There’s a predominance of cloud based services that are tempting to embrace, particularly for us digital nomads looking to offload the burden of maintaining systems ourselves. Everything from back-up services, note taking, file sharing, document creation, e-mail, blogging and finances. A company offers a service, they provide the hardware, manpower and tools to host your data.
- Are back-ups and restore features provided?
- What about if the company has a failure that makes your data unavailable, or worst, they go out of business?
- Can you really trust the company to do no evil with your data?
For the most part, we’ve been very conscious of the cloud services we use – fully realizing and accepting their shortcomings, while appreciating the added dimension they add for us as mobile professionals. There’s a level of freedom and extra security in not having everything be local on a laptop or external drive that can easily be stolen or damaged in the course of our travels. But this must also be balanced with realizing the cloud isn’t always a replacement either.
For instance, we use Google Docs, but only for things that aren’t of critical importance where the benefits of sharing documents outweigh the risk. We still utilize a locally hosted office suite for documents created for clients. We use Evernote for storing receipts and information we gather, but carefully sync to two computers where the data is included in our back-up routines. We use Dropbox for file sharing and storage, and our DropBox is included in our normal back-up routines too.
And some things we just never trust to the cloud.
But I slid into the allure of a Minty Cloud
I was first introduced to Mint.com about 2 years ago at Macworld. Remembering how I appreciated its parent service from years ago called Yodlee – I signed up. At first, I used it as a quick and easy way to regularly overview my accounts to keep on top of unauthorized transactions, automatic deposits and the such.
As a new Mac convert, I was still maintaining my finances in Quicken under VMWare – and avidly researching finance organizing options that were Mac native (and the Mac version of Quicken at the time sucked).
Mint started rolling out more and more features that eventually made it easy to replace a lot of what I used Quicken for – mainly tracking my spending and preparing for taxes. It downloaded my transactions, allowed me to categorize them (even offering splits!), create budgets and add in manual transactions.
Along the way, I got incredibly lax about upkeeping Quicken and I put off looking for a Mac native replacement. After all, I got everything I needed right in Mint with minimal effort. I figured ‘one day’ I’d get around to having a local copy of my transactions again.
And when Intuit bought Mint, I figured this was just the way things were going anyway and I was ahead of the trend. I was even looking forward to their integration with TurboTax this year that they’ve been marketing.
For 2 years, everything worked great!
Until last night. I logged into Mint to deal with today’s transactions to discover that one of my accounts was showing up twice. I went into the account maintenance, found the duplicate – and proceeded to delete it out. No problem I thought.
Until I discovered that in the process, Mint deleted another completely separate account too!! And never asking me for confirmation.
Ok.. I thought. No problem. I just have to re-link the account, and everything should be restored – afterall Mint offers ‘bank-level data security’. And I’ve never had a bank loose my transaction data, because they do back-ups and stuff.
Boy was I wrong.
It took me all of a couple minutes to realize that not only had Mint added a duplicate account to my system, removed an account without my asking – they also removed 2 years of transaction history that I had meticulously categorized with no way to restore it (even if I had downloaded my history, like I should have).
And, when adding any new account into Mint, they are only capable of downloading a month’s worth of transactions. Meaning my only hope of ever restoring this account in Mint was limited to re-categorizing the past month, manually inputting anything else and going forward. (I’ll be saying ‘no’ to that proposition.)
Checking their support forums confirmed this is a known shortcoming of Mint that they continue to not have a solution for. Contacting customer support yielded no help either other than ‘we’re aware of the problems’.
- They know that their software is generating duplicate accounts.
- They know that it is deleting wrong accounts.
- And they know that they offer no way to restore transaction history.
(Side note, I’m a software developer. If this was my product – I’d have immediately turned off the ‘Delete’ button until my team had a solution implemented!)
Did I mention that this account is our primary day-to-day spending account? Yeah. Huge data loss. Sure, I didn’t loose my actual account or any money – but I lost a lot of time.
Since I stupidly slowly allowed Mint to earn my trust – I have this data nowhere else. From this particular institution, I can download only 3 months of data – everything else is is only available in eStatement form. So I’ll be doing a lot of hand entry to restore at least 2010 for taxes.
And you can bet I won’t be doing that in Mint, or anything cloud like. I’ll be downloading the rest of account data from Mint immediately to use offline and locally – something I should have been doing all along. And if you use Mint, I suggest you do the same!
As appealing as moving things to the cloud is for a digital nomad, mind those lightening bolts!