After a history of poor service and multiple cases of lost user data, the online backup vendor known as MediaMax and, finally, The Linkup went belly up this month, leaving users in the lurch. More important, how can you avoid losing your data when, or if, a storage service provider fails?Knowing that cloud storage vendor Nirvanix, which competes with Amazon's S3, like The Linkup can trace its origins to Streamload, some in the blogosphere have tried to paint Nirvanix as the bad guys. While The Linkup had a long and checkered history, it appears to me that Nirvanix bears little if any responsibility.
It seems the last, and fatal, data loss came from mishandling the transition of users' data to a new platform hosted at Savvis, not problems with Nirvanix's systems.
My first recommendation is to avoid providers that don't have an obvious profit plan. Streamload started off offering free accounts and at least one of their data loss fiascoes was caused by an administrator running a script to delete data from inactive free accounts. Storage always costs somebody money, so a vendor that's offering more than a taste for free and doesn't have ad revenue to cover the cost should be suspect.
Almost as important, use online storage for backup, not, I repeat not, to store the only copy of your important files. Even better, combine a local backup for fast restores with an online backup to protect your data against your house, office, plant, or palace burning to the ground. If your secondary backup provider goes belly, up you lost the third copy of all your data. Annoying, yes. A crisis, no.
Third, pick a provider you have a good reason to trust. Iron Mountain, Seagate, EMC, and Symantec are all in the online backup business and can be expected to run things professionally. You can also use CrashPlan and build your own online backup infrastructure with your friends, family, and/or affiliates.
Don't let a big name alone lead you to a service. Make sure it's been up and running with real paying customers for a while. After all, HP's Upline barfed after just a few weeks.