Microsoft's Cloud Computing Fail Loses Sidekick Data

A Microsoft server failure is leaving T-Mobile Sidekick owners in the lurch if their smartphone loses power. Thanks to the failure, Sidekick owners are finding that all of their cloud-based data is lost if the device is reset or if the battery is removed or fully drained.

T-Mobile said in a statement "Regrettably, based on Microsoft/Danger's latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device -- such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos -- that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger."

Danger, the company behind the Sidekick, is owned by Microsoft and its data storage services for users runs on Microsoft-based servers.

One compelling feature for Sidekick owners has been -- at least until a few days ago -- the ability to store their device's data online so it's always available, even if they switch to a different Sidekick. The feature is a perfect example of how cloud computing can work, and now an example of how fragile it can be, too.

Users that chose to store their data just on their Sidekick or were using alternate methods to backup their data should be fine, but a substantial number of customers were relying on Danger and Microsoft to protect their data, and it looks as if Microsoft failed to back up that information.

According to Hiptop 3, Microsoft apparently managed to lose every Sidekick owner's data while upgrading storage servers without a backup in place.

The incident comes at a bad time for Microsoft since there are rumors that it is preparing to jump into the smartphone game with its own products. If true, potential customers may have a hard time trusting the Redmond-based company knowing it lost Sidekick user data.

The Sidekick data loss also is a clear reminder that cloud-based computing -- whether it's handled by Microsoft's Danger, Apple's MobileMe, or Google -- shouldn't be relied on as a single data backup point regardless of which company is managing the system.