Microsoft Says It Can Recover 'Most' Sidekick Data
The hundreds of thousands of users of T-Mobile's Sidekick phones may yet recover the contacts, calendars, notes and other personal data that a server meltdown had apparently vaporized last weekend.
Early this morning, Microsoft, which took over the Sidekick's data-synchronization service when it bought Sidekick developer Danger Inc. last year, posted a statement on its Web site headlined "Microsoft Confirms Data Recovery for Sidekick Users":
We are pleased to report that we have recovered most, if not all, customer data for those Sidekick customers whose data was affected by the recent outage. We plan to begin restoring users' personal data as soon as possible, starting with personal contacts, after we have validated the data and our restoration plan. We will then continue to work around the clock to restore data to all affected users, including calendar, notes, tasks, photographs and high scores, as quickly as possible.
The statement -- credited to Roz Ho, vice president for "Premium Mobile Experiences" (and before that, the head of Microsoft's Mac software unit) -- did not, however, provide much clarity about what had gone wrong, much less why Microsoft didn't have a separate, offline or off-site backup:
We have determined that the outage was caused by a system failure that created data loss in the core database and the back-up. We rebuilt the system component by component, recovering data along the way. This careful process has taken a significant amount of time, but was necessary to preserve the integrity of the data.
A successful recovery and reloading of this data will be more than welcome, but it won't end this story. For one thing, T-Mobile has a lot of unhappy customers to deal with. It didn't cause this problem, but its name is on the Sidekick and on the bill, and it needs to make amends for this fundamental betrayal of trust. (T-Mobile can always sic its lawyers on Microsoft, egg Steve Ballmer's car or post insults on Windows' Facebook page later on.) Unfortunately, a few readers have told me that the company has been anything but considerate in dealing with their complaints. Wrote one St. Petersburg, Fla., user:
I can't cancel as they say they will charge me 200.00 They can give me a new phone but I have to pay for an upgrade.. NOW that is an insult!!
Uh, T-Mobile, can I offer a hint here? This is not the time to nickel-and-dime cranky customers. Let them go now, and maybe they won't spend the next nine months telling everybody they know to avoid your service -- instead, if you're lucky, they'll find a new hobby after only two months.
Some of us who review technology for a living have amends to make as well. Many Sidekick reviews -- mine included -- noted the Web-only nature of the Sidekick's synchronization service but didn't spell out its lack of a data-download option that would let users keep their own backups on their own computers. I'm sorry I didn't nail this product for that failing when I had the chance.
You are, of course, welcome to call me out on that in the comments. Or you can talk about the Web services you use today: Have you checked to see what sort of data export features they provide? Have you taken advantage of them lately?
October 15, 2009; 11:40 AM ET
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