In the past few years, we have witnessed an exponential growth in the usage of cloud based services. Or, in other words, people have begun to trust services like Facebook, Flickr, Google Docs/Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, etc with important data.
In exchange for trust and reliance, users expect service providers to be responsible (at least to a certain level) for the data they harbor. Sure, system failures, issues and incidents are unavoidable in the tech world, but the responsible company is expected to resolve such issues as quickly as possible, as well apologize and/or compensate their users for the disruption in service or loss of user data.
And, not surprisingly, tech companies generally live up to these standards.
A little bit of history
When Amazon’s EC2 experienced loss of user data in April 2012, Amazon (at least attempted to) recover lost volumes. In addition, they made the whole incident public in the form of press releases as well as messages on their status page. At the end of the day, while there were still users who had lost their data with no pathway to recovery, Amazon at least accepted responsibility for the loss.
Similarly, in July 2010, Evernote had a server issue that led to a loss of user notes. And, just like in Amazon’s case, Evernote also attempted to recover lost data. They also issued an apology to their users about the loss as well as explained specifics of the incident on their blog.
Why am I mentioning all of these incidents? Because I expect a similar level of responsibility from every company that stores my data. If Dropbox or Google or Facebook were to lose my data in the future, I expect them to do all they can to resolve the issue and lessen the effect on the user.
In case you haven’t heard, Prezi, a San Francisco-based startup, aims to provide a new way to “present ideas”. In layman’s terms, they provide you with a new, animation-centric way to organize and structure your presentation. They have a couple of pricing tiers, but the basic free account allows you to create your presentations within your web browser and save them online.
I had no complaints with Microsoft’s PowerPoint, or with Google Docs’ Presentations thing, but I decided to give Prezi a shot for one Theory of Knowledge presentation at school. After creating the presentation, I spent 4-5 hours in the evening of Thursday April 4th working solely on my presentation, making sure to press the save button periodically (on another note, shouldn’t the presentation auto-save by default?)
One night later, I log into my Prezi account at school to pull up my presentation on the school computer. And lo, it was incomplete, with loads of text and images missing. Turns out, all the work I did after approximately 3 P.M. on Thursday until midnight (or so) was lost forever, and there was no way to recover it. I ruled out the possibility of it being a localized problem with the computer, as the presentation appeared the same on my Android phone.
At that moment, I immediately knew the fault lay with Prezi’s servers. But their blog and Twitter feed did not contain any informational message or press release about the loss of data I was experiencing. I head over to their contact page, only to find out that I can’t file a ticket or contact e-mail support since I was on a free account (Seriously, Prezi? Nearly every other cloud-based service like Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, etc provides e-mail support to their consumers regardless of their account type).
I criticized them on Twitter, expecting them to respond, which they eventually did the next day (Saturday).
— Prezi (@prezi) April 6, 2013
Browsing through their community forums, it seems like the issue is quite common, and that the exact same issue occurred to a large number of users. I added a post regarding the problem I was experiencing to the forum too, but just like other similar posts on the forum, there’s a good chance mine would be ignored.
Most importantly, Prezi still hasn’t admitted the fact that they had a server issue in the early morning hours (EDT) of Friday, April 5, 2013. No tweet. No e-mail to consumers, No blog post. Because, let’s just hide behind the bunker until users find out, and even when they do, we’ll just act as if nothing happened in the first place.
I’ll most probably have to re-do my presentation, but one thing is for sure: I won’t be doing it in Prezi again. Furthermore, I will be advising my friends to stay away from them as they have proven how untrustworthy they are with user data.