The funny thing about running a website is that you don't actually own that site. Not unless you own the hosting site too. At any time, your web hosting company can take down your site. That's just the name of the game, and it's exactly what happened to Kim Dotcom today.
In typical fashion, Dotcom announced to the Twitter world that a massive amount of data was wiped from his Megaupload file-sharing service. Dotcom's hosting company, LeaseWeb, wiped the files "without warning" Dotcom says. Why? What happened?
Why Dotcom's Files Were Wiped Out
Aside from the fact that Kim Dotcom has been in the news on and off for years, and that his Megaupload site was once highly controversial, Kim Dotcom isn't so unlike the rest of us. LeaseWeb stated that this was not the case, and that Dotcom was notified of the wipe back in February (when the file destruction actually took place).
What's the reason why LeaseWeb decided to wipe Dotcom's files? Space. Dotcom had more than 600 different dedicated servers running on behalf of MegaUpload - servers that LeaseWeb was footing the bill for, since Megaupload was shut down. So, why did Dotcom wait for the end of June to let the world know what actually happened in February?
He claims that he did not know until yesterday. But, this may not be the case. It's possible that Dotcom is trying to hang onto some fame. Either way, there's a good lesson to be learned here.
When Sites Are Shut Down
The first lesson is that you can't expect a hosting company to pay for your dedicated servers. The second lesson is that your data is not entirely secure if you haven't backed it up. Dotcom says that he cried when he found out all of his data was erased, but there's nothing he can do about it.
When you don't own your site, you can't control what happens to it. Sites are shut down every day, and data is destroyed regularly to make space. In this case, LeaseWeb held onto the servers until the company realized that the public had lost interest. Once Megaupload wasn't drawing traffic, the site was shut down.
Why Dotcom Is So Upset
According to Dotcom, some of the files that were erased were personal, and many of them contained information that would have helped him in court. That information is gone now. It's a pretty interesting incident, but LeaseWeb states that it has proof the company notified Dotcom of the eventual shutdown. So, whether or not Dotcom has any legal recourse is unknown.
In any case, you should know that you have very little legal recourse if your site is ever shut down. Governments can ask web hosting company to take down sites at a whim, and there's not much that can be done about it. For now, Dotcom remains in legal trouble, and the information that was once ready to back him up is now gone. Is this fair? What do you think?
Photo courtesy of cookieeater2009 via Flickr Creative Commons