Today, the bookmarking service Ma.gnolia announced that they have lost all the data due to
data corruption. They may not even be able to recover the data completely,
thereby, depriving users of the bookmarks they saved on their service.
Early on the West-coast morning of Friday, January 31st, Ma.gnolia
experienced every web service’s worst nightmare: data corruption and loss. For
Ma.gnolia, this means that the service is offline and members’ bookmarks are
unavailable, both through the website itself and the API. As I evaluate recovery
options, I can’t provide a certain timeline or prognosis as to to when or to
what degree Ma.gnolia or your bookmarks will return; only that this process will
take days, not hours.
This started a panic reaction among the users and a simple twitter
search yielded all sorts of reactions including the one below
This is a very valid concern and the outage in Magnolia only reaffirms the
suspicions users have against SaaS. Even though such concerns are valid, it
shouldn’t deter us from taking advantage of the features offered by SaaS. We
don’t stop flying in airplanes even though we have seen many accidents (and
terrorist attacks) including the recent one where a US Airways plane landed on
Hudson river due to bird attack. We don’t stop saving our data on hard disks in
spite of many people losing all their data stored in them. If I take this
rhetoric further, I could even point out that we don’t stop living even though
we know for sure that we will die one day. Smart people never succumb to such
fears about the dangers in our daily life. Rather, they understand the risks
involved and take steps to minimize the risks.
In fact, at Cloud Avenue, we understand the dangers associated with putting
the data on the clouds and we take it upon ourselves to highlight it in our
posts and offer suggestions to minimize it. If you look at one of my
early posts in this blog, titled Questions To Ask Before Trusting a Cloud Vendor, I have
highlighted the possibility of Magnolia like scenario and talked about asking
the SaaS vendor about their backup plans in advance.
How many copies of customer’s data do the vendors keep and are they stored in
geographically separated regions?
In another post of mine, What is your cloud strategy, I talked about redundancy and the
need for a good backup strategy. In fact, I can talk about how I backup my
bookmarks. I use Diigo for my bookmarking purposes. I have setup Diigo to post
the bookmarks automatically to my Delicious account. From my Delicious account,
I stream my bookmarks to my friendfeed. So if Diigo goes down, I can head over
to delicious and check out my bookmarks. In the unlikely scenario of both Diigo
and Delicious going down at the same time, I can head over to friendfeed and use
a greasemonkey script to access my bookmarks easily. In this era of Cloud based
services, a backup strategy should be part of your gene.
The data corruption at Magnolia also calls into question the issue of
standards. It is time for SaaS vendors to get together and evolve a good set of
standards for backing up their clients’ data. This should serve as a wakeup call
to all vendors to set up a fool proof backup strategy. As I said earlier, it is
also important to have an industry standard on vendor backups. Thatz the only
way we can get users to trust SaaS and other Cloud based services.