James Mayes

Blog: Recovering from a Dropbox disaster!

In Gadgets, Mobile, Software Development, Start-ups on September 20, 2011 at 8:02 am

Many people I know, myself included, make extensive use of Dropbox for cloud storage. Install on all your devices, have all your files accessible from the cloud, synchronised AND available offline. Lovely.

What happens when you make a mistake?

Last night, when I deleted a crucial folder by mistake. My first thought was to grab the phone next to me, which had the Android version of Dropbox installed – I opened it up, and watched as “in the cloud” synchronisation took over and the folder deleted itself right before my eyes. The very definition of a disaster gathering pace. I thought of the data in that folder… yes, I had a backup. No, it wasn’t recent.

Verging on meltdown, I fought to think logically… Dropbox stores a copy on each local machine… it synchronises changes via the net… I have  laptop upstairs which is currently off… QUICK…. kill the wifi! Internet suitably disabled (i.e. plug removed sharpish from router!) I powered up the other laptop. Yep, the folder was intact. I copied all my Dropbox files to a USB storage device, then double-checked it on another PC. Breathe easy.

Panic over, I calmed briefly and tweeted about my near-miss, reminded people of the value of back-ups. I won’t share with you the thoughts I had when I saw this response:

Dropbox undelete

I’ve known Fordie a while, he tweets some great stuff… but right then, I coulda killed him! Now though, cool & calm, I have the following lessons:

  1. If you’re going to entrust your data to a site or service, learn about it up front – especially the recovery options
  2. Back up. No site is ever 100% perfect and even if it gets close, there’s still the huge potential for error between the chair and the keyboard
  3. Tweet for help before you panic!

So, this being done, will I still use Dropbox? Hell ya.  I think it was probably my error that caused it, and I’ve just tested the Dropbox undelete feature – works a dream. Log into the website, go to your Files; the deleted stuff is greyed out; click the down arrow next to it on the right, you get the option to undelete. Would I recommend it? Yeah, if you keep the above stuff in mind.

Finally – if you don’t yet have an account, click here  – using that link tells them I sent you, which gives me a little extra free space. Cheers!

  1. Dropbox has an even more impressive feature that saved me on Sunday when I started editing a PowerPoint deck to use it for something else. Unfortunately, the phone rang before I’d done a Save As… so I accidentally saved over the one I wanted to keep. However, Dropbox keeps old versions. Just right click on the Dropbox file on your laptop and you have the option to View old versions – invaluable.

  2. As an avid Dropbox user – this blog and comments are even more of a reason to use it!
    Nice to know easy recovery options exist. I may need to refer to back to this blog…

    Handy post James.

  3. […] the cloud, backed up to each machine I install it on, deletion controls (which I only found after this episode!!). Ace […]

  4. Oh my friggin god. It just happened to me. The same f#$@#g thing. I’m literally dying inside right now. I feel like I’m being punished for something. My computer at the office is not connected to the internet or turned on (I hope and pray). I’m going to drive to work first thing in the morning. Move far to the back of the parking lot out of wi-fi range, turn it on, copy everything over to the hard drive, go back inside and hook it up the internet, and let it mutilate my directory, and then copy it back over from my hard drive and let it resynce. Oh my friggn god

    I’m glad you have this post, it’s unfortunate when you search it and find it though. By the time someone reads your post, they’re already shit outta luck. But, it did help me cope and breathe and get my bearings.

    Seriously five years of work that is not replaceable. My dear dear dear PHP and codeigniter and SQL databases. I wonder if I’ll sleep tonight.

    If you read the post above and make it down to this comment, I beg you to reexamine your backup and redundancy plans.

    I thought everything was safe on the cloud even if the house burned down. But like the post says, the seat and they keyboard is where 99% of accidents occur.

    I’m going to lobby Dropbox for a disaster recovery as soon as I can find a friggin phone number on their site. They need a panic line.

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