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Cloud Data Storage Hardware

What Happens To Your Files When a Cloud Service Shuts Down? 592

MrSeb writes "Megaupload's shutdown poses an interesting question: What happens to all the files that were stored on the servers? XDA-Developers, for example, has more than 200,000 links to Megaupload — and this morning, they're all broken, with very little hope of them returning. What happens if a similar service, like Dropbox, gets shut down — either through bankruptcy, or federal take-down? Will you be given a chance to download your files, or helped to migrate them to another similar service? What about data stored on enterprise services like Azure or AWS — are they more safe?" And if you're interested, the full indictment against Megaupload is now available.
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What Happens To Your Files When a Cloud Service Shuts Down?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:10PM (#38764414)

    ...if the answer is "backup"?

  • by sethstorm ( 512897 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:10PM (#38764430) Homepage

    If you can afford to lose the data, it's fine to have it in the cloud.

    If you can't, you are SOL if you don't have a backup - one that is not in the cloud.

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:12PM (#38764450) Homepage Journal

    The foolishness that is millions of users trusting a single giant computing grid owned by a single private corporation was stupid in the first place.

    it is everyone putting their eggs in the same giant basket

    ranging from policy changes to mergers/takeovers/acquisitions to bankruptcies to government intervention - whatever you can imagine. its a single point of failure and your important stuff is gone.

    moreover, these cloud stuff are utilized for making collaboration tools work. so if cloud is gone, there goes your entire communication in between your team, company, clients, workgroup, whatever.

    its strategically stupid. run your own cloud if you want. dont put your stuff on another company's turf. its dangerous.

  • Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by itchythebear ( 2198688 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:13PM (#38764470)
    Has Megaupload been found guilty of anything? If not, why has their site been shut down? If copyright laws apply to the internet, then why doesn't due process?
  • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:13PM (#38764480) Journal
    Exactly - redundancy is built into Dropbox, which is one of the benefits of the system and why I use it despite all its flaws.
  • It sounds hauntingly familiar to what happens when a DRM licensing server goes down. (And also due to a company folding/retiring the service.)

    Clearly, we need a magical, distributed, self-healing data storage system. I think I've heard of one or two of these (can anyone provide links, if they exist?) but I guess they haven't been popular enough to be remembered. (And I'm not talking about mere P2P; I'm thinking something more like distributed, redundant storage with the structural resilience of BitCoin.)
  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:14PM (#38764488)

    Reminds me of the old saw, "Neither your life nor your property are safe when the legislature is in session."

  • Re:Question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:14PM (#38764506)

    Because due process is applied, and yes, you can be arrested and put in jail before being found guilty.

    I don't know what the specific procedure used in this case involved, but presumably they presented evidence to a judge that was persuasive enough to warrant this action.

    That you are asking, without even expecting this to be the case, either means you are ignorant or deeply cynical.

  • by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:14PM (#38764516) Homepage

    I don't even trust GMail to keep my e-mail store forever, but download them to my own copy of Thunderbird each day. GMail is probably not going away any time soon, but what would I do if for some reason they shut down my account? Customer service for issues like this at Google isn't exactly stellar. If you don't have your own backups of what you have in the cloud, you are asking for trouble.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:15PM (#38764532)
    There is nothing magic about the "Cloud". From a practical perspective it is little more than a remote hard drive. A cloud provider going away is very much like a hard drive failing.
  • by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:16PM (#38764554)

    But once the SOPA-esque laws and treaties become The Way That Things Are (tm) - and unless things change drastically, they eventually will - and once the Great Consolidation has run its course - what choice will there be?

  • by boundary ( 1226600 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:16PM (#38764582)

    ...if the answer is "backup"?

    Everyone has been told time and again that backing up to the cloud is a great idea. A lot of businesses bought into that. The risks of doing just that have now been made abundantly clear. Personally I'm reaching for my DAT.

  • Re:Question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:18PM (#38764608)

    The same reason you don't get to keep murdering people while the trial is going on.

  • by Synerg1y ( 2169962 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:20PM (#38764644)

    Yep, this is why on-shore cloud computing will never take off, why would a foreign entity want to put in this position. XDA won't get their hosting back, but I highly doubt they lost anything, it's developers after all. But imagine if your business relied on megaupload, say for high speed downloads of your companies product, you'd be hurting.

    Still I don't see how paying uploaders can directly be linked to promoting file sharing. It's still the uploaders choice to make the money via copyrighted material...

  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KhabaLox ( 1906148 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:21PM (#38764678)

    Seeing as Dotcom was arrested in NZ, you may want to fly to a less US-friendly locale. I hear Venezuela is lovely this time of year.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:24PM (#38764734) Journal
    Well, the summary specifically references a developer's forum where I can sympathize (being a developer) with people modding Android ROMs or whatever and uploading such binaries for distribution to others. I guess the people who run the forum don't really get a say in any of this. However, as a software developer, I can imagine a third option for files that are user generated (and for the most part legal).

    Now XDA-Developers is going to have tens of thousands of once helpful posts that now lead to a broken link. How could they have avoided this? Well, I'd imagine that someone could have written an internal bot for their forums that would harvest links to the external megaupload. They then could have subscribed to megaupload, downloaded said linked files and created a local cache of their files purely for their own use on a small RAID. Now the last thing the bot would need to do is take the megaupload URL and develop some unique URI ... perhaps a hash of the date, checksum and filename? It would then maintain a key-value pair of these megaupload links to your internal URIs and also a directory structure of these URIs as the files. Now, say megaupload is a very unreliable/questionable service or goes down and now your forum is worthless. Well, you can always re-spider your site and replace all the megaupload links with links to your cloud hosting of these new files or work out a deal with another third party similar to megaupload where they would accept the file and URI and return to you the URI paired with their new URL. Then it's a matter of spidering your site and replacing the megaupload links with your new service's URLs.

    It's a pain in the ass but let's face it, some forums could perish when their codependence on megaupload is fully realized in a very painful manner. And I don't think that's a fair risk to the users who have created hundreds of thousands of posts.
  • by darkharlequin ( 1923 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:24PM (#38764740) Homepage Journal
    ...for a client, I'm not going to fool them into believing its any more secure than offsite copies in C level officer's homes or other safe location with physical access. In fact, given what happened with Megaupload, I'm not sure I could, in good conscience, convince a customer that cloud computing is secure for them.
  • Re:Evidence (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jdastrup ( 1075795 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:25PM (#38764748)
    zip file? Don't you mean RAR? No self-respecting pirate uses zip.
  • How is SOPA going to stop you from hosting your files yourself?

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:26PM (#38764786)

    Prime example evidence #1 of how SOPA breaks the cloud.

    A single complaint that a cloud service has a copyright file can result in a takedown of the entire cloud. Stranding all clients of that cloud.

    Thanks to the government and their extra-judicial processes, they have broken the notion of internet provided services.

  • Re:Evidence (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:27PM (#38764802)

    RAR? What is this the early 2000's? Don't you mean 7Zip?

  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:28PM (#38764818) Homepage Journal

    Doesn't "backing up to the cloud" mean that you still have the original copy stored locally?

  • Re:Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:28PM (#38764830)

    Here's the problem with the "willful" argument in general.

    Either you can have a cloud in which your data is private, or the owners of the cloud can actively prevent the use of the cloud for hosting "infringing content".

    You can't have both.

  • by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:35PM (#38764960)

    It wouldn't.

    It would, however, prevent you from using any sort of cloud hosting if you want to keep your data private. Because in order to be SOPA compliant, a cloud would have to scan your data to ensure that you didn't have any sort of "illicit" files.

    So - why use the cloud at all? Well, for better or worse, services like AWS make it possible for certain businesses to grow and thrive - and in some cases, exist at all.

    Which brings us back to my original point. Given the constant push by the seriously monied interests in SOPA-esque laws and treaties worldwide, and given the trend towards consolidation of the various corporations and services out there, eventually, it's going to be hard for a certain class of business and user not to have all their eggs in one basket - a basket that has both corporate and government eyes peeking at pretty much every bit that's out there.

    If this scenario does not appeal, then perhaps a way to change the underlying trends of corporate and government Big Brotherhood needs be found.

  • by Marc Madness ( 2205586 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:37PM (#38764998)

    One part of their duty is to not commit illegal activities that gets them closed down.

    At this point, it has not been demonstrated whether Megaupload has committed any illegal activities (remember the presumption of innocence and all that). The problem is that it's not unfathomable for an entity to be taken down in this fashion regardless of whether they actually commited any crime; especially if SOPA/PIPA or any similar legislation ever gets passed.

  • by Arrogant-Bastard ( 141720 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:00PM (#38765388)
    I've been watching the hype over cloud-this and cloud-that for several years with an increasingly cynical eye. Perhaps this incident will help convince a few others to look pass the trendy buzzwords and actually THINK about what can happen. For example:

    1. Drives seized, eventually end up for sale to the public, random people now own your data.
    2. Cloud provider hacked, dangerous random people now own your data.
    3. Drives seized, feds download all your data and start going through it to see if they can make a case against you. (Oh, you don't think they can? Keep in mind the words of Cardinal Richelieu: "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.")
    4. Drives seized, someone decides to make a few extra bucks selling your data to your competitors. Or spammers. Or phishers.
    5. Drives seized, someone graciously decides to let you "have your data back", but what you get back is not what you think it is -- it's been quietly, carefully modified. Maybe your research statistics have been subtly corrupted; maybe there's malware in it; maybe it's missing a few key pieces here and there.

    When you use a cloud provider, all you've got is your best hope. And "hope" is not a valid security strategy.
  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kiwimate ( 458274 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:01PM (#38765430) Journal

    The legitimate users of the service have lost real property

    No they haven't. It has been argued time and time again on this very site that the idea of "intellectual property" is nonsense and that the loss of data does not deprive you of anything real. If it's a legitimate argument for people who download music and movies, then it's a legitimate argument in this case. Or else it's inaccurate in both cases. You can't have it both ways.

  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:03PM (#38765446)

    A huge part of the whole cloud approach is that it is an approach to data storage that comes with all of the redundancy built in. The idea is that it's expensive to run your own redundant data stores, keep them secure, etc. So, one basically outsources it to the cloud.

    Now we're in a situation where the manner in which some subset of the users of a given cloud can bring the entire thing down for everyone, resulting in the loss and exposure of everyone's data.

    Let's consider for a minute AWS. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of companies that exist pretty much solely in AWS space. They rely upon the cloud for their existence. AWS is a lot more reputable than Megaupload. However, at the end of the day, the same problem potentially exists with storing things in the AWS cloud.

    And if this can happen to one company, it can happen to any, including the "more reputable" ones like AWS. Especially with the SOPA-esque laws and treaties being pushed.

    This will absolutely break the cloud model. It renders all the advantages of the cloud moot, and in fact, opens up a completely new security hole (that of unwarranted seizure and or destruction of data by government agencies, or perhaps even rival corporations with an accusation of illicit content). Disney thinks that MyLittleComic is storing their data in JoesCloud? Accuse JoesCloud of hosting illicit data, get the whole thing nuked.

    This results in loss of business (at least in the USA); it makes it harder for the smaller firms and startups to be viable; and it further entrenches those corporations that are big enough to pay the appropiate bribes^H^H^H^H^H^H lobbyist donations in Washington DC.

    Finally, I would never, ever argue against due diligence. I would, however, claim that for a number of organizations that cloud use IS due diligence. And I'd still maintain that a good number of folk's fourth amendment rights were just tossed into the crapper.

  • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:04PM (#38765454)

    I never understood why people would upload a copy of a file to the Internet, manually/purposefully delete their only local copy, and proceed to complain that they no longer have a local copy.
    Why on earth would you delete it from your computer?!?

    There is NO excuse for this problem.

    This is FAR from a new issue with "the cloud" either.
    People used to do the exact same thing with web-hosting.
    They would upload their website to a web server somewhere, delete their only copy, then when the hosting company went under, had the server crash, disk failure, whatever... the user would proceed to blame the ISP for the fact the user themselves deleted their only copy from their own computer. wtf?

    The standard rule for backups is, if you can't bother to have two copies (One on your computer, one backed up on another device) then it clearly wasn't important enough to warrant bitching about when you lose it. That rule implied ONE copy was not enough... Why on earth would people think ZERO copies is any better?

    Hard drives die. It's a fact of life. The "if" is always a yes, only the "when" is variable.
    That fact alone is reason enough to already have more than one copy in your own home on your own equipment.
    A provider disappearing like this should be nothing worse than a minor inconvenience in finding somewhere else to host it and upload another copy, then chase down URLs pointing there and update them. Sure, that can be a bit of work and is quite annoying, but it should be nothing on the scale of data loss.

    Storage is cheap.
    Encryption is easy (Thanks to the efforts of projects like PGP [], GPG [], and TrueCrypt [])
    BackupPC [] is free, runs on Linux which is free, and can be as simple as an old Pentium-2 desktop sitting unused in your basement that you toss a couple extra hard drives in.
    You set it up once and it does everything for you! It daily grabs copies of other computers, all automated, all by itself. It can backup Linux, Windows, and even OSX via the network. You can feed it DHCP logs to watch for less frequently connected machines like laptops. It de-duplicates to save disk space, and can email you if and when a problem crops up. I only check mine twice or so a year just to make sure things are running (never had a problem yet) and as it deletes older backups only when needed to make room for new ones, with de-duplication I can go grab a file from any date between now and three years ago, at any stage of editing (Well, in 3 day increments for my servers.. but it's all configurable, and should be set based on the importance of the data!)
    On ubuntu and debian based systems, it is a single apt-get install away. Likely just as easy on any other distro with package management.
    Any true computer geek can slap together such a system with zero cost and spending less than an afternoon. Anyone else can do so for minimal cost and perhaps a day of work.

    Apple has ridiculously easy backup software (Time Machine?), and Windows has the advantage of most of the software out there being written for it, so the odds that there are less than five different software packages to do this exact same thing is next to impossible.

    Hell, even for non-geeks, most people have that one guy or gal in the family who supports everyones computers. Just ask them! They will likely be ecstatic to help, possibly will donate spare parts from their collection (Or find you the best prices on parts if not) - and be content in the fact they won't have to tell you things like "Sorry, your hard drive has the click-o-death, I can't recover anything from it." which no one likes to need to say.

    This is worth repeating: There is NO excuse for this problem.

    Personally, if it's important, I have a bare minimum of four copies.
    One for actually using, on my system drive.
    One that got a

  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mehrotra.akash ( 1539473 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:17PM (#38765728)
    its the difference between going from 1 copy of data to 2 or 0
  • Re:Evidence (Score:4, Insightful)

    by next_ghost ( 1868792 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:18PM (#38765740)

    No they haven't. It has been argued time and time again on this very site that the idea of "intellectual property" is nonsense and that the loss of data does not deprive you of anything real. If it's a legitimate argument for people who download music and movies, then it's a legitimate argument in this case. Or else it's inaccurate in both cases. You can't have it both ways.

    The discussions you're referring to were about making more copies of the data. This discussion is about taking offline servers with copies, many of which were probably the last accessible to the original uploader. This is akin to BBC scraping its archives in the 1970s. Good luck getting the surviving copies back from those who downloaded them before server shutdown.

  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by a_nonamiss ( 743253 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:19PM (#38765762)
    If I were to physically deprive an artist of his or her only copy of his or her intellectual property, then we'd be making an apt comparison. As it is, it seems like you're just trolling for the **AA. In the Megaupload case, I would guess that with the amount of data taken down, at least one person, probably thousands, have been deprived of their only copy of data, which is real property. If I download a copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller album from LimeWire, I'm not depriving anyone of anything.

    I'm not defending copyright infringement here, I'm just pointing out your terrible logic.
  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:22PM (#38765828) Journal

    I know cloud storage is trendy and all, and maybe I'm just an old fogey, but things like this just confirm my feeling that you should keep your stuff local. There isn't a lot of functional difference between a local storage appliance and storing your stuff in "the cloud". You can even outsource administration if you choose. The difference is, you won't lose your stuff due to the suspected bad behavior of some other company.

  • toast (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:28PM (#38765916) Homepage Journal

    What Happens To Your Files When a Cloud Service Shuts Down?

    They're toast.

    That was the easiest "Ask Slashdot" ever. What's the next question?

    No, really. That's all there is to say about it. Everything else either follows from there, is trivially obvious, or is pure speculation, ranting, off-topic or trolling.

  • Re:Evidence (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2012 @03:32PM (#38765976)

    My copying your file doesn't remove the file from you.

    You deleting my file removes the file from me.

    Even if your premise is correct, the situations aren't the same.

  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Friday January 20, 2012 @04:15PM (#38766688)
    If you honestly managed to avoid being aware that this was an incredibly risky proposition, I feel sorry for you.

    Then feel sorry for the thousands of small businesses who can't afford their own IT shops and have to farm their IT services out to consultants. If the consultant says, "We can host your data in the cloud so that both your office in Spokane and the one in Portland can access it without an expensive leased line and two dedicated file servers and save you a ton of money" it sounds like a good idea. "The Cloud" is the big buzz word, being pushed by some very respectable companies like IBM, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, and the person who they're paying to be the expert recommends it. System works fine, they save a ton of money, they sell widgets or insurance, they're not IT experts. They're the ones who are going to get screwed, and royally.
  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @04:15PM (#38766696) Journal
    Don't be naive. Their crack team of security hackers will "open your zip file" and find kiddy porn, letters to Al-Qaeda, homemade explosives recipes, and blueprints to JFK and O'Hare.
  • Re:Evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kevin Stevens ( 227724 ) <kevstev AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 20, 2012 @04:31PM (#38766948)

    I am surprised that NAS's haven't caught on very well. I have had one since 2007, and have been living in "the cloud" ever since. I can access all of my data over the internet, and it also serves as a nice little low power web server that can run gallery and various other apps. It can stream media, and I can even kick off a bit torrent movie download at work, and then watch it when I get home. All the other functions are really just gravy, as I originally bought this set up to replace a large old power hungry pc that was acting as a file server to supplement my roommate and I's meager laptop drives. I am protected both by RAID 1 and an external USB hard drive that I do a full backup to on a weekly basis. The only thing I am really missing is having a backup kept off-site, which I could do if I was willing to swap out disks, or pay for a service that would allow me to do an online backup.

    Its a little pricey (about $400 for disks + the NAS itself) and requires some knowledge to set up properly, but I have no real space limitations, upload/download limits, and I can add or disable features as I see fit. Oh and of course, mine runs linux on top of a low power arm CPU.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @06:22PM (#38768394)

    Offsite != cloud. Though you know this already. Personally I find the idea of using the cloud for offsite backups horrendous. The last thing I want to do after having lost everything is wait for eons for 100GB of backup to finish.

    The slow speed of internet services in general is a disincentive to perform frequent backups. Use physical media, and take it offsite to a different location. Store it at your friend's house or at work.

  • Re:Evidence (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday January 20, 2012 @08:38PM (#38770100)

    Ok, so pay a little extra and buy 2 external USB hard disks instead of just the one and every few days/every week you rotate the disk through an offsite location the feds wont know about or find.

The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Paul Erlich