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What Happens To Your Backup Files When a Cloud Service Unexpectedly Shuts Down?

21 May 2024 3:19 PM | Anonymous

I love cloud computing and use it several times daily. I use a cloud-based email service. I make backups of all my files to a cloud-based service, and I’m even writing this article with a cloud-based word processor. I have written a number of times about cloud-based services.

There is one big question, however: what happens to your files when a cloud computing service disappears abruptly?

This is not an idle question. Cloud-based file storage services have suddenly disappeared a number of times, for a number of reasons. However, one other problem is perhaps more common: you pay for a cloud-based server’s services and then, when it comes time to renew that payment, you don’t have enough money available.

In fact, any cloud-based site could disappear at any time for any number of reasons. Not only can legal authorities shut it down (that happened to (now renamed and back online as, but so can bankruptcy, or a fire or a tornado if the backup service itself isn't backing things up properly off-site, which strikes me as rather stupid, but it does happen. If anyone chooses to use off-site backups, it should be an online backup service that preaches to its customers about the need for off-site backups! However, low-budget backup services might not practice what they preach.

I will suggest the answer for all of these problems is simple: keep your own backup copies.

No hard drive is perfect. Likewise, no cloud-based service is perfect. You should always keep a backup copy of every important file stored on your hard drive, and you should also keep a backup copy of every important file stored in the cloud. 

The backup copy, in fact, might be a simple copy of the original file that is presently stored on your hard drive. If the backup copy suddenly becomes unavailable, who cares? The original should still be available. If you are constrained by disk space, you might want to copy important files to a plug-in USB external hard drive or to a CD or DVD disk or even to a flash drive for short-term local storage as well as to a cloud-based backup service for off-site storage before deleting the file(s) from your hard drive. For those who are truly paranoid, like myself, always backup your files to at least TWO different cloud-based backup services in different locations as well as to a local USB external drive, and also keep the original on the computer's hard drive. With four copies stored in three different locations, the odds of any one disaster destroying everything are slim indeed.

I suppose the argument is that one electro-magnetic pulse from a nuclear attack still could destroy everything. While possible, I doubt if any of us will be worried about genealogy file backups following such a disaster. I suspect we will all be spending our waking hours focusing on more important issues, such as staying alive, finding food, water, and a roof over our heads. In short, I don't plan backups to use in case of nuclear disaster.

I also don't back up everything. For instance, I don't back up my computer's operating system because I know I can always obtain a new copy from the manufacturer or at my local computer store. Likewise, I don't back up word processors or spreadsheet programs or other applications because new copies are readily available online or in stores. However, I do make at least four copies of every bit of data I create or anything created by others that I decide is worth saving.

At home, I keep the original files on each computer's hard drive, plus I have a 14 terabyte external hard drive that plugs into the computer's USB connector. I run software that backups up every new file to the USB external drive within minutes, sometimes within seconds,  after it is created. 

NOTE to Macintosh users: You already have TimeMachine installed on your system. It is the best free backup program I have ever seen, and Apple gives it away free of charge. If you are not already using it, run out now, purchase a USB external hard drive, return home, plug it into your computer's USB connector, and configure TimeMachine. You'll be glad you did.

In addition, all my important data files are backed to Dropbox's cloud-based service within a few minutes of their creation. If that wasn't enough, my computer also makes daily backups to Amazon's S3 (Simple Storage Service) cloud-based file storage area. If Dropbox suddenly goes offline, I still have my original file plus my local backup copies plus the copy on Amazon S3. Likewise, if Amazon suddenly disappears, I still have the original plus local backups plus the copy on Dropbox.

I have a similar setup on my laptop computer. I have a portable plug-in USB hard drive that I don't always take with me on short trips. However, any files I do create will be backed up the next time I plug in the portable hard drive. Likewise, if I have a high-speed Internet connection, I can manually backup files to Dropbox and Amazon S3. However, I do not have the laptop set for automatic backups because sometimes my Internet connection is very slow or perhaps I am paying for the number of bytes being sent. In those situations, I will wait until I am back within range of a high-speed, low-cost connection before making backups. If it is a very important file, I might make an immediate backup copy to a flash drive that I usually carry in my pocket.

NOTE #2: The likelihood of Amazon disappearing seems remote. The company is well-funded, scrupulously honest, and keeps multiple copies of all files stored in multiple data centers around the world. One local fire or tornado won't impact Amazon S3 very much. In fact, the  earthquake in Japan a few years ago shut down Amazon's Tokyo data center in Japan for some time, but no data was lost as backup copies were also stored in other Amazon data centers around the world. All Amazon S3 users with data stored in the Tokyo data center were able to retrieve their files within a few hours.

Details about Amazon S3 cloud-based backup services may be found at

NOTE #3: I may write about Amazon's S3 cloud-based storage service someday. I have it installed both at home and on my traveling laptop, and I use it daily. It is a heavy-duty backup service and is one of all the cloud-based backup services. I think it is cheaper than purchasing your own hard drive, and it makes off-site backups as well as any other service I’ve used. However, I also found Amazon S3 to be a bit complex to configure, so I don't recommend it for computer novices. If you have some systems administration experience, you might want to use Amazon S3's amazingly low-priced backup service. You can read more at

I also keep a lot of my backups on pCloud at: You can never have too many backups!

Let's return to the original question: What happens to your files when a cloud service shuts down?

The answer is: Not much.

That assumes that you performed your backups in a professional manner like what I’ve described here: you kept multiple backups regularly and stored them in multiple locations.


  • 22 May 2024 3:15 PM | Anonymous
    Back up to DVD. DVDs are impervious to ransomware and EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse).

    7ZIP will compress & split your data over multiple 4GB files.
    Link  •  Reply

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