Newly Uncovered Cloud Backup Risk: Forgetfulness

One of Amazon’s newer offerings is Amazon Glacier, a low-cost, highly durable storage service for archiving and backup. By trading off speed of access for durability, they’re able to charge as low as a penny per gigabyte per month.

Sounds like a great option for those long-term backups. Instead of worrying whether those shelves full of ancient backup tapes are turning to dust, simply upload all those dusty files to Glacier and your cares are over.

Except, of course, if you forget to pay the bill. Remember, this product is for long-term storage. And while our crazy Web lifestyle might seem to suggest that long term refers to a matter of months, in reality it could mean years or even decades.

So you put all your important files into Glacier. Cut to, say, 2030. You’ve long since retired, but the person in your old job now has a reason to recover some of those files. Oops, looks like someone forgot to pay the bill back in 2024. Sorry Charlie, your backups are long gone!

Data durability is a tricky commodity when decades are involved, after all. Your data from 1980 might be on DAT tapes or video disks. Sock away those CD-ROMs instead, but those only have a promised ten-year shelf life. The Cloud might seem like a perfect solution to the expiring media problem. But when you’re talking about durable storage-as-a-Service, business durability is more of a risk than technical durability. Do you really want to bet your long-term archives on decades of continuous bill paying?

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