Sidekick fiasco highlights need for mobile backups

Few users back up data stored on their phones, according to analysts

The loss of personal data that Sidekick users in the U.S. have suffered is a shame, but it also shows how important data stored on mobile phones has become.

A service disruption this weekend at Sidekick provider Danger resulted in the Microsoft subsidiary losing mobile customer data. In this case Microsoft failed to back up user data, but few users take the right precautions to protect the growing amount of data stored on their own smartphones, according to Nick Jones, vice president at market research company Gartner.

That opinion is seconded by Paolo Pescatore, analyst at CCS Insight. "To be honest, most people don't back up the data that is stored on the phone. How many stories do we hear now of people losing their phone, and saying that I had pictures from when my baby was born and now I have lost them," he said.

The information kept on current smartphones isn't just contacts and photos, but also data and content stored by the growing number of applications that users install. Smartphones have become as much of a tool as laptops, according to Jones.

"Therefore you really have to treat a smartphone as a PC, and you have to be prepared to back up the information on a regular basis," Jones said.

The need for backup services is something that both mobile phone manufacturers and operators have seen, and they've started to offer a number of different services. But those services have largely been ignored by users, according to Jones.

"I think [users] sort of assume that the phone is secure, and having to pay extra for something they thought they had anyway hasn't gone down well," he said.

Partly it's just a question of educating users to understand that they are carrying a computer in their pocket, that it's not just a phone anymore, according to Jones.

But the mobile phone manufacturers should also aim to build better PC connectivity solutions, according to Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner. A lot of people don't back up their data because it is to cumbersome, she said.

The use of backup services is going to increase and become a way for carriers and mobile phone vendors to retain their users and increase loyalty, according to CCS Insight's Pescatore. Once a user stores a tremendous amount of information with one carrier some users will perceive it as more difficult to move to another carrier, he said.

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