Loss of customer data spurs closure of 'The Linkup'

Nirvanix denies responsibility, says its own customers' data remains safe

Can you trust your data to the cloud? For users of an online storage service called The Linkup, formerly known as MediaMax, the answer turned out to be a resounding "no."

The Linkup shut down on August 8 after losing access to unspecified amounts of customer data. The Linkup Web site has a message saying the service is no longer available and urges visitors to try out another storage site called Box.net. The Linkup had about 20,000 paying subscribers, according to The Industry Standard.

"I was traveling throughout North and South America ... and used [the service] to back up copies of documents in case of emergency," a user named Jacob Sherman tells Network World in an e-mail. "I just want my data."

The Linkup CEO Steve Iverson says at least 55 per cent of the data was safe. How much of the remaining 45 per cent was saved is not clear, he says.

"We know there was definitely a lot of customer problems, and when we looked at some individual accounts, some people didn't have any files, and some people had all their files," Iverson says in a phone interview.

Enterprise IT shops that subscribe to or are considering a cloud storage service might be most intrigued by one factor in The Linkup's meltdown: the company's relationship with Nirvanix, a cloud start-up offering online storage services to business customers.

Nirvanix and MediaMax/The Linkup trace their origins to Streamload, an online storage company targeted at consumers that was founded in 1998 and then split in two in July 2007, resulting in the formation of business-focused Nirvanix and consumer-focused MediaMax, both based in San Diego. (MediaMax changed its name to the Linkup earlier this year).

Commenters in the blogosphere blamed The Linkup storage problems on Nirvanix, spurring the company to issue a lengthy rebuttal on its blog two weeks ago, with a detailed explanation of storage procedures which Nirvanix says would prevent any loss of data.

According to Nirvanix, MediaMax contracted with Savvis in July 2007 to host its application and database and contracted with Nirvanix to host "old Streamload/MediaMax servers and storage systems."

"MediaMax's intent was to migrate users and files from the MediaMax application and old Streamload/MediaMax storage system into the new TLU [The Linkup] application and the new Nirvanix Storage Delivery Network," Nirvanix writes. "However, as documented on the TLU blog on their impending closure, this migration was only partly possible and only a portion of the files were transferred."

According to Nirvanix, MediaMax has previously said in its blog that the company's storage problems began in June 2007 -- before Nirvanix was incorporated. The Nirvanix Storage Delivery Network itself was not launched until October 2007, Nirvanix says.

There is now only one post left on The Linkup blog -- a message dated July 9, 2008, explaining that the service would close on August 8 and all customer information and files would be deleted. Users were urged to download their files before that date.

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