October 12, 2009
Users of Sidekick mobile phones have had their first bad weather experience: Microsoft's Danger subsidiary has lost all of the customer data stored on its servers.I find the issue fascinating on at least two levels: our tolerance for risk, and our willingness to trust.
It's a relatively new idea, this need of ours to backup contact info (names, addresses, phone numbers). For those of us who can remember the days of Franklin Planners and little black books, I bet few of us maintained duplicate copies stored in safe, remote locations. Was it that we didn't know enough to worry about it, or maybe our contacts didn't move so often as to require a constantly-updated list? I can remember losing my address book and digging out an older one. It worked, with minor edits required. I wonder if consumers need the comfort of cloud backup in order to give up tangible ownership of their contact info? I know that I feel reassured that there are servers, buried somewhere in a mountain like in an old ICBM silo, keeping my records safe. It was OK to shred that old address book I'd put away for a rainy day. The cloud has me covered. I never thought about it before, but the risk of losing my stuff bothers me, so maybe it matters to other users, too? The Sidekick server failure impacted probably a few thousand users (you had to drain or take out the battery in order to erase your local files and then discover that the server didn't have them either). Yet it might be something that all mobile brands are going to have to address. I think consumers are generally willing to trust implicitly, and perhaps even do so far more than intelligence or experience should allow, but only until they're given specific cause to lose faith. Many of use bought backup drives or subscribed to cloud services after living through a PC crash of one sort or another, for instance. Is this mobile's moment? Will events like the Sidekick data crash make consumers less trusting, and expect more services and reassurances on data protection? Do our cloud backups need more backups? My suggestion is that T-Mobile send every customer a little black book that they can stuff in the backs of kitchen and desk drawers. Just in case there's bad weather. Jonathan Salem Baskin is a global brand strategist, writes the Dim Bulb blog, and is the author of Bright Lights & Dim Bulbs, coming in November.
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