Cherian Thomas

Friend | Co-founder of Cucumbertown| Cook | I make beautiful things that keep me up all day & night
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21 February 2015

If you are storing important info in Evernote, think twice.

Four days back my OS X Evernote app crashed. Boom. Everything down the drain.

alfred

I assumed this was probably due to some shutdown corruption (though I rarely hit those in OS X). It just wouldn’t come back up and showed me some font error

fonts

 

And for the first time in a very very long time I logged into the web console.
You see, I use Evernote as a note app to just backup. I sleep in the comfort that my notes are somewhere safe in the “cloud”.

 

every web -2

But lo and behold, the web version didn’t show that one note that mattered to me.
If I didn’t tell you already, here’s my life’s story. I have only one Evernote note that matters. Everything is in that note. Like the college hostel room. It has my notes, flight ticket numbers, emails, project plan, reviews links and just about everything. I have some more notes, but they don’t matter in comparison.

Paranoia kicked in. I opened up the IOS app. I didn’t find it there either.

God!

Rushed out a support ticket. No response in a day. Tweeted to the Evernote app. Someone picks it up.

support 1

The support agent runs me through the standard procedure. Restart, check trash, latest web app? etc. A couple of exchanges later, I reluctantly install a new version, fearing a total overwrite.

And there it is, my life-saving “TODO” in the desktop version.

evernote relaunched

But then I wondered. Why wasn’t “TODO” backed up?

email -1

The standard mail exchange happens. Clear web cache, restart browser, etc. Then I resorted to checking the IOS app.

email-2

Since you can’t ask the customer to clear the iPhone app cache, I was asked to login and logout.

email-3

Exchange goes on and on. The representative asks me for the activity logs.

And then comes then solution!

email -4

and the graceful close of the ticket

email 5

I don’t know what happened to that note or why it wasn’t uploaded, but I doubt I’m going to sit around comfortably believing everything “is safely backed up”.

What if DropBox did this to you?

Can someone build a simple cloud backed up notes app that “works”? I’ll pay you $5 per month.

  • shaan7

    “I sleep in the comfort that my notes are somewhere safe in the “cloud”.”
    Nope. There’s nothing better than a backup you do yourself. If its important, take a backup. Always.

  • dan

    You already said you were going to use google docs anyway to back them up. Why not use that for your notes app?

    • reilly3000

      I float between both. Evernote has some distinct advantages for note taking within its interface. You could theoretically make notes in evernote and sync them to N other places including google docs with their api or something like IFTTT or Zapier. Agreed with the author: Can somebody build a notes app that JUST WORKS? It has proven too hard for Google and Apple. I would add microsoft to that list but OneNote is pretty good software. Scratch that… it ate my notes several times.

      • Jason X Bånd

        Try CleverNote.co . It’s a notes app that stores its content directly in Google Drive. There isn’t a native client for OS X, but the web app is designed to work offline.

  • K1ll

    Lol built in OS X notes app with iCloud and iOS mobile devices? Anyone else use this? Works like a charm for me…for years now too…

    • I’ve lost one important note that I did on my iphone (spent days doing it) and it simply disappeared. I couldn’t find it on my mac or any other apple device (or icloud) 🙁

    • Enigmatic87

      Yeah, we’re aware of apple notes – but not only is this app incredibly limited, it’s also full of glitches and can be just as unreliable. At least at Evernote you know they’re prioritising the product, since, they don’t make anything else! Good luck getting apple support for their notes app when something inevitably goes wrong.

      • Howard Roark

        Absolutely True!

    • Howard Roark

      Just that, till about a year ago, they didnt support rich text editing, attachments or anything except plain text. (Forget WebClipper etc.)

  • I’ve been using markdown editors, with the documents synced via dropbox. This has the added benefit of them also being backed up on a local and remote backup system, and they’re apart of a git repo. My notes exist with various forms of versioning in about 7 different places across the globe.

  • Himanshu Mehra

    You could try Google Keep

    • Howard Roark

      Oh yeah Google Keep! Just remember what happened to iGoogle or say, Google Reader that had 300 Million users before it was shut down and thrown down the drain. What a tragedy!

  • Devin

    Simplenote is pretty great.

  • Nick

    > Can someone build a simple cloud backed up notes app that “works”?

    I’m CTO at https://revert.io, and the answer is yes! We have a free and paid plan for backing up Evernote, and we’d love for you to try it out.
    https://revert.io/apps/backup-for-evernote

    • Chris Ward

      Thanks Nick, I’ll be giving Revert a try.

    • Howard Roark

      Oh yeah, Revert.io, right. I can’t forget these guys. Backed up my entire account for months using the forever free plan that they pitched, and one day, got the news that it was closing down and moving itself to another service called ‘ThisData’ which had no free plan whatsoever, to be able to get my data on to the new service. Their advice? Back it up in Dropbox or we will delete it soon. Tried backing up 10,000 times yet it failed every half an hour. No help, false reassurances and so many support emails later, I finally realized that their data export functionality was broken. Couldn’t back it up. Data was soon deleted without a final warning even though they promised they wont delete it uptil I had everything exported. I lost all my entire life’s work, tens of thousands of notes and 50 GB data, thanks to Revert.io. Anyone who doesn’t want it to happen to them should stay away from this plague!!

  • Google Keep, free and awesome 🙂

  • Evernote tip

    The windows desktop client allows you to backup (to XML) via File->Export.

  • TT TY

    What if g drive did that!?

  • First time I was burned by Evernote, I lost confidence in it. To me, it’s “Every Note you Don’t Need Later.”

  • Jon Watte

    Just store notes as text files in a folder in Dropbox?

  • revert_io

    Hi! Feel free to try out Revert for your Evernote backups https://revert.io/apps/backup-for-evernote. We also just upgraded from daily backups to real-time https://revert.io/blog/real-time-backups-for-evernote/

    • Howard Roark

      Again, there you go! Beware if you care to have your data safe. If someone’s data is just as useless as toilet paper, then also, I would advice against using this as a backup solution! Peace!

      PS: Ironic that their username is ‘ThisData’ & they are repeatedly spamming the comment section promoting ‘Revert.io’.

  • Moogly

    I use OneNote from Microsoft, always syncs, and runs on all my devices, and yes it has a web and desktop app. Not sure if it has a Mac OS X client though.

    • ts

      I lost more than a year of OneNote notes… I don’t trust it.

      • donny

        I don’t understand how could you lose your onenote notes since all notes are backed up automatically on local machine

        • Elm

          It is actually possible. If the notes in your client are deleted somehow (could happen in multiple ways, including client crashes, OS crash, hard disk corruption, etc.), on the next sync, client will report that the user deleted the data and the service will delete the corresponding notes. If you empty trash without knowing this, you will lose that data. This has happened to us with Dropbox in Ubuntu (slightly different case).

    • millermp1

      I think OP is looking for something _fashionable_, preferably with a half eaten apple on it. Hello!

      • jalyst

        “I think OP is looking for something _fashionable_, preferably with a half eaten apple on it. Hello!”

        How would you know, maybe he just wants to use something that, God forbid, works. Maybe he doesn’t care about brands, fashion statements, or loyalty to one brand or another.

        What a pointless/silly, off-topic, & non-constructive comment…

        N.B.
        I’m not making any statement about OneNote, I haven’t used it enough to have an opinion one way or the other about it.

  • Matthew Pease

    i lost data in evernote about 5 years ago. Sounds like they haven’t fixed their service in all that time.

  • Eric

    If by “works” you mean works 100% without fail and never, ever has any bugs, then the answer is no human can do that. It’s impossible.

    Even if Evernote could make perfect software, if there’s a glitch, whose fault is it? Maybe a hard drive bit the dust? Maybe the flash storage on your device became corrupt and then corrupted the file. Maybe some weird solar flare hit the communication line and the data became corrupted in transit. There are too many variables.

    If something is important to you, take steps to protect it. Weekly, I export my Evernote notes into xml files (*.enex) and then compress them and upload to a specific backup folder on Google drive. They are now on my local drive *and* on Google *and* in Evernote.

    I’d think about making a To Do notebook and keeping separate notes in it. I’ve never had an entire notebook become corrupt. Minimize what you’ll lose if you lose a note.

    • Jerry

      As I mentioned in another comment, start using local backups too. If you lose your data before you sync it, there is nothing you can do.

      I like your idea to keep ToDo as separate notes in a notebook. Keeping everything in a single note is just dumb. Part of the strength of Evernote comes from its ability to organize notes. Start using it.

  • chanlvh

    Dropbox did this to my friend, without the happy ending.

  • ninja

    Try Todoist it works on everything.

  • > Can someone build a simple cloud backed up notes app that “works”? I’ll pay you $5 per month.

    Use a text editor.

  • Dude, overkill. You had 1 TODO file and you relied on a **paid** cloud service to host it? Holy mackerel, talk about 0 added value. What a waste of money. It would be so much cheaper to just keep the file on your desktop, in a free dropbox account, on amazon s3, on a thumbdrive or two,

  • Chris

    Evernote has been more a problem for me, as it doesn’t support Linux. So I use Wiznote http://www.wiznote.com/ Personally I make sure anything important is backed up in multiple places.

  • I used to be a heavy evernote user, all my personal notes, webclippings, papers, other kind of pdfs where stored on my pro account. Then suddenly I had the same terrible experience as you by losing one important meeting note. I spent a couple of days working offline so no note where synced and customer service was on tied hands on the recovery process. As a result, I spent the whole weekend mining by hand the binary evernote database and then I could finally recover the note.

    From this experience I decide to not tie my personal information to one vendor file format/service. I’m now using markdown, org mode, csv files and keeping mirror backups on Dropbox, Google drive and AWS S3. I can access the same note on iPhone, iPad, my linux laptop and my work mac machine

    • Jerry

      But, in the end, it all comes down to the same problem. Whichever online service you use, as long as you don’t sync it and then you lose your offline data, you lose your data. Start doing offline backups too. Local copy + local backup + online backup gives you minimal data integrity. And once you sync, you really don’t need to keep multiple copies at multiple servers, as most of these services maintains multiple versions of your data with multiple levels of redundancy. If you are really scared, 2 services are more than enough.

  • Ricky

    http://www.voogla.com for $10/month

  • Daniel Lu

    Hey Cherian, I think your note was in a Local Notebook (perhaps this whole time). I’ll copy paste something I wrote on HN

    I would wager that the note belongs to a local (unsynched) notebook, which is why it wasn’t on Evernote’s servers. I apologize if this explanation is a bit long, buckle in.

    Specifically I suspect the note belongs to a “Conflicting Changes” notebook, which gets automatically created a note you are trying to upsync conflicts with a copy already on the server. There might be other sync errors that trigger this as well.

    If you look at the screenshot of the Mac app, the note belongs to a notebook that starts with “Con…” rather than something like “cherian’s notebook” as seen in the screenshot from the Web app.

    Users who run into this get a sync error and a modal dialog explaining that their copy of the note is placed into a local notebook titled, “Conflicting Changes [Date/timestamp]” There should be another copy of the note on the Evernote servers. It is possible that when Cherian saw this, he deleted the copy of the note on the Evernote servers and kept the local copy, which would be the opposite of what he’d want to do. (Total guess)

    I would guess that this happened very early on and Cherian has been adding & editing this note locally in that local notebook, but not realizing it. The dialog can be a little confusing, and many of us just click away modal dialogs without thinking about it too much.

    If you primarily ever work out of All Notes, you may not pay much attention to which notebooks your notes are in. Especially if you only edit that one note on the desktop. If you worked between desktop and mobile and/or web it would be easy to immediately notice that note missing entirely.

    It is possible that there wasn’t anything wrong with the note as the customer support agent said, but rather the note was just in a local notebook. Copy/pasting it into a new note would solve it in either case.

    Local Notebooks exist only for the desktop clients. You can create one to put in notes you don’t want sync’d up to the Evernote service. They’re also a place to store notes if you’re out of this month’s quota.

    Source: Customer Support agents escalate up to specialists, which eventually escalates up to Product Management. Almost exclusively with really weird and hairy problems.

  • Uncle Drunky

    “Can someone build a simple cloud backed up notes app that “works”? I’ll pay you $5 per month.”

    Yes, I’m sure any one of the commenters here would be *more than happy* to be paid the equivalent of a McDonalds Happy Meal to bring you a full service solution.

    Or you could learn why storing huge stale blobs of data on a cloud services is a bad idea.

  • Steve Bignell

    paperwork looks like it has potential but is still fairly new – the best part is that its open source, take the responsibility into your own hands and self-host. http://paperwork.rocks/

  • Jed Richards

    Try Notational Velocity, synced to Dropbox. Its pretty great.

    • jen729w

      Yep, nvALT with text files stored in Dropbox, sync’d to Simplenote. Those text files are also backed up locally to Time Machine and (less frequently) SuperDuper! and across the wire to CrashPlan.

      I dare say it’s *possible* for me to lose a file, but I’m not sure how it could feasibly happen.

  • print stuff out. hard copy

    • Tom

      haha. or god forbid, how about write notes down in a… wait for it… notepad!

  • SPS

    Use Disk42- It’s a simple, desktop-based cloud service that syncs all your files in a certain folder like that dropbox folder on your mac. It’s awesome and simple!

    • Enigmatic87

      Haha, how did that work out for you? (explanation for others: Disk42 has now shut down)

  • naomi

    As co-founder of cloudhq.net, you really should back up your Evernote. In fact, you should back up your entire cloud on multiple platforms in order to make sure you have updated copies of everything everywhere. When they’re in sync, you’ll always have a real-time version of it in any platform, so you can actually work on it from anywhere, and you’ll see all the updates in real-time in any of the platforms you’ve synched together. I suggest synching both ways between a folder in Google Docs and a notebook in Evernote, and then one way sync from your Google Drive folder to a cloud storage platform like Dropbox. That mix is pretty solid. The 15day trial is free, and if you like it, you can either pay less than $10/month to keep it going, or just write a blog about us and post it… which earns you free service for an entire year. 🙂

    • Howard Roark

      I have to say this, CloudHQ is downright the bestest backup and sync system on the planet! I have been using it since years and have backedup and transferred TB’s of Data, all in real time without a single hitch. It’s just from another world, and believe me or not, I would actually trust them with my life, given the fact that they allow a user to backup their data into any number of cloud storage endpoints, and they support almost every service that exists which is even remotely connected to storing data in the cloud! After Millions of files and syncs, I have observed that they are without doubt the best in what they do. And services like revert.io or thisdata aren’t even equivalent to a thin hair of CloudHQ’s robust services. They do charge a bit more than others maybe, but that’s what Apple does, and there’s a reason people still buy Apple devices. Ditto for CloudHQ!!

      • efishta

        Shilling much?

  • cweiske

    You could use the Tomboy note taking application and host the server yourself with grauphel (ownCloud based) or Rainy (standalone sync server)

  • JonathanAquino

    Use Notesy. It is an iOS text editor that syncs with Dropbox. Plain text files ftw.

  • Github & Github Gists — source control your life.

  • Daryl Hines

    I am using Backupery for automatic backup of my Evernote notes. It just backups all my Evernote data to my hard drive regularly, so I don’t depend on any third-party service. Works pretty good so far

  • GS

    The issue is more deeper than it appears to be. First of all, you need to decide and separate out the information/data that is critical/vital/v.imp to you and then the not so imp data.

    Once you have figured that out, the most critical data should have multiple copies backed up regularly. Most important data is usually not huge but yes depends on use cases. For passwords, use keypass or other such software. For simple note taking I recommend keynote-NF and then backing up the single file to dropbox for version support and then mirroring the dropbox to other cloud services.