Saturday, August 2, 2008

Nirvanix - Luzo discussion: a way forward

Following email exchanges, I was invited by Jonathan Buckley of Nirvanix to discuss the situation with the Mediamax users data residing on the server system inherited from Streamload and did so on Friday (1 August 2008).

Background to the conversation

The focus of our discussion was on a way forward to reunite as many people as possible with data that did not transfer from the Mediamax system to The Linkup system. For the historic situation regarding the split of Streamload into Nirvanix and Mediamax, see the Nirvanix blog.

Nirvanix insist they have operated as separate companies since the split and dealt with Mediamax/The Linkup as a customer of their storage service. Nirvanix also reiterates that the Mediamax data is stored on the system inherited from Streamload and that its new Storage Delivery Network (SDN) offered to their 400 new customers is a different system. Further Nirvanix stresses that the problem with accessing Mediamax data that did not make it into The Linkup is due to the Mediamax database not being on-line and not due to any problem at their end.

We did not discuss the history of the files being accidently deleted from the Streamload servers prior to the splitting of Streamload into Nirvanix and Mediamax. This has been the subject of much conjecture of a conspiracy to get rid of legacy data. It seemed evident last year that this data had gone for good. The priority has to be reuniting people with data that is recoverable. The issue of compensation for lost data may be an issue for a possible Mediamax bankruptcy hearing (see below).

In an email prior to the invitation to call, Nirvanix stated that they were trying to make contact with Mediamax with the view to persuading them to restart the front end. As the Nirvanix blog was saying there was no assistance that Nirvanix could give to Mediamax users, I welcomed this and was particularly keen to know what the practical difficlties are for achieving this and how they can be overcome.

The 8 August deadline

The Linkup front end is due to go off line on 8 August and users were told by The Linkup to download data before then. Nirvanix is keeping the servers online until 8 August. Nivanix has not been notified of any pending Mediamax alternatives to the 8 August closure as of this call.

I asked whether the data would then deleted after 8 August. Nirvanix said that, as there will be no front end from Mediamax or The Linkup operating to access the data after 8 August, it will be taken offline. However, even though it costs Nirvanix money, Nirvanix will continue to store the data. Nirvanix would welcome a third party to come in to assist Mediamax users. Without the Mediamax database it is impossible to identify who owns what data by design.

So the first piece of good news is that the 8 August is not the end of all hope. The data will continue to be stored, though not indefinitely (see below).

Retrieving the database/front end

Nirvanix says it is unable to make contact with anyone from Mediamax and they are in the same situation as users in this regard.

Mediamax needs to provide access to the database, which is not stored on Nirvanix servers, but by a third party,

In a last communication from Mediamax/The Linkup to a user, it was suggested that the company is filing for bankruptcy. Certainly there are creditors looking for money from the company, not least users who paid fees running through this year and on into 2009.

As a major creditor Nirvanix expects to be informed of any bankruptcy hearing and has agreed to inform us when they are informed. If we can turn up to the court, or contact Mediamax lawyers in advance of that, we should be able to obtain answers regarding the database.

As the database is arguably one of the few assets that Mediamax posseses its handover could perhaps be offset against refunds of fees and handed over to users.

My view is a possible bankruptcy hearing is a good milestone for all involved. If Nirvanix can maintain the data until we either have a response from Mediamax or are able to raise questions at the bankruptcy hearing that will be welcome. We will then know if it will be possible to restart the front end. Any information people have about US bankruptcy law and when and where this will be filed would be appreciated.

How to restart the database/front end

There is, of course, the possibility that Mediamax can be persuaded to restart the database to give people time to access their data. If not and we have to retrieve the database ourselves as suggested above, then the question arises of how to run it.

There have been comments on this blog suggesting another company may be interested to take this over. Nirvanix told me they would be sympathetic to any approach being made to them by such a company, but none has been made at present.

If anyone has any information or contacts who may be interested, please put them in direct contact with Nirvanix and ask them to keep us posted via this blog.

It may be we have to set something up ourselves, or come to an arrangement with Nirvanix or another company to host the database.

Setting up our own register of Mediamax users

I suggested to Nirvanix that the users group could set up a register of people who are interested in retrieving data. This would give an indication of the level of serious interest to them and any third company interested in restarting the database. We could publicise this registration process ourselves and call on Mediamax to alert their customer list, perhaps as a request to any bankruptcy hearing.

If people agree with this, we could perhaps set up a website with a simple registration form and database, obviously respecting data-protection regulations. Please contact me if you are interested in helping with this.


This posting has been shared with Nirvanix to confirm it is an accurate record of our discussion. In summary, this is what they said and I suggested:

1. When The Linkup switches off their front end, no data will be accessible, but it will not be deleted. The data, including that available through the old Mediamax system, will continue to be stored at Nirvanix on the old Streamload system (separate to their new SDN).

2. Storage cannot be indefinite due to costs, but Nirvanix is making efforts to contact Mediamax to persuade them to restart the front end so people can access the data. A possible bankruptcy hearing may be a good time to take stock of the situation, if Mediamax is not heard from before then, as it should provide clarity as to whether data will ever be recoverable. Anyone with expertise in this area please contact me.

3. Anyone with information on possible intermediary companies interested in restarting the Mediamax front end should encourage them to contact Nirvanix and keep us informed.

4. To keep users updated on developments and to show the level of serious interest in recovering data, we should consider setting up a register of users. If you can help with this, again, please contact me.

Nirvanix has said it will keep us informed of developments at their end.

Please let me know your views by commenting below or by email.


Luzo Orbit said...

According to this article it is Winward Ventures who are considering filing for bankruptcy as they are handling Mediamax financial affairs. I will get in touch.

Ellie said...

That's a big improvement from Nirvanix, compared to Mediamax/TLU. At least Nirvanix had chose to contact the consumers and do something, even a little, to help settle the consumer's demands. It's nice of them to hold onto the files after Aug 8.

If Mediamax/TLU were honest and upfront with their customers from the start, do you think they'll have this many angry customers? No, I don't think so. They might lose customers but that's preferable to the situation they're facing now.

That article only focused on the Mediamax/TLU side. Have you seen them quoting even 1 customer on their experience with Mediamax? None. And if it wasn't for Blogosphere, people would still be not aware of others being overcharge, being charge for months of no service (I've experienced both of those!), of losing files, of receiving files not of their own. The focus right now is to retrieve those remaining files and if possible, a change in the law where the company can hide behind if losing of files should happen to them.

Nice link to that petition.

Tom Bassett said...

I'll be watching with great interest - good article, Luzo.

Interesting tidbit about "Windward Ventures" - but I wonder if that's what that really means? I took it to mean that a man FROM Windward Ventures who is currently acting as CFO for TLU is going to put TLU through bankruptcy, not Windward Ventures.

If people agree with this, we could perhaps set up a website with a simple registration form and database, obviously respecting data-protection regulations.

I can set up a simple online form, if it helps. I've already got a list of about 20 people who've filled out my own online form on the topic.

Jabash said...

Wow, I am glad to see real constructive conversation. I would be willing to help in anyway. I am an attorney but this is not my field. There is talk at ElephantDrive blog where they claim to have contacted tlu. Why Nirvanix cannot seems strange. Aren't they in the same building or close enough. Strengthens my belief that tlu has just shut the door and no one is home.

Bankruptcy is a public filing and should be easy to confirm. I will research this. How much money would it take to have someone restart the MM frontend and keep it up for a month.

And if TLU has the frontend why did they take it down in the first place. Why didn't they provide access to Mediamax and give the transition period where users could manually transfer files as they promised. I thought this whole problem was because Nirvanix kept Mediamax when they started Nirvanix.

IceAge said...

Well done Luzo, excellent work.

I think Tom has my details.

This should put those saying this blog is all about bitc*ing straight as well. Good to see Nirvanix making an effort.

As we are all quite sure, if TLU did this from the start we probably would not be here right now.

Luzo Orbit said...

I am afraid the optimism is to be short lived. Mediamax have said that it is impossible to restart the old system and only files that made it into The Linkup can be accessed, and those only until 8 August.

See the next blog entry.

Steve Iverson said...

MediaMax has tried to avoid adding more fuel to our bad-PR fire because we do not have any new, useful information to add beyond what has been posted on our official blog, but I do feel it is now necessary to correct some new misinformation.

I'll start now with a short clarification now, and will try and follow up in a couple days with more details.

First, I'm sorry if there has been false hope given that additional access will be made to customer files. This is simply not the case. Only the files that are currently in your account are the files that will be available for download through this Friday. I think Nirvanix is in panic-mode and is, not surprisingly, trying to divert all responsibility to MediaMax. There is nothing we can do. If any of this were possible we would not be closing our business.

Many of Nirvanix's claims are not true. Given that we now have zero employees, no money, and are shutting down in 5 days, MediaMax is an easy target. Nirvanix also has millions of dollars to continue their PR campaign and has indirectly threatened John and I with personal lawsuits. If continuing this fight would bring back customer files or fix problems of the past, I would do so. But, at this point, there is nothing to gain and the major problems cannot be fixed. Answering questions or "telling our side of the story" is not going to provide any true benefit to anyone (get customer files back), and exposes me to significant personal liability. Right or wrong, this is America and they can sue anyone for anything, and John and I and trying to move on with life and find new jobs. Further, I think Nirvanix has learned that I may be going to work for one of their competitors, and they are doing their best to discredit me and the value that I bring to a competitor.

Regardless, to clarify Nirvanix's most recent campaign of misinformation:

- As I stated above, the "MediaMax front-end" or database is not a solution to the problem. We do not have access to the files. Nirvanix knows this is our position. I could go on for hours about the technical problems involved and solutions attempted and place blame elsewhere, but at this point, it really doesn't matter whose fault it is. Fundamentally, MediaMax is responsible because you are our customer, and the biggest mistake we made was to trust Nirvanix to manage our customer data - yes, it was on the "old Streamload system", and not their new Nirvanix SDN, but I believe the care and attention that was required was not there and was beyond unprofessional.

- I am in communication with Nirvanix, and to state otherwise is patently wrong. In fact, I sent their CEO emails (and cc'd 3 other Nirvanix employees, including a direct report to Jonathan Buckley) on 7/21, 7/25, and 7/30 (Wed), and received a reply on 7/31 (Thursday) and another email from their CFO on 8/1 (Friday). After reading your blog post last night (Sunday), I emailed Jonathan Buckley and have now heard from him and their CFO again this morning (Monday). Jonathan has my contact info and he probably works with 15 people daily who also have my contact info if he had misplaced it.

- And irrelevant of solving customer problems, I will note that Nirvanix is actually not a creditor of MediaMax as Jonathan claimed as they have been paid in full for their services.

The popular thing for me to do would be to say "yes, all will be fine if Nirvanix can just get their act together" and divert attention back to them, but that's not the case. It's game over, and there is no new information since our last "official" TLU blog post. It's not the popular statement, but it's reality and it's unfortunate for everyone involved.

Tom Bassett said...

Wow. Thanks for coming on to post that information, Mr. Iverson.

IceAge said...

Yes indeed a very big blockbuster posting. Sheds a lot of light, and brings Nirvanix back into question big time.

I am not interested in my current TLU files. I want my MM files.

IceAge said...

Anyone see the ads on TLU website...

Free ad they never had before. Looks sponsored.