A few days ago my friend Ed Brill was writing about the suitability of services such as Gmail in the Enterprise. Despite the vogue for services such as Google Apps and other "Software as a Service" and "Cloud" computing, he points out that they simply aren't as reliable as on premises solutions (or hosted ones for that matter). However, one of the biggest challenges with these solutions is "who you gonna call" when there is a problem. If you can't access Gmail you won't get very far phoning Google. However, these free services are normally deemed to be fine for consumer use.
Well I have just had a personal experience that even makes me question that. Since around 2000 I have been maintaining a web site for the band that I'm in. Being a cheap skate I just grabbed a free site at Tripod. It was a bit spoiled by the adverts but it worked fine. Tripod was subsequently purchased by Lycos but it didn't seem to change anything. It only got a thousand or so hits per year and I didn't update it particularly frequently but it was a nice place to keep all the band related stuff together and to inform our vanishingly small fan base about gigs and such.
A little while ago I made a music video of one of our songs and so I popped over to the site to provide a link. To my surprise all the content had vanished. When I tried to log in to my account I got an error message stating that my account had been suspended because of suspected abuse! It directed me to a Lycos troubleshooting and reporting site where it asked me to create a problem report promising a response within 72 hours. Several weeks later and despite me repeatedly emailing they have stubbornly refused to contact me other than an automated confirmation that they had received my report.
My account has subsequently been re enabled but all the content on the site is gone for good. Now being a paranoid sort of chap I have always saved copies of everything I uploaded to the site - but I would imagine many people are not so careful. Interestingly I have never bothered to save the contents of this blog. What could I do if I came here and found it blank? Even worse would be if I found the Blog that I write for my daughter was gone. Who would I ring? When I restart my bands page it will not be on a free service but rather with a host who provides a support number so I can talk to someone if problems occur. Not a vast anonymous blob.
As we sometimes say, free software is worth every penny! Incidentally, remember that nothing is ever really deleted from the internet. The Internet Archive still has a copy of my site.