Friday, January 2, 2009

JournalSpace mistakes mirroring for backups, dies

JournalSpace is dead.

Short form: JournalSpace depended on drive mirroring for back-ups. Something proceeded to overwrite the drives with zeros, and the mirroring politely overwrote the mirrors with zeros too. Their entire database is gone, all blogs, everything.

Repeat after me: mirroring is not a back-up. RAID and drive mirroring are for reliability and fault-tolerance. They'll protect you against hardware failure. They won't protect you against software doing something stupid or malicious. If the software says "Write this data to this location on the disk.", mirroring software and RAID drivers won't, I repeat will not, not write the data. If you're depending on your mirrors to contain something other than exactly what the main drive contains, well, you'll end up where JournalSpace is. You need point-in-time backups to external media, something that won't duplicate what's on the main drive unless and until you do the duplication yourself. That's the only way to insure that, if your software writes corrupted data to your main disks, the backups don't have the same corruption written to them as long as you catch the problem before you overwrite the backups with new ones. This is also, BTW, why you have more than one set of backup media: so if you do run your backups before catching a problem, you've got older backups to fall back on.

This should also be a cautionary tale for anybody wanting to host their data, application or whatever "in the cloud". If you do, and it's at all important, make sure you a) can and do make your own local backups of everything and b) have a fall-back plan in the event "the cloud" suddenly becomes unavailable. Unless, of course, you want to end up like the people who had their journals on JournalSpace: everything gone, no way to recover, because of somebody else's screw-up.

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