My first “cloud” letdown

The cloud punched me in the nose recently and it’s still a litter tender. I’m a huge proponent of cloud based solutions from simple things like online document collaboration and storage to web-based enterprise SaaS solutions, and I have been slowly migrating my digital life away from the desktop toward the cloud. The cloud and I have been very happy together for well over a year now, but we had out first argument last week and I lost. It’s not serious enough to consider divorce, but it was a wake up call to re-evaluate the relationship.

I use both Live Mesh from Microsoft and Dropbox to manage and synchronize documents on multiple computers. The combination has worked very well for me. I use both applications because I like to try new things; Live Mesh came first followed by Dropbox at the recommendation of my brother.

Live Mesh has become my primary location for blogging material – ideas, images, etc. – while Dropbox has developed into my storage spot for larger documents and presentation materials. Don’t ask why I use them this way because I have no idea.

Anyway, last week I noticed a few files missing in Live Mesh. I may not have ever noticed except that the files I was looking for were rough drafts of blog posts. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I checked on my laptop. I checked on my tablet. I even checked online at Nothing, nada, zip.

Where the heck did my documents go? A Google search gave me a little insight into the problem as Live Mesh appears to have problems with documents with conflicts secondary to a synchronization algorithm. According to the Live Mesh blog “Live Mesh is not deleting or losing files. Even if they don’t all appear in Live Mesh folders on your computer, they are all present in a hidden state, as well as on your Live Desktop if the folder is synchronized there.” Ok, that’s fine and dandy, but how do I get them back. This particular article is from September 2008 and promises a quick fix. Guess they haven’t gotten around to it.

I’m not completely stupid and do perform weekly back ups to an external drive, but the items I was looking for had not been backed-up yet; bummer. Further investigation revealed that my last backup contained 931 more files than my Live Mesh folders on my laptop. Whoa cowboy, that’s a lot of missing files! I can’t be sure what all was lost, but I know I did lose some great iPad screen shots and several other images that I was planning on using in future blog posts.They are technically replaceable, but knowing exactly what they were is the real problem.

In Microsoft’s defense it is clear that Live Mesh is still a “beta” product, but that doesn’t ease my irritation in the slightest. Once bitten, twice shy. So like all good red blooded Americans I’ve decided to abandon Live Mesh and move on to something else. The combination of Dropbox and Evernote looks like a good solution. In addition I signed up for a trial of SugarSync yesterday and plan to use it to back up my Dropbox files.

SugarSync has received a lot of press lately as a great way to back up, access and share files. It’s especially nice because of their iPhone and iPad applications.  I spent a fair amount of time last night playing with SugarSync on my iPhone and laptop and have to say it was impressive. They offer a free 2GB account for those of you that what to give it a whirl.

I have to say that I am disappointed in Microsoft because I really like what they have to offer. Live Mesh, Office Live and Skydrive, combined with Microsoft Office 2010 has been working very well for me on my tablet. Maybe I’ll just wait for them to remove the “beta” tag and try again, then again maybe not based on how well Dropbox and SugarSync perform.

I’m going to leave Live Mesh installed on my machines for a while in the hopes that these hidden files will magically reappear, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I’m also going to ramp up by back up schedule to minimize the damage should something like this ever happen again. Lesson learned.

5 thoughts on “My first “cloud” letdown”

  1. I’m looking for a ‘sync’ that operates a little more like ‘backup’ – i.e. stay in sync but don’t delete remote copies when I delete local ones. Seen anything like that?

  2. No, not really Steven. I use SyncToy from my desktop to an external HD and it allows you to keep items on the backup that were removed from the local drive, but nothing remotely. I was hoping SugarSync would do it because I want the same functionality.

    It does however keep your last 5 revisions so if you accidentally delete something you can retrieve it. In addition SugarSync puts all your deleted files in a “deleted items” folder (like the windows trash can). It doesn’t empty the folder until you tell it to. I guess in theory that means it retains the copies remotely. Not exactly what you’re saying, but at least it keeps the items.

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