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Sidekick's lesson: We learn by failing

The Sidekick outage shows that management hasn't caught up with the cloud, not that network storage is unreliable.

Technically, we can't blame the loss of Sidekick users' data on a failure of either the concept or the technology of "cloud computing." But Microsoft's clear bungling of basic information management practices (apparently, there were backups--but they didn't work) does cast a pall over not just Microsoft but the cloud concept entirely.

T-Mobile is trying to keep customers' data alive. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

Microsoft, as one of the giant infrastructure technology companies that's saying through its product offerings that data is safe in the "cloud," has a responsibility not just to its customers but to the growth of cloud computing overall to keep the data it's holding safe.

The company's failure to keep the data safe shows the world how fragile cloud computing is. Even though, really, it isn't. The world knows how to build systems that safeguard data from hardware and software and network failures, and even from hacking and other forms of sabotage. The fact that Microsoft failed to keep the Sidekick data backed up indicates, rather, how management can fail.

But do consumers, or corporate IT managers considering cloud-based services, care where the failure was? All we know is that it failed.

Travel by commercial airliner is neither unsafe nor inherently safe because of the technology itself. It is as safe or as dangerous as the procedures followed to certify and maintain the equipment that people put their life's trust in.

Microsoft's Sidekick outage shows that sadly, in fact, it's true: you cannot trust the cloud because you can't trust the people who run it. It indicates another scary truth: We haven't had enough cloud failure yet. We're going to have more. We need more. We learn from each failure. And we're all thinking the same thing: I hope I'm the beneficiary, and not the victim, of the hard lessons still to come.

Data in the cloud can be safe. And it will become more safe thanks to this outage. Failures of trust, like this one, have costs, but there are benefits as well.

More: Full coverage of the Sidekick data loss