearly isn't important.

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Anonymous Coward

Fsck me

43k messages in your inbox? Are you insane? Can you ever find ANYTHING? (and more to the point is there anything worth finding?)

I though I was hopelessly useless at email management when I got to 1k.

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Troll

That's alot of forwards

of funny cat pictures from your mom.

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FAIL

Not really

Don't you know that most countries insist on emails being kept and archived? Easier to keep the whole bl00dy lot and be sure, and have a good filing system or search tool.

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Ummm

Only if you are a business

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RE: Important.

I don't just forward. I store and forward, so I've got all my mails locally as well if needed. I never use my actual GMail address to receive mail, and "send as" + "reply to" my personal email address. Works pretty well, except all the spam in my local copy.

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RE: Fsck me. (43K messages)

Never ever have a problem finding anything. The search on GMail is pretty good.

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43k?

I had a mere 220k emails dating back to 2004 on my GMail account whereupon about a year and a half ago, having suffered a day-long outage, I eventually jumped the bandwagon and started using my own server instead.

Ironically I'd been running a mail hosting company for a couple of years by then but hadn't trusted myself with it for my own mails. Haven't looked back since.

Going back to the joy of deleting emails is undescribable - I pity those stuck in swamps of useless emails, kept 'in case they're ever needed' - pah.

As to why I ever thought not deleting my emails would be a good idea, I don't know.

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FAIL

cloud computing is your destiny

"Google Apps boss says cloud computing is your destiny" - are you kidding ?

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desiny's child or bastard

Well, in this case Google Apps boss is correct. Your Email destiny was clearly sent in a particular direction.

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FAIL

Is this "accidentaly" in the same way that they...

"Accidentaly" wrote, compiled, tested and delivered a Wi-Fi network detail scoop into their street view cars?

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Grenade

To be fair.....

GMAIL is an excellent service with huge amounts of storage, a slick front end and it's completely subsidised by unobtrusive advertising. I've had one since the year dot and it's uptime and resilience have been excellent.

Given that it's a freebie, I'm not sure you can necessarily expect enterprise like levels of backup and speedy restores. If it was a paid service obviously you'd have every right to go mental about this.

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Re: To be fair.....

Try telling that to the anti-MS crowd who used a similar but much smaller scale event to twist their blades as deep as possible into the tech giant's back a couple of months ago.

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Joke

To be fairer...

"I'm not sure you can necessarily expect enterprise like levels of backup and speedy restores."

Given that they have said that they hope to do it soon, but it may take longer than that, I think that they may still beat "enterprise like levels of backup and speedy restores."

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Hmmmm......

OK so an outage on the BPOS environment that Microsoft charge for is the same ToS and SLA as Google's free service?

Cool one up to Google I guess.

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Anonymous Coward

Working on the problem...

Or "We're first going to identify them all, then we need to find the right backup and then hope it works."

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Happy

Whiners

"This issue affects less than 0.08 per cent..."

Translation: you always get a few whiners.

I prefer to think "Hey, this is computers. What we can do with 0.08%, we can do in a few seconds with the other 99.92%!".

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Banks

Let's apply your logic (perhaps in more polite language) to banks.

"We lost some people's money, but it was only 0.08% of customers, just a hundred thousand or so. The service is free, what on earth are these idiots whingeing about...you get access to how many MILLIONS of cash machines....you want the earth for nothing, freeloaders!"

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@Mike Shepard

Banks are not a free service - they have your money, and make interest off it - more than they give back to you. May not be much, but multiply that by the number of customers and you have the money to pay for the machine network.

In addition, Google haven't lost anyone any actual money. There might be consequential loss, but I suggest you look at the Gmail T&C's on that one.

Not a good example.

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"Not a good example" @ James Huze 1

You're confused. If banking isn't "free" then Google isn't "free", either.

You could as easily have written "Google have your e-mails and they make money from them (more than its costs them to provide the service), because they examine those e-mails as part of targeted advertising, which they sell (for real money). Maybe it's not much, but multiply it by the number of customers enjoying "free" service and you have the money to pay for the computer network".

We all know the business model: explaining it doesn't get you anywhere. It's still a question of providing service in exchange for some advantage, be that your money or your attention to their adverts. The question is whether or not Google provide a service to which you would trust valuable information.

You can search T&Cs all day: that won't answer the question. Would you be happier if Google's terms said "We may lose all your data but you can always sue us"? The point is that "cloud" facilities are presented as secure, but the experience so far is that data can go missing for days (or forever) because the technology is immature or poorly-managed. In comparison, it's very cheap to backup your own data. You know how long it would take to recover a lost item and you don't rely on suing Google to get back to where you thought you were before you used their service.

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Erm... what?

I'm sorry but you appear to be conflating two separate issues and someone insinuating they're related.

Issue 1: Google is a free service

Yes, yes it is.

Issue 2: Google lost peoples data

Yes, yes they did.

Google lost peoples data, those people have every right to complain and complain loudly about it. Google screwed up, they should be called out on it. They should also give a timescale on when full account history will be restored.

If this was a paid service the response of the people and eventual fix by google should be exactly the same as it is now.

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Refund!

This is outrageous! All affected users should demand a refund!

Oh, hang on...

I have Thunderbird configured to POP messages but keep them on the server. That way I have all my emails in GMail, but I also have a copy of them all on my own computer in case the go missing from GMail for some reason.

Chat logs, well I disabled them. I don't need a record of such conversations and neither does Google.

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Jobs Horns

invalid

Do you really think those chat logs are really disabled? Come on :)

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Thunderbird via Pop3..

is my preferred option, I only use the web front end if on holiday or otherwise away from my own computer.

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Google, always got to do it better than MS!

So MS temporarily lose the contents of approx 17,000 Hotmail accounts at the turn of the year. Google, never one to be outdone, manage to 'temporarily' dispose of 150,000 GMail accounts. Happy now Google? :-)

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