Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Look carefully at Nirvanix intermediary companies before entrusting your data to them

You may agree with the first part of the following quote - though not the second.

“With more and more people moving their valuable family photos, home video, music collections and more to the digital arena, the need for offsite backup is growing fast. Nirvanix has the features people want most.”

Many people entrusted valuable files to the on-line archiving, file sharing and hosting company known as Streamload. Streamload rebranded as Mediamax, then span off the customer interface, which took the Mediamax name with it. The storage facilities remained with most of the Streamload staff and was renamed Nirvanix. According to media reports - which Nirvanix has not denied though specifically asked to comment - Nirvanix engineers then accidently deleted millions of files. The resulting outrage prompted Mediamax to rebrand as The Linkup to try to escape the controversy, but it did not succeed and is closing down on 8 August. Many of the files that were not deleted, did not make it into The Linkup interface from the Mediamax one. The Linkup said in a final message: "Your files are at Nirvanix. It's now up to them to decide if they want to give you access to MediaMax."

[UPDATE 29 July 2008: Although invited to comment specifically on these media reports prior to this blog opening, Nirvanix, in its reply, did not do so. Today it has emailed alleging the Techcrunch article is 'inaccurate and libelous'].

Nirvanix refuses to offer assistance to users in retrieving their 'valuable family photos, home video, music collections' and other important documents even though some customers are even offering to pay extra for this service. Further details and links at:
http://nirvanixusers.blogspot.com/2008/07/about-this-blog.html

You won't find any of this story on the Nirvanix website on its page of case studies. Instead it gives quotes such as that above from other intermediary companies. The quote above is from the Axentra Corporation.

Given that Nirvanix is refusing to assist users in retrieving the data which they still hold on their servers and that apparently it was Nirvanix engineers who deleted the files that led to the failure of Mediamax, anyone seeking on-line storage solutions would do well to look closely to see whether Nirvanix is providing the back-end storage for any company they do business with.

They would also be wise to check the terms and conditions of the service provider to see whether any responsibility is taken for the data and whether they have any recourse to Nirvanix should the company fail for whatever reason.

As cloud storage seems to be the future, the current lack of transparency and security of data is a serious cause for concern and one requiring urgent investigation by politicians and journalists.

Until there is clear protection in law, look very carefully at the companies to which you entrust your data, particularly those that use Nirvanix as their storage provider, which are listed here (as given on the Nirvanix website):

  • Axentra
  • City Talent
  • Elasticdrive
  • Focusfriends.net
  • Freedrive
  • InfiniteBits.info
  • JELLYBARN
  • ManualsMania
  • Minggi
  • Ogrant
  • WizzDrive

12 comments:

Tom Bassett said...

Luzo,

I am going to send a letter to all the companies you listed.

I'm going to warn them about trusting a company that has already hurt so many people, and advise them of the alternatives.

I am going to use the URLs of this blog and posts to bolster my points, as well as posts from TechCrunch and others.

The goal: To have Nirvanix customers running for the hills, until they issue an immediate apologies and carry out all possible effort to retrieve our files.

I have created a sample letter, and anyone that is interested - I would like to hear your opinions and what you think the wording of this letter should be.

Once I or we finish the letter, I will send it to all of the companies on the list, and I will post the results on the comments section of this blog.

Check out the sample letter. Just noticed I spelled "Axentra" wrong but I'll fix it later.

IceAge said...

The letter is good. With long term service contracts I am not sure if companies like these will pay much attention to end users though. Still it's an important thing to do.

I doubt we will see any Nirvanix action before August 8th as at that moment they will stall until the date when they can delete all.

After that they may issue a statement to absolve themselves of TLU users, and move on.

My prime concern is still retrieving files. Though as mentioned it is a far cry.

Post August 8th and the shutting down of TLU I will be interested to hear Nirvanix claims.

Though not happy with their statements, if I were a third party company using their services happily and with no issues I would be happy to hear them say it was a TLU issue and not Nirvanix. And continue using them. At least from a business perspective.

Jabash said...

I had some contact with Nirvanix customer support and it seems that they claim TLU has the Mediamax interface and they refuse to allow users to access it. I say 'seems' because they did not specifically say TLU only that they reached out to Mediamax. However, TLU has stated Nirvanix has Mediamax.

And I wrong. We really need to find out who is controlling the Mediamax front end software and related website. I think it would go a long way for them to restart Mediamax for one month or so to give people a chance to get their data if it hasn't been otherwise deleted.

Luzo Orbit said...

That sounds like a good idea to me Tom. I'd suggest that anyone using or thinking of using these companies contact them urgently too.

They may not be too sympathetic to the plight of Mediamax/The Linkup Users, but may respond if asked what safeguards they have put in place to avoid a repeat. In particular:

1. Does your company warn users against using your service as a sole backup location? Nirvanix engineers have been blamed in the media for accidently deleting millions of Mediamax users files. People who relied on it for backup have lost these files for good if they did not have another copy.

2. Would your company provide compensation if files are accidently deleted by Nirvanix? Mediamax refused to do so when its customers files were deleted.

3. If you company ceased to operate, would your customers be able to obtain their files from Nirvanix? Mediamax failed after its reputation was damaged by the loss of files. The final message from Mediamax (which rebranded as The Linkup) was: ""Your files are at Nirvanix. It's now up to them to decide if they want to give you access to MediaMax." Nirvanix is refusing to give customers of Mediamax access to the files that remain on its servers, even though some customers are offering to pay extra to access the data.

Unless reassuring and honest answers can be given to these questions by an intermediary company then I would suggest having nothing to do with it.

Tom Bassett said...

Wonderful, Luzo - I will incorporate those kind of questions into the letter when I have time.

Good thinking, all!

Jabash said...

I have to say that beyond the deleting of files by Nirvanix (was there no backup?!) I am not sure how much they are to blame. At first I thought they had the Mediamax frontend but now I think it is still with TLU, although I am not sure of either. There is no way to give access without a front end as far as I know (not very far, I admit) so how can Nirvanix give you access to the files without a front end.

I am praying that someone (Elephant Drive?) buys TLU and reactivates MM and TLU under their companay somehow.

Tom Bassett said...

I have to say that beyond the deleting of files by Nirvanix (was there no backup?!) I am not sure how much they are to blame.


Deleting the files is HUGE! It's a very big deal and they should be made accountable - people need to know. This business is supposedly in the business of providing a secure online backup for your files, and thus far, they've already lost MILLIONS of them? It's a big deal!


There is no way to give access without a front end as far as I know (not very far, I admit) so how can Nirvanix give you access to the files without a front end.

Since Mediamax is going bankrupt, and since it's THEIR FAULT, Mediamax should actually consider suing them! Nirvanix's error forced Mediamax/Streamload/Linkup OUT OF BUSINESS due to gross incompetence.

But let's say they won't do that (and of course they won't, the two companies are essentially the same - all this BS about being separate is just lies to try to give Nirvanix a fresh start). So let's say they won't try it. Since Mediamax/Streamload/Linkup is going out of business, presumably they could just PURCHASE "The Linkup" and use their front end as a generic front-end for their own (Nirvanix) customers to use, which would also enable US to get OUR files. And since TLU/SL/MM is going out of business, they could buy the front-end for mere pennies on the dollar, right?

I suspect they could get it for free because - again, it's practically the same company. They could saunter across the street to TLU HQ, speak to their "old coworkers" and say "Hey, you know, we've wronged a lot of people and wanna make it right, can we use that front end you're no longer using? Especially since YOU'RE not gonna be needing it anymore? Thanks!"

I mean, anything, ANY sign of sincerity and verity would be SOMETHING to hold on to - but instead they keep playing like THEY didn't delete our files, THEY are NOT related to Mediamax, THEY aren't the same people with the same computers, etc.

We'll see what happens. Why can't we just have honesty and good faith effort from the Nirvanix people, who essentially pissed off thousands of customers, lost millions of files, and whose error put Mediamax/Streamload/TheLinkup out of business??

IceAge said...

Hmmm. If you don't mind me chipping in again. But at the end of the day TLU's terms and conditions state they are not responsible. Nirvanix probably has the same.

I believe the way forward is to work on the law makers to make changes to the way these companies offer their services. They are not responsible for anything gong wrong with your data once you sign up with them.

There is a hint of death to Nirvanix appearing here which goats me a little. Technically they are not responsible. Morally hell yea. I agree with and support the letters to Nirvanix customers with evidence of what happened with TLU. I just don't see it going anywhere after that until these companies are forced to change their terms and conditions.

Jabash said...

Yes, don't get me wrong. Deleting the files is huge, especially for a data storage company. But for right now I think the key issue is the frontend. As you say, I just don't understand why this has been so difficult when the two companies are so close to each other. At the very least they could restart MM for a short time and say hey, we screwed up by deleting some files but here are the ones we have. The thing is an email from Nirvanix told me they tried to do this but TLU said no. The only possible reasons I can think of is either they do not want to spend the money or something happen to the software or data that makes it impossible-- no backups?

Anonymous said...

Check this out, Nirvanix answers back against false info and clears up what really happened with MediaMax/Linkup: http://developer.nirvanix.com/blogs/nirvanix/default.aspx

Jabash said...

This just confirms what I said about the frontend. I still do not understand what is the obstacle (money?) for tlu to restart Mediamax to allow access to files. It is killing me to know that if Mediamax could give me one day I could get all my files. I am only hoping the efforts by Elephant Drive or anyone else can someone how save my data before August 8. And that they do not forget about the Mediamax files.

Luzo Orbit said...

I have posted a new blog entry regarding the Nirvanix blog on Mediamax.