The Perils of Life on the Web
We've had a temporary storage failure affecting a sizable chunk of old Flickr photos and are moving about 20 terabytes of photos across a few thousand miles (between two of our data centers) to ensure consistency and smoothness. ALL PHOTOS AND DATA ARE SAFE AND NOTHING HAS BEEN LOST.
Even though nothing was lost, this event does bring up a serious issue now that a lot of people are keeping the bulk of their lives online instead of on their local machines. Giving in to a false sense of security, I'd venture to say that a large majority of people are even more lax about a backup strategy than they were when most of their stuff was kept locally. The ease of starting up a website is a double-edged sword; it's a by-product of the fact that most websites are hosted on commodity hardware – largely the same stuff that sits on your desktop.
The only difference is that you aren't in control of the backup strategy. Flickr may have a great backup strategy or they may have gotten lucky. We don't know and we probably won't. But hopefully this little incident will push people to order DVDs of their Flickr photos or download their GMail to POP or even to create utilities that'll get your data back in your control.
Now that we're practically placing our lives in the hands of others, we just need to decide just how much actually trust that those hands won't drop us.