Should you trust Microsoft with your data?

That's probably not a hard question for many Sidekick users to answer, given recent events. If you're a Sidekick user, please offer your answer -- or your experience during the week-long data crisis -- in comments. I ask the same of everyone else. Answer in comments the question: Should you trust Microsoft with your data?

Every existing or potential Microsoft cloud computing customer should ask and answer that question following the Sidekick data loss fiasco. How could Microsoft potentially lose all Sidekick user data? What? There was no server backup? It's not like Microsoft is inexperienced hosting data. The company bought Hotmail over a decade ago. Windows Live is all about hosted data.

As I write, Microsoft and subsidiary Danger, have reportedly informed Sidekick users that potentially all their synced data -- contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists and photos -- has been lost. Best option is to keep the device off, so that syncing doesn't suck any remaining data into oblivion.

T-Mobile now presents Sidekick Website visitors an explanation about the dire situation. I'm not even a customer, the Website presented me with the information early this afternoon in a pop-up message:

T-Mobile and the Sidekick data services provider, Danger, a subsidiary of Microsoft, are reaching out to express our apologies regarding the recent Sidekick data service disruption. We appreciate your patience as Microsoft/Danger continues to work on maintaining platform stability, and restoring all services for our Sidekick customers.

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. That said, our teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low. As such, we wanted to share this news with you and offer some tips and suggestions to help you rebuild your personal content. You can find these tips at the T-Mobile Sidekick Forums (http://www.t-mobile.com/sidekick). We encourage you to visit the Forums on a regular basis to access the latest updates as well as FAQs regarding this service disruption.

In addition, we plan to communicate with you on Monday (Oct. 12) the status of the remaining issues caused by the service disruption, including the data recovery efforts and the Download Catalog restoration which we are continuing to resolve. We also will communicate any additional tips or suggestions that may help in restoring your content.

We recognize the magnitude of this inconvenience. Our primary efforts have been focused on restoring our customers' personal content. We also are considering additional measures for those of you who have lost your content to help reinforce how valuable you are as a T-Mobile customer.

We continue to advise customers to NOT reset their device by removing the battery or letting their battery drain completely, as any personal content that currently resides on your device will be lost.

Once again, T-Mobile and Microsoft/Danger regret any and all inconvenience this matter has caused.

Timing is the problem and the huge negative exposure it brings to Microsoft. The company is making big pushes into hosted data. Azure Services Platform is about ready for a big debut during Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference next month in Los Angeles. The Office Web Apps Technical Preview is underway, and Microsoft now offers hosted versions of enterprise products like Exchange and SharePoint servers. If Microsoft can sidekick Danger data out the door, how can enterprises trust their most sensitive data to the company?

Competitors -- even Google -- have huge opportunity here to, from a counter sales-and-marketing perspective, deliver Microsoft a good nuts kick. How's that for a swift sidekick? Smart countermarketing should hit at two different customer levels: End users and Microsoft partners. The Sidekick data loss is much bigger than Microsoft, because it hurts T-Mobile, too. Whose customers are Sidekick users really? T-Mobile's, and the company may lose subscribers as a result of this huge loss of personal data.

Personal is the problem. Corporations can lose data, but who really notices? Even when there is big data loss? But personal data loss, particularly Sidekick's scale and scope, riles up everyone. Sidekick is a messaging device; it's all about communication -- really personal stuff. Sidekick has a notoriously loyal user base, and a number of celebrities among the lot. I'm surprised there is yet no Sidekick support group for users suffering texting withdrawal or the shock of losing all their friends. Wait. Do you know of one?

The timing presents another problem for Microsoft. The company's mobile strategy is a train wreck, but there was hope in the oft-rumored Project Pink. Looks like Microsoft was -- and may be -- planning to release new Sidekicks. They'll be stinkers now, because every blog or news story will recall the Sidekick data loss.

Windows Mobile 6.5 is stinker enough. I took last week off from blogging, while I completely made offer my Oddly Together site. That's mainly why I didn't blog about Windows Mobile 6.5. How could I? The reviews were bad enough. Pee you. I couldn't bring myself to kick Microsoft when it was down.

It's a wonder how Microsoft could release that stink bomb. But what other choice was there? The mobile market races ahead, even as Microsoft falls behind. I actually felt sorry for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, while watching his stiff introduction to Windows Phone. Could the normally animated Ballmer look any unhappier to be launching new Windows Phone software and hardware?

For now, the question remains: Should you trust Microsoft with your data? As Dirty Harry once asked: "Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

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