Open Bug 1552633 Opened 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago

We need to communicate better to users that Sync is not backup

Categories

(Firefox :: Sync, enhancement, major)

enhancement
Not set
major

Tracking

()

UNCONFIRMED

People

(Reporter: mozilla, Unassigned)

Details

Having worked on the Firefox Support Forums (SUMO) for the past five years, I've come across the same issue over and over again. It's not made clear enough to the user when registering and using the Firefox Sync service that it should not be used for backup purposes.

It's quite common to have threads in which a user has got rid of their old computer, bought a new one and is confused why they can't Sync their old bookmarks to their new system. The same situation happens a lot with people whose computer dies on them. Users simply aren't backing up their data because they are trusting Firefox Sync to do that for them.

However, Firefox Sync is not a backup service, so it rarely works for that purpose. That's not clear to the user though.

We should consider adding a red warning message to the bottom of the Firefox Account registration page for Firefox Sync, as well as the same warning message on the Firefox settings page for the Firefox Sync section. I believe that one of the knowledge base documents on SUMO has a similar warning message on it, but the average user rarely reads the KB before setting up Sync.

The warning message should clearly state that "Firefox Sync is not a backup service" and provide links on how to do a proper backup. It needs to be colored to stand out to the user.

Thanks for filing this Wesley, it's definitely something we could do a better job of.

It's quite common to have threads in which a user has got rid of their old computer, bought a new one and
is confused why they can't Sync their old bookmarks to their new system. The same situation happens a lot
with people whose computer dies on them.

There are two mains reasons that Sync can fail to serve as a good backup, and I'm curious which is being hit most often:

  • The user forgets their account password, does a password reset, and is surprised that they Sync data is no longer available.
  • The server-side copy of the user's sync data gets deleted for operational reasons (e.g. a storage node re-assignment).

In your experience, is the password-reset case the more common of the two?

We have some current work going on to make the server-side operational aspects of Sync work more like a traditional "cloud backup" system, with durable storage of the user's synced data. But we don't have any plans that would address the password-reset case.

Flags: needinfo?(mozilla)

Obviously, I have no idea statistically which one we receive more of. However, speaking from experience, we appear to get a ton more of user's sync data getting removed.

The most common is usually that the user reinstalled Windows 10 or sold their computer to buy a new one and expects that Sync will rebuild their entire Firefox profile for them when they login. For example, my most recent thread I participated in involved someone who bought a new system, trashed their old one and then wanted to recover over 500 bookmarks which included 1 year of research for their job. They hadn't made a backup before trashing their older system because they misunderstood the purpose of Firefox Sync.

That's not to say that we don't get threads about password resets erasing data, although I would say they are much less common, primarily because the user is warned of that fact before they request a password reset. I don't feel that the password reset case requires any action, since it's a logical privacy protection move that shouldn't impact the average user.

The more common issue along those lines is a user that lost their 2FA device and didn't copy their recovery code, so they've lost access to their account. But that's a separate issue from the one mentioned in this bug and a situation where I feel the responsibility falls more on the shoulders of the user.

Flags: needinfo?(mozilla)

For example, my most recent thread I participated in involved someone who bought a new system,
trashed their old one and then wanted to recover over 500 bookmarks which included 1 year of research for their job.

If you have it handy, could you please link me to this thread? We shouldn't have very many instances of data loss due to operational reasons these days, so I'd like to investigate a little and see if I can find out what the event was that caused this.

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1259417

Here is the sample thread. However, it may not serve as the best example since the OP appears to have changed their mind near the end of the discussion, claiming that they may or may not have reset their password between their transition to a new computer.

However, perhaps a better example is this one, in which the OP claims all they did was reinstall Windows:

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1259397

The OP never responded to me, but my assumption from their original post is that they did not reset their password during this process.

There are others I've handled, but I don't have any of the other links handy. It's a pretty common occurrence though, which I'm sure other members of the support community can corroborate.

You need to log in before you can comment on or make changes to this bug.