I've been a huge fan of SugarSync since I started using it several years ago.  It will automatically backup files on my desktop and synchronize them with my laptop, and vice versa.  It even works with my mobile phone so that I can easily access frequently used files when I'm away from a computer.  It also let's me share files or entire folders with other people.  It's not perfect, but it's been nearly perfect for me.  But today I discovered an interesting flaw.  Admittedly, this is probably a potentially unusual situation, and I'm waiting to hear back from SugarSync Support on whether this is a bug or whether it was a highly unusual fluke, but it definitely got my attention.

So with that out of the way...

My desktop machine has been misbehaving lately, primarily in the form of Blue Screens.  After further digging, it seems that there is some type of issue with one or more hard drives or the motherboard.  To diagnose the issue, I unplugged all drives except the C: drive.  I tried booting with just the C: drive, and although Windows will load and work for a while, I am still getting the blue screens.

Well, a funny thing happened while I was doing those tests.  Well, maybe not so funny.

On my desktop, I have a dedicated C: drive with only Windows and Program files.  I store all of my user data and files on a D: drive.  That way, if I ever need to reinstall Windows, I can just wipe the C: drive and not worry about losing any data.  And naturally, I have SugarSync backup all of my files on the D: drive and synchronizes them to my laptop. 

It seems that when I disconnected the D: drive on my desktop, SugarSync decided that I had deleted all of my files.  And I mean ALL OF MY FILES.  Apparently since it could no longer see the D: drive, it sent messages up to the SugarSync servers telling the Mother Ship that ALL OF MY FILES were deleted.

And then what happened?  Well, when I fired up my laptop, SugarSync on my laptop dutifully downloaded all of the synchronization commands to delete ALL OF MY FILES from my laptop.

At the time, I was looking for some files on my laptop and noticed that one directory was missing.  I checked my backups on my local server to confirm the files existed, and by the time I switched back to my laptop directory listing, everything was gone.  Tens of thousands of files and thousands of directories were wiped from my laptop.

I just stared at the screen in disbelief, thinking that Windows Explorer wasn't refreshing or that I was going blind.  But nope, everything had been deleted.  In a panic, it took me about 30 seconds to realize what had happened.

Initially, the first level SugarSync support rep quickly claimed that when SugarSync detects that a drive is missing, it will automatically "disconnect" the synchronized folders, whatever that means.  But clearly that didn't occur in my case, and the SugarSync web site shows all of my files have been deleted.  I am now waiting for them to review my log files and see if they can figure out what happened.  The support rep foolishly closed the chat session with "...please remember that you should not disconnect a drive on which the SugarSync folders are present", which is a preposterous statement, especially since he initially claimed that SugarSync would "disconnect" the backed up folders if a drive was not found.

And thinking about the obvious real world situations, what if you want to backup data on an external USB drive?  Does SugarSync suddenly delete files everywhere when you disconnect that drive?  What if my D: drive had died?  Will my laptop be wiped out when that happens too?  It doesn't make any sense that the files should be deleted when a drive is no longer detected.

Since I rely heavily on SugarSync (or at least I used to before this happened), I apparently need to test all of these scenarios to assess the damage that may occur.

Fortunately, I am only highly annoyed by all of this, primarily because of the time it has wasted and will continue to waste until I get a resolution.  I'm not going insane for a few reasons:

1. It appears that all of my files are still present on the SugarSync servers, but are marked as deleted.  So I'm guessing they should be able to revive them, assuming their second level support is more competent their their first level reps.  I could double click on the deleted files to restore them myself, but I am waiting for them to figure out what happened before I touch anything.

2. My D: drive on my desktop did not die, I just had to unplug it, so my files are still intact on that drive.  But I am now very wary of plugging the drive back in, should SugarSync decide that it needs to wipe that drive as well.

3. I also use Carbonite to backup all of the files handled by SugarSync, plus many, many more, so I have another copy on Carbonite's servers.  Apparently Carbonite does not have the same flaw as SugarSync and does not immediately delete my files when the drive is not connected.  But Carbonite sometimes gets back logged with my photos and other large files I backup, so files that I change regularly may be several days old on the Carbonite server.

4. Every evening a scheduled task runs on my desktop that uses RoboCopy to backup my files from my desktop to my file server.   Unfortunately because of the issues with my desktop, it looks like it has been a few days since that ran successfully.   So I do have another copy of everything, but several files will be a few days old.

So this has been a good lesson about an ironic downside to a seemingly fantastic backup solution.  And it's been a good, albeit unwanted, test of my neurotic multi-layered backup strategy.  It seems to work, but like most things, it isn't perfect.  I now have some clear validation that you can't have too many backups...

Steve Endow is a Dynamics GP Certified Trainer and Dynamics GP Certified IT Professional in Los Angeles.  He is also the owner of Precipio Services, which provides Dynamics GP integrations, customizations, and automation solutions.