Back-Up Lessons From Myspace Data Loss

Social media network Myspace suffered a data loss in February 2018 during a server migration project. The company admits on its website that “…any photos, videos, and audio files you uploaded more than three years ago may no longer be available on or from Myspace. We apologise for the inconvenience.” However, while it’s good of Myspace to offer an apology to its users, the assumption that emerges from this incident – whether true or not - is that the firm didn’t properly back up its data. By Graham Jarvis, technology writer.

  • 5 years ago Posted in

Users began to notice that there was a problem when many of them found that they were unable to play videos or sound files though Myspace. All of the affected files had been uploaded to the social media platform prior to 2015. Initially, the company told its user-base that it had begun a huge maintenance programme, and it confirmed that some users might be prevented from playing songs and video on the social media platform.

Lost data, lost memories

ComputerWeekly writes: As reported by BBC News, former Kickstarter chief technology officer, Andy Baio, claimed the incident may have led to more than 50 million songs being lost, created by 14 million contributors, before going on to theorise the incident might not be all that it seems.”

Wikipedia also reports: “In May 2016, the data for almost 360 million Myspace accounts was offered on the "Real Deal" dark market website.

Server migrations

David Trossell, CEO and CTO of Bridgeworks, explains that server migrations are often necessary whenever there are old systems and or old storage arrays. With higher capacity disk drives that have lower power requirements these can force a migration wherever there is a need to lower power consumption. Equipment failures also occur when products reach their end of life stage, or when organisations can no long receive support for their equipment, again a time to migrate. 

With regards to the Myspace data loss crisis, he believes “It was caused by a carbon error, and someone should have checked that a backup had been done beforehand.  When undertaking something such as this it’s imperative to have a back- out plan just in case a server migration doesn’t go right.”

Trossell explains that a carbon error is a “a standard term in the industry for operator error, which is also known as Fat Finger Syndrome (FFS)He adds that it may have been “…a way to reduce their storage requirements and blame it on something else.” In his opinion, the incident was either caused by total incompetence on the part of Myspace, or by some form of complicity.

Service continuity

In commercial terms, having copies elsewhere enables a failover to occur. This permits business and service continuity, while also protecting user or corporate data. By having datacentres or disaster recovery sites located in the same location or Cloud instance, organisations put themselves in danger of losing their data completely. Data loss doesn’t just occur during failed server migrations. It can also happen whenever there is a natural disaster, as the consequence of a successful cyber-attack or due to human error.

Data protection

In certain circumstances, data loss can lead to fines under data protection laws, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Data loss can also lead to reputational damage and lost customers. Then there is the factor of lost time and revenue. So, an organisation’s best insurance policy is to make sure that they back up, back up and back up their data – and where possible, this should be achieved in as near to real-time as possible to ensure that the data is up-to-date.

Best practice

Successful server migration best practice also dictates that the migrating data shouldn’t be deleted from Location A until it has been moved to Location B, Location C or to a combination of locations. Before any data deletion can occur, it is also advisable to verify that all of the data has been copied and moved across to the new server or datacentre. As mentioned earlier, it’s unwise to begin a server migration until the data has been backed up in advance of the process beginning.

“If you do not have the capacity locally, use a cloud provider and if you have a lot of data, you will need to use a WAN data acceleration solution to get it there – especially if you encrypt it first”, he advises. Yet, while the Myspace server migration data loss could have been avoided in the first place with proper checks, Trossell says the disaster it turned into could have been mitigated by having a third-party copy of the data elsewhere. 

User back-ups

He recommends that users should also back up their data because they are the only ones that value their data, and so he believes it’s very much up to them to protect their data.  This nevertheless raises questions, given that over the course of time social media users create a significant amount of data that may be significant to a particular moment in their lives. With Google advising its Google + users to back up their data, claiming that it will be deleted at the beginning of April 2019, questions arise about what they will be able to do next with the data they download from that social media platform. 

Google + business users, except those using Google + Brand Account, will fortunately still have access to their accounts and their data won’t be deleted. Still, Google’s plans are going to be a concern to many users, particularly as social media timelines are often an emotive issue. Over the years, most businesses should have backed up their photos, video and textual postings on other social networks, on their websites and possibly on their blogs.

However, they should still maintain copies of all this data elsewhere. This won’t solve the question of what to do with it if a server migration fails or if a service becomes obsolete, but it will enable them to decide what value it has to their business, and to re-use it elsewhere. The questions remain about how Google + users can use their downloaded and saved data now that Google + for consumers and Brand Accounts – which were often used by small businesses – have begun to be deleted by Google.

Questions raised

So, there are as many questions raised by the Myspace data loss incident, as there is about Google’s plan to obsolete the consumer version of Google+. One thing that Myspace will have attained from the incident is some notoriety, and some recognition that it still exists and hasn’t died over the years. To a degree, it has fallen into obscurity, overshadowed by the likes of Facebook and Instagram. However, Myspace is still hanging in there, but for how long remains to be seen. People are still using Myspace, and yet the loss of their data on the social media platform left them feeling bereft. So, arguably it’s a lesson to avoid relying on any cloud or online platform with one’s own data.

By Graham Jarvis, Freelance Business and Technology Journalist


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